Water Should Be a Priority in Every Nation’s Foreign Policy

US Department of State - DipNote Blog

Maria Otero serves as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

I was glad to see more than 200 people in the audience for a discussion on water, peace, and security on the margins of the 67th meetings of the UN General Assemblyyesterday. The United States, the European Union, and UN-Water co-sponsored the event, which drew senior representatives from governments, UN agencies, and international financial institutions. Secretary Clinton, whose remarks closed the event, has made water issues a priority in our diplomatic and development efforts, and I have been pleased to lead those efforts for the State Department.

Citing the findings in a recently released United States Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, Secretary Clinton noted that water is becoming an increasing source of tension between countries and a potential factor in state failure. She called water management and resource issues “both a moral imperative and a strategic investment” and noted that we cannot wait until we have a crisis to find solutions. To ensure that we head off potential crises before they arise, the Secretary encouraged governments to increase the priority given to water challenges and to work together to strengthen institutions that can support cooperation.

Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, opened the meeting and stated that “water security is one of the major security challenges of our time.” She also highlighted the need to enhance partnerships and promote sustainable solutions to water security challenges.

The other speakers at the event — Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Major General Richard Engel (Ret.) of the National Intelligence Council, Professor Konrad Osterwalder, the Rector of UN University, and Mara Marinaki, Managing Director of the EU External Action Service — discussed the urgency of confronting water security challenges and the need for governments, academics, and others to work together to confront these challenges.

I moderated a rich, open discussion on the topic, in which senior officials from the African Ministers’ Council on Water, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Tanzania, and UNESCO spoke clearly about the need for more cooperative action on water and sanitation issues, and the need to take action urgently. Conflict over water is not inevitable, but we have to work harder — and faster — to promote cooperation on shared waters and to ensure that people have the water they need, where they need it, when they need it.

Many of you are already working on developing practical solutions. How can we better connect and share what you’ve already learned? We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this critical issue.

You can watch video of the UN High-Level Roundtable Discussion on Water, Peace, and Security on the UN website.


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