New York

18 November 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at Second UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters

I am pleased to participate in this special thematic session on water and disasters, which is being held at the beginning of the UN High-level Water and Sanitation Days, and one day before the observance of World Toilet Day.

I would like to start by expressing my great appreciation to Dr. Han Seung-soo, Special Envoy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, and to the High-Level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters.

I am also deeply grateful, and honoured to welcome, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan for giving a keynote lecture for the second time at the United Nations, and for his outstanding service and vision in advancing the water and sanitation agenda as Honorary President of the Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

Finally, I thank Dr. Uschi Eid, Chair of the Advisory Board, as well as the distinguished members of the Board, for their contributions since 2004.

Water is the source of life, health and livelihoods across the world. The provision of safe drinking  water is one of the basic responsibilities of national and local government.  Water drives the decisions of businesses and, in many places, determines the rhythm of daily life.

Too little water at the time when it is needed most can mean drought and food insecurity.

Too much water – in the form of floods, storms or waves – can devastate entire cities, rich or poor.

Contaminated water, whether from human or industrial sources, is claiming the lives of children and affecting the health of communities worldwide, with far-reaching consequences.

Floods, droughts and windstorms account for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most disastrous events since 1990.  They have caused more than $1 trillion in damages and affected more than 4 billion people.   The poor and most vulnerable have suffered first and worst.

Issues of water and disaster resilience are so intimately related that it is impossible to think of one without the other.  Yet too often we do, by thinking in silos and responding in fragmented ways.  It is time to close these conceptual and operational gaps.

In this remarkable year of international cooperation, governments have made landmark commitments to reduce disaster risk through the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and to achieve sustainable development through the 2030 Agenda.

Member States have put in place a set of goals and targets that encourage cross-sectoral thinking in both the understanding of risks and our approach to managing them. They encourage whole-of society efforts that engage science, civil society and the business community to work in partnership.

Water management and disaster risk reduction  are fully integrated across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving SDG6 and the disaster risk reduction targets would lay the foundations for food security, increase access to energy and help address the challenges of rapid urbanization.   Investments in climate resilience and disaster risk reduction can also help combat climate change, save lives and avoid the destruction of vital infrastructure. 

Many Member States, international organizations and experts are discussing concrete initiatives, and I hope these will bear fruit.

Let us build on the Sendai Framework of Action and Agenda 2030.

Let us make the most of the climate change conference that opens in Paris in just 12 days. 

The World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 in Istanbul, and the Habitat III in October [2016] in Quito, offer further opportunities to build momentum.

Solutions exist.  We have the tools.  Our challenge is to connect the dots and work in an integrated manner towards the goals we share.  That is what the 2030 Agenda demands and it is what we can do. 

I wish every success to this session as we strive for a world in which people everywhere have the water and the resilience they need.

Thank you.