Statement by Ambassador Skoog at the Security Council Open Debate – Water, Peace and Security

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog at the Security Council Open Debate – Water, Peace and Security, New York, November 22 2016.

Mr. President,

Let me express our deep appreciation for your leadership in driving the water, peace and security agenda, both in the Security Council and in other fora. Building on the Arria formula meeting you hosted in April, today’s meeting provides us with a welcome opportunity to consider the impact of water on peace and security.

Water impacts every major strand of life, from agriculture and energy to transportation and health care. The world is experiencing a surge of water–related crises, and the World Economic Forum rated ‘water crises’ as the top global risk for the next 10 years. A rapidly growing global population and a changing climate threaten to skew the dynamics of supply and demand of the single most important resource we have, in ways we have never faced before. Two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025. 

Water scarcity affects security and strikes disproportionately at the most vulnerable and poor. It particularly affects security in fragile settings where governance may be weak and institutional capacity to deal with crises low. We witness this in places such as in the Sahel region and around Lake Chad, where drought, land degradation and desertification lead to resource scarcity and food insecurity, generating conditions that risk leading to competition and conflict.

Mr. President,

Against the increasing threat that a lack of access to water can fuel conflict and threaten peace, Sweden has made efforts to build experience in what we call water diplomacy. The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) manages the Shared Waters Partnerships that facilitates transboundary water management. Sweden is also the host of the UNESCO International Centre for Water Cooperation which supports policy makers and other practitioners in reducing conflict around water.

Our work on water diplomacy has shown that while the threat of violence over water is real, water also offers opportunities as a source of cooperation. There are examples where water has even become a driver for conflict resolution. Most of the world’s freshwater resources come from rivers, lakes, and aquifers that are transboundary by nature. While this is a challenge, research on transboundary water management demonstrates the many cases where states tend to collaborate rather than enter into violent disputes over shared waters.

Cooperation over shared waters can have far reaching positive impact and extend cooperation and build trust far beyond the issue of managing a shared resource. Institutionalizing mechanisms for cooperation over shared water is a long-term strategy for sustaining peace and a smart investment in times of increasing pressures from population growth, urbanization and climate change.

But to turn water into an opportunity for cooperation, we need transparent and efficient mechanism for information-sharing, participation and dispute settlement. We need smarter and more integrated water management approaches. We need to break down silos and put new incentives in place. We need to be more creative in the use of technology. And we need stronger partnerships.

Mr. President,

Today’s debate is another reminder of the strong links between security and development. The implementation of Agenda 2030 is crucial also in preventing conflict. The importance of water for sustainable development is highlighted in several of our common goals, not least SDG6 on water and SDG14 on Oceans and Seas. Sweden is a strong proponent of the United Nations Conference to support the implementation of SDG14 which will take place here in New York in June 2017.

Thank you.