Remarks by Ambassador Katalin Bogyay, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN at a roundtable organized by the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the UN, 8 May 2016, on the role of water in the era of sustainable development.
Your Excellency Minister Erlan Idrissov, Ambassador Abdrakhmanov, Distinguished Colleagues,
I am honored to be part of this distinguished panel and to speak to you on water security at this very special event organized by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan at such a beautiful setting.
Let me start by thanking the government of Kazakhstan for including the issue of water among its four priority areas in the Security Council as it is not only a key driver and enabler for sustainable development, related to the implementation of all the SDGs, but it is an element which impacts every country, influences our quality of life, our social and economic relations, and which is also intrinsically linked to peace and security.
When speaking about water security and cooperation I always refer to the striking conclusion by Dénes Gábor, Hungarian-born Nobel laureate physicist: “Until today man has fought nature. From now on man has to fight his own nature.”
What makes this statement relevant in the context of the future of our water resources is that the looming water crisis up to a large extent is man-made. Consequently, it is mankind only that can change this situation and turn the planet into a sustainable system. Climate change is also a major factor which adds to the complexities, of course. However, it is also induced to a large extent by human activities ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
Looking at the ever more worrying analyses and statistics, it is clear that water is the most critical natural resource of the 21st century. Let me repeat the data provided by the President of Hungary that the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the SDGs on 21 April: Two-third of Earth’s population – about 4 billion people – suffer from water shortage for at least one month a year. Every second one of them – about 2 billion people – lives in places, where water shortage persists for half a year, for six months. Half a billion people live in settlements, where the daily water uptake is double the amount that nature can replenish. Thus it is only a matter of years, or decades at the most, before these settlements run out of their fresh water reserves.
Therefore, it is safe to say that water stress is already an everyday reality rather than a threatening future vision. On the top of that, water quality is also a major problem is many places, where potable water is simply not available.
The excessive growth of the global population, the accelerating urbanization trends as well as the rapidly changing climatic conditions necessitates a fundamental shift in the mindsets and in how we manage our freshwater resources. Without responsible and sustainable management of water the stable environment ensuring the livelihood of future generations cannot be maintained. The challenges faced by our ecosystem and natural resources also demand adaptive and integrated management of water resources.
Only through such a shift in the mindsets towards sustainable management of freshwater resources can the international community ensure water security, by safeguarding sustainable access to adequate quantities of water of acceptable quality for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters and preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.
To tackle the growing uncertainties surrounding the availability and quality of water all the stakeholders – government, businesses, civil society and academia – will have to act together in partnerships.
Due to the water shortage, we will witness further increase of the mutual dependencies between countries, regions and sectors; therefore water must become one of the highest political priorities, integrated into other policy areas.
Cooperation is essential, not only between sectors, but also across geographical and political boundaries, as more than 40% of human lives on shared waters. Water is our shared responsibility and we the only solution to the looming crisis is to work together. Transboundary cooperation hinges on political will and understanding of the political community. In history, water cooperation prevailed over water conflicts, and the very simple truth of “Water connects, it does not divide” has to be reconfirmed in the era of sustainable development as well.
In view of all these objectives, Hungary hosted the Budapest Water Summit 2013 where all the stakeholders, governments, scientists, civil society and business gathered to discuss the role of water in sustainable development. The conference, co-hosted with the World Water Council and supported by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was instrumental in developing a dedicated goal on water featuring today in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Budapest Statement, adopted at the end of the Summit proved to be a key document for the formulation of principles and targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6. The conference also gave guidance for the efforts geared towards reforming the international institutional architecture on water cooperation.
With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG6 we now have a clear pathway towards realizing sustainable management of water. It also has to be understood that water will be a key enabler in achieving a multitude of other, directly and indirectly related goals and targets. However, the more challenging part, translating the political commitment into implementation, is still ahead of us.
For effective implementation, a robust, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated follow- up and review framework is required. The UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation concluded in its final report however that there is currently a mismatch between the integrated and ambitious Agenda 2030 vision of freshwater and sanitation management and the international political structures available to contribute to its implementation and its follow-up and review. This is due to the fact that the global water governance structure is highly fragmented; there is disconnection between the water-specific processes on the international level. Moreover, unlike other for other cross-cutting themes, there is no dedicated UN intergovernmental body for water endorsed by UN Member States. The report therefore makes a number of important structural recommendations to address the shortcomings:
- Creation of a UN intergovernmental body for comprehensive and integrated follow-up and review of water related goals and targets at the global level, as already recommended by the Budapest Statement adopted at the 2013 Budapest Water Summit;
- Strengthening UN-Water, as the coordinating structure of UN actions on water and sanitation and as the Secretariat and support entity for the UN Intergovernmental Committee on Water;
- Setting up a comprehensive global water and sanitation monitoring framework to support follow-up and review with high-quality data. Such an intergovernmental body would enable regular dialogue among governments and stakeholders at the global level to provide guidance and recommendations for implementation of the SDGs targets related to water, while feeding into the High-Level Political Forum overseeing follow-up and review of the SDGs at the global level. This intergovernmental body on water would also offer a forum for knowledge exchange and mutual learning and for building partnerships for implementation and cooperation. Building on and engaging with the existing structures, water-relevant thematic networks and multi-stakeholder partnerships, the body would safeguard an integrated water perspective in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, while reflecting interlinkages with other themes, thereby promoting a cross-cutting understanding across the goals and targets. This would also allow the High-Level Political Forum to carry out its mandate fully and comprehensively. The new body should be as lean as possible, with minimal implications on the UN budget. A more effective, integrated and coordinated approach to support the implementation of the Agenda 2030 with regards to water compensates the expenses, which will cost much less than the fragmented nature of the water landscape does today. Integrated monitoring of progress will be a prerequisite for full and effective implementation. The intergovernmental body would therefore be tasked to coordinate monitoring and evaluation for water related targets, including the means of implementation to provide a comprehensive assessment of the progress in implementation.
To monitor progress made in implementing the water related SDG and targets, a unified and coherent water data collection and monitoring mechanism will have to be built. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Without putting in place effective monitoring and data collection systems the water related goals cannot be achieved in a timely fashion. Data collection capabilities will therefore have to be increased, especially in developing countries. Data sharing over transboundary river basins and aquifers is of crucial importance. Apart from political will, and creating “win-win” situations, an effective science-policy interface is also needed to strengthen the transboundary cooperation for achieving water-related goals and targets.
Meaningful and precise indicators are prerequisites to measuring progress. In this regard, Member States have made a fundamental step towards an effective follow-up and review system, including in the field of water, when the Statistical Commission last week agreed as a practical starting point with the proposed global indicator framework and asked the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators to continue its activities. To start measuring progress and collecting data in a timely fashion, Member States will have to politically endorse this package the soonest possible.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With a view to maintain the political momentum achieved with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement and to mobilize effective and early action to accelerate the implementation of SDG6 on water, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim appointed 10 Heads of State and Government and two Special Advisors to form an international coalition. H.E. Mr. János Áder, President of Hungary also joined the High-Level Panel on Water which, during the course of the next two years, will play a leadership role by developing an improved and comprehensive narrative on water, shining a light on examples of policies and institutions that could help the world onto a more sustainable pathway, and – in line with the commitments made in Addis Ababa – advocating approaches to financing and implementation that would help change reality on the ground. The Panel held its inaugural meeting on 21 April in New York, on the margins of the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, where the members reiterated their commitment to move expeditiously towards fulfilling these tasks and high expectations during the limited time available by working together and in collaboration with other UN Member States and stakeholders.
Hungary also remains to be committed to contribute to the solution of the looming water crises and spares no effort to mainstream water on the international development and environment agenda.
Under the patronage of H.E. Mr. János Áder, President of Hungary and Member of the High Level Panel on Water convened by the UN Secretary General and the President of World Bank, Hungary will be hosting the Budapest Water Summit 2016, a high-profile conference and expo to be held between 28 and 30 November 2016 in Budapest. The aim of the three-day event is to promote in a very concrete manner the implementation of the sustainable development water goal and all related targets on water and sanitation, as well as to achieve progress on the implementation of the water-related aspects of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The main objectives of BWS 2016 are to give momentum to the implementation of the water- related agenda transpiring from SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement, to link political decision-making closer with technology development, financing and public perceptions on sustainable water management, and to facilitate the reform of international institutional architecture supporting cooperation on water.
The ultimate aim of the Budapest Water Summit 2016 is to help understanding how water, a key natural resource of the 21st century, is connected to the implementation of the interlinked and integrated sustainable development agenda. The event is planned to pursue a pragmatic, solution- oriented approach open to innovative and cost-efficient technologies and methods to be turned into bankable projects as soon as possible. The Summit will help to build on the success of the Climate Summit in Paris in order to promote the sustainable management of water based on an integrated approach, supported by international cooperation.
The mission of the Summit is to promote the message that for all the countries helping sustainable water resources development should be the source of cooperation and peace. To this end the Budapest Declaration 2016 is expected to summarize viable proposals for the High Level Panel on Water, the United Nations, the World Bank Group, regional development banks and other relevant actors and international fora.
The Budapest Water Summit 2016 will take place half way between the Daegu and the 2018 Brasilia World Water Fora and will also be an important milestone in preparing the 2018 global water event. The main policy discussions of the Summit will be accompanied by parallel events, including a Science Forum, Civil Forum, Youth Forum, a Women’s Forum and a Water Expo.
The Summit is organized by the Government of Hungary in cooperation with the World Water Council. Co-Chairs, Members and Special Advisors of the High Level Panel on Water, along with the UN Secretary General, the President of the World Bank Group and the President of the World Water Council are invited. Invitation will be extended to all Member States of the United Nations, competent UN bodies as well as other international organizations, international development banks, civil society organizations and the private sector.
We are looking forward to once again host an international conference with the aim to synchronize and boost efforts towards the achievement of our shared goals on water, which underpin the realization of sustainable development.
Thank you for your attention.