New York

22 March 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at High-Level Interactive Dialogue on Water Cooperation

I am honoured to join you in marking the opening of the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013, and the twentieth anniversary of the proclamation of World Water Day.

Your discussion will provide an important contribution to coming events such as the High-Level International Conference on Water Cooperation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in August, and the Budapest Water Summit in Hungary in October.

And it will help our deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals where water issues will be critical.

Water is life. 

It is central to the well-being of people and the planet. 

It holds the key to sustainable development. 

We need freshwater for health, food security and economic progress. 

Yet, each year brings new pressures. 

One-in-three people already lives in a country with moderate to high water stress.

By 2030 nearly half the global population could be facing water scarcity, with demand outstripping supply by 40 per cent. 

Competition is growing among farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and country; upstream and downstream; and across borders. 

Climate change and the needs of populations that are growing in size and prosperity mean we must work together to protect and manage this fragile, finite resource.

The United Nations system, through UN-Water and its 30 UN Members and 25 international partners, is fostering cooperation from the global level to the grassroots. 

For example, the UN Development Programme’s Shared Waters Partnership is supporting political agreement on shared waters, such as in the Nile Basin. 

UNESCO is supporting the equitable management of transboundary water resources to avoid conflict.

And the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes will soon be available to all UN Member States. 

I urge countries outside the UNECE region to join the Convention and further develop it.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

One area where we need cooperation and innovation is agriculture.

Agriculture is by far the largest user of freshwater, and there is growing urgency to reconcile its demands with the needs of domestic and industrial uses, especially energy production. 

Climate change also presents a growing threat to productivity and food security. 

My Zero Hunger Challenge promotes sustainable agriculture by sharing best practices and harnessing the most appropriate technologies so small farmers and industrial giants alike can get more crop per drop.

Let me now turn to another water-related topic.

No discussion of water can pass without mentioning sanitation. 

While the Millennium Development Goal target for providing improved sources of freshwater has been reached, we are woefully short on sanitation. 

Some 2.5 billion people lack access to the dignity and health afforded by access to a toilet and protection from untreated waste. 

We count the cost in lives -- 4,500 young children a day – and economic productivity. 

Yet we know that every dollar spent on sanitation can bring a five-fold return. 

That is why the Deputy Secretary-General launched yesterday a global call to action. 

Investment in sanitation is a down-payment on a sustainable future.

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

There are little more than 1,000 days left before the MDG deadline, but with renewed effort we can finish the job started at the beginning of the Millennium. 

But 2015 is not a finishing line, merely a milestone in a long and challenging journey. 

As we develop the post-2015 development agenda, our aim is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and to create an equitable world of opportunity for all. 

To do that we need to give equal consideration to the environmental dimension of sustainable development. 

We cannot prosper without clean, plentiful freshwater. 

On this World Water Day, I appeal for heightened cooperation. 

Water is a common resource.  Let us use it more intelligently and waste less so all get a fair share.

I wish you a fruitful discussion.

Thank you very much.