The EU and its Member States welcome the First Working-Level Dialogue on Water held on 22 March 2017, which addressed challenges and opportunities relating to the implementation of water related SDGs.
These dialogues are important occasions to discuss a key issue for sustainable development now that we have a coherent set of goals, targets, indicators with the 2030 Agenda, before the beginning of the Water Decade and ahead of the upcoming review of SDG6 by the HLPF in 2018.
We are extremely aware of the importance of water resources, their conservation and management. Even more so in a period of considerable water stress, a side effect of climate change, with notable impact on water regimes, causing historic flooding, droughts and related adverse effects on population, land use and economy as a whole. No doubt, water is a global challenge which requires an appropriate response by the international community. Several participants in the first dialogue suggested that there is a mismatch between the ambition of SDG6 and the ability of the UN system to support the Member States in the implementation. Still millions of people lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Wastewater is often discharged into the environment without treatment. Both extreme floods and droughts have become more frequent due to climate change. This together with the demographic development in many parts of the world has adverse effects on people, land, the environment and the economy. They make tensions and conflicts over access likely to become more frequent which could endanger stability in many parts of the world.
We are committed to the full implementation of Agenda 2030 in which water has a prominent role. SDG 6 is linked to almost all other goals and is cutting through the three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental), illustrated e.g. by the food-water-energy-ecosystems nexus. Improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation is key to sustainable development and should therefore be mainstreamed into the broader development agenda.
Sustainable water management and development require cross-sectoral approach, taking into account the interdependence between different uses of water. Like climate, water governance therefore depends on close cooperation between key stakeholders, including international organizations and agencies, national governments and local authorities, science, business, and civil society.
We remain committed to the fulfilment of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Addressing the link with SDG 5 and gender perspectives is vital since women often bear the burden of collecting water and should have a stronger role in decision making on water management.
At international level, effective transboundary water management and integrated water management is needed. The work and experience of the international river commissions are important sources of lessons learnt. We are fully supportive of international agreements on water cooperation including the New York Watercourses Convention and the Helsinki Water Convention which is open to all countries.
Water challenges must be dealt with at all levels, international, regional, national and, last but not least, local. . The social dimension of water is also essential: water is important for community building, while empowering local communities is necessary for efficient water use.
A major challenge at all levels is still water governance, as was recognized broadly at the first expert dialogue. Water, as other cross cutting issues, is dealt with by a range of different ministries and UN Agencies and programmes. This helps mainstreaming and has advantages, in particular the different expertise and perspectives in tackling a complex issue. But of course it also has the downside of fragmentation and potential lack of coherence in action. There is a need for clarity on the work of existing water-related mechanisms and funds. We would therefore support a review of the UN system’s efforts on water to identify gaps, duplications and challenges to cooperation in line with the ongoing review of the UN Development System.
Without pre-empting any solutions, and mindful of the ongoing alignment process within the General Assembly, we are also ready to engage in further discussions to find the best possible options to provide appropriate political guidance if needed. Without prejudging the outcome, we would support the continuation of the discussion and would support a mandate to the PGA to that effect. In view of the upcoming review of SDG6 by the HLPF in 2018, we have started internal discussions on the different options. We also look forward to listening to the views of others and to exploring the issue further.