I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the EU and its MS.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
We are joining consensus today on the modalities resolution for the UN conference on the mid-term review of the implementation of the objectives of the water decade. We congratulate Tajikistan and the Netherlands on the successful conclusion of these challenging negotiations and welcome their co-hosting of the 2023 conference. We look forward to working with our partners in the preparations for both the 2021 PGA high level meeting and the 2023 UN Conference.
Following the negotiations and the compromise reflected in the final text, we would like to clarify our position on a number of issues today:
- The 2030 Agenda is the agreed guiding framework for our actions. Accelerating progress towards its implementation and the agreed priority areas of action in the relevant water-related goals and targets must be the focus of our attention, including for capacity building efforts. We understand the wording "internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those of the 2030 Agenda" in that spirit. It is regrettable that some parties had great difficulties to include explicit references to SDG6 and other water-related goals and targets of the Agenda in a resolution that directly impacts upon them.
- UN-Water, as the coordinating mechanism within the UN system for water issues, has a key role to play in the preparatory process of the conference and the conference itself. We would have liked to see that role being reflected much more clearly in the text.
- The SDG6 Acceleration Framework is a key tool to enable urgent action to scale up and accelerate progress towards SDG6 and other water-related goals and targets. This is the objective of the High Level meeting in 2021 as agreed now in the resolution.
- The EU is fully committed to the implementation of SDG6 and all its targets, including target 6.5 on transboundary cooperation. The vast majority of watersheds in the world cross national borders. Cooperation between the different riparian countries in their management is essential and will become even more important in the future with increasing water demand and climate change driving water scarcity and competition for use in many parts of the world. While we understand the sensitivities of this issue, we regret that the General Assembly has not been able to take a firmer position to support accelerated action on transboundary cooperation.
- We regret that it was not possible to agree on a reference to the important One Health approach. In view of over three million deaths per year due to water-borne diseases, according to WHO, and considering the current pandemic of COVID-19 the world is facing, close cooperation between experts on water, biodiversity and health is of greatest significance.
- Recalling the importance of stakeholder engagement for progress on the 2030 Agenda, we also regret that the “non-objection clause” is included in the text in a form which allows member states on the basis of only very generic reasons to object to the inclusion of organizations in the list of attendants. Together with other delegations, we have raised concerns with the way in which previous non-objection clauses have been abused. To be clear: we do not deny the right to object per se , but concrete reasons must be provided for objecting to the participation of stakeholders in our discussions. The final decision on the list of CSOs must be one of the General Assembly itself, and not that of a single Member State. We therefore continue to insist on a better approach for future conferences.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.