Rebeca Grynspan: Statement at the High-Level International Conference on Water Cooperation

Aug 20, 2013

High Level International Conference on Water Cooperation
Statement by
Rebeca Grynspan
U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator
Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 20 August, 2013

His Excellency
President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmon,
Prime Minister of Tajikistan Akil Akilov,
Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Zhantoro Satybaldiyeve,
Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra,
Prime Minister of Mozambique Alberto Antonio Clementino Vakvina,
Ambassador and President elected of the General Assembly of the UN John Ashe,
United Nations Under-Secretary-Generals,
Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, it is my pleasure to address this Conference in the beautiful city of Dushanbe. I sincerely thank our hosts for their warm welcome and magnificent hospitality.

Water is at the heart of a daily crisis faced by millions of the most vulnerable people in the world —threatening life and livelihoods, peace and human security.

It was therefore very timely when, at the initiative of Tajikistan, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, which includes this High Level Conference as one of the Year’s flagship events.

This was made possible thanks to the vision and commitment of President Rahmon, to whom we are all very grateful.

Indeed, around 770 million people worldwide still lack access to an improved water source and 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation. Developing countries only utilize about half their potential for irrigated agriculture which could take so many out of poverty and hunger.

In parallel, not only is the world experiencing explosive growth in the demand for water resources, but water waste and water pollution increasingly threaten the integrity of aquatic and agro ecosystems vital for life and food security.  Climate change is not helping either, increasing variability in the water cycle, and exacerbating extreme events like floods and droughts complicates even further an already immense water management and water governance challenge. 

If these trends continue, by 2025, as many as 3 billion people could be living in areas facing water stress.  

I would therefore like to highlight three key messages for this Conference,

First, access to clean water and sanitation, and effective water management for irrigation and productive uses, are fundamental drivers for poverty reduction, food security, gender equality, and overall human development, and must be a center piece of our development efforts;

Second, effective and inclusive cooperation on water, at all levels, is a sine qua non for continued progress on international goals and targets on water access and water resource management. No one can solve this problem in isolation! and;  

Third, given the central role of water in addressing some of our most pressing global challenges, it is important that water and sanitation feature prominently in the post-2015 and SDGs agenda.

On my first point: let me underscore now, as we did in the 2006 Human Development Report, that the crisis in access to water and sanitation is primarily driven by poverty, inequality, poor governance, and lack of political prioritization, despite the recognition of huge losses in GDP due to water and sanitation deficits and a rate of return as high as $8 for each dollar invested. 

More often than not, the poor pay much more for water than the better off.  And lack of access to water and sanitation has severe effects on girls’ education, women’s health and income opportunities, and increases the risk of gender violence.

My second message – and indeed the theme of this conference: effective and inclusive water cooperation at all levels – local, national, regional, and international – is essential to effective water governance and thus to achieving key water-related objectives and targets.

At the national level, community involvement, women’s voices and participation and private sector cooperation are essential.   In addition, multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder Integrated Water Resources Management plans (IWRM) for equitable, efficient and environmentally sustainable water use, needs to be the rule and not the exception.

UNDP is proud to support these processes in dozens of developing countries including Tajikistan and Kyrygzstan.  

At the Regional level, dialogue, information sharing and cooperation on transboundary waters to advance peace, security, environmental protection, and regional economic development should be supported.

And at global level, international standards, goals, and targets on water and related issues like Climate Change; and cooperation mechanisms such as UN-Water, the Sanitation and Water for All initiative, and indeed, the International Year of Water Cooperation itself, are key.

Lastly, the process of designing the post-2015 and SDGs development agenda is in full force and presents a huge opportunity to go beyond the present formulation in the MDGs, towards a goal focusing on access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) for all, while also addressing management of water resources, wastewater, and water pollution.

The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, already noted in its progress report “broad support for a dedicated water SDG”.

UNDP hopes that the eight high level panels at this Conference can further inform member states in their ongoing deliberations on the post-2015 agenda. All of us here today represent an important force to make a difference. Governments, the UN system, private sector, civil society and citizens at large all have to come together, and raise their voice for a post 2015 and SD agenda that will be owned by all. I urge all of you to stay engaged and participate in this unprecedented global conversation.

We at UNDP are fully committed to play our part in fostering water cooperation for the benefit of people and the planet and look forward to even more strengthened efforts as a result of this important conference!

Let me finish by saying, Rahmat this conference and Rahmat Tajikistan!

Thank you.

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