European External Action Service

03/22/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/22/2023 19:01

UN Water Conference: EU Statement at Opening Ceremony & Plenary Opening


UN Water Conference: EU Statement at Opening Ceremony & Plenary Opening

22 March 2023, New York -- EU statement delivered by Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography, H.E. Dubravka Suica, at the Opening Ceremony & Plenary Opening of the UN Water Conference

Mr President,

Mr Secretary-General,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan for hosting this urgently needed gathering.

Since the last UN Water Conference in Mar de Plata in 1977, the world has changed immensely

Our global population has 3 and a half billion more people.

The global GDP has increased almost 2.5 times.

The decline of biodiversity and our ecosystems has massively accelerated.

And the global temperature continues to increase.

Today, we understand much better how climate change, deforestation, land use changes, overuse and the pollution of water affect the hydrological cycle at the global level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Water stress is a truly global problem.

From the recent devastating floods in Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria.

To droughts in many parts of Africa and also in Europe and the United States. From the daily burden on countless women and girls to fetch water from far away to the impacts on global food and energy supply.

The European Union wants to promote a vision that in 2050, global society will be water resilient.

Offering water security for all.

But we need to change the way we think and deal with this essential resource for human and planetary wellbeing.

First, water is a common good that needs integrated management at the local, regional, continental and global level.

I would like to suggest some particularly important points to guide our reflections:

  • Accessto clean and safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right. It must be realised for all, without compromising the rights of future generations.
  • In most parts of the world, there is an imbalance between water demand and supply. We must promote efficiency and reuse and ensure our economies go circular in the water sector and also beyond.
  • Without healthy ecosystems, we cannot have successful mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and we cannot reduce disaster risks. Nature-based solutions and the protection and restoration of water ecosystems are therefore indispensable.
Second, we must act building on the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework:
  • We need to mobilise financial resources. We must ensure investments are sustainable. Adapting to scenarios of likely water scarcity now is the smartest economic move.

Inaction today means much higher costs in a few years.

  • We need to cooperate more, bringing all stakeholders together within countries and across borders.
  • We need to share data, science, knowledge and innovation.
  • And we need to strengthen governance at the global level. This means a system-wide approach of the UN, a stronger UN Water. We hope that the loud call for the appointment of a Special Envoy will be heard.

That water finally gets a voice in political discussions.

Multilateralism can deliver, even in difficult times. The Global Biodiversity Framework and the Agreement on Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdictions prove it.

Let us make this conference another proof.

With open, diverse discussions.

Involving governments and civil society.

The private sector.

Scientists, youth and indigenous peoples.

It is time to listen and learn from each other.

Time to put our brains and our commitment together.

We are currently researching the link between climate change, water and demographic trends. This will help improve and better target our policymaking.

The Water Action Agenda must reflect our ambition. The European Union has submitted a wide range of commitments.

From supporting improved access to water and sanitation for 70 million individuals to support for transboundary water cooperation in different parts of the world.

And for strengthening policies for water management on our own continent.

For all generations. Especially our youngest. Globally, one in five children do not have access to sufficient clean water

School-age children, mostly girls, walk long distances to fetch water.

Water that is often of poor quality, limited quantity or simply unaffordable.

Once these three days are over, it cannot be business as usual. Let us work together to ensure that water will feature on the agendas of all relevant UN organisations and processes.

When we think of human rights, across all generations, including young children, let us think water.

When we think peace, let us think water.

When we think food, let us think water.

When we think energy, let us think water.

When we think poverty reduction, health, gender equality, climate resilience, sustainability - let us think water.

The European Union is ready to engage in a global movement with all of you - towards the achievement of the SDGs in a water-resilient world.