Delivered By: Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment
I want to wish everybody a happy World Water Day. I would like to begin by thanking Mozambique and Switzerland for bringing us together on this critical issue.
Our reliance on water is profound.
Water is a necessity, not only for survival, but for the fundamental right to a standard of living adequate for one’s health and well-being.
Despite water’s lifegiving nature, and the special protection it is granted under international humanitarian law, this crucial resource is often a casualty of war.
Every conflict-related emergency where UNICEF has intervened in recent years involved some form of attack hindering access to water – whether deliberate or collateral. In countries experiencing protracted armed conflicts, children below the age of five are twenty times more likely to die from diseases linked to unsafe water and sanitation than they are from conflict-related violence.
We have seen the direct impact of these attacks on water systems where entire communities have been uprooted and forced to gravitate towards areas of greater water availability. Women and girls are forced to travel long distances to fetch water and face a greater risk of sexual violence.
We need more effective action and a stronger response to these challenges.
Our first priority is to protect water infrastructure during conflict in line with our obligations under international humanitarian law. But when water infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, we must put our best efforts towards repairing and rehabilitating those water systems that have been harmed.
Importantly, that involves ensuring that we facilitate the work of humanitarian actors making essential repairs. Last December we came together and adopted Resolution 2664, to make clear that these critical endeavours are not subject to UN sanctions. With this same spirit, we encourage efforts to ensure that national policies and sanctions preserve the humanitarian space and avoid hindering this important work.
Humanitarian actors are responding to emergency situations: repairing and operating water systems in urban centres, transporting water by truck to displaced persons and providing lifesaving medical treatment to people affected by water-borne diseases. The UAE is a strong supporter of these efforts.
In Yemen, the UAE supported the maintenance and rehabilitation of nine water stations, eighty water pumps and four wastewater treatment stations. In Somalia, the UAE has built thousands of wells, reservoirs, and water pipe extensions. Even amidst protracted conflict, these efforts are possible and save many lives.
In a world where armed conflicts are far too prevalent, the need to ensure the protection of water systems has never been more acute.
The intensity of our action should mirror the scale of the challenge.
The international community must step up its response, and demand and inspire more effective action to protect water systems and enable humanitarian efforts. This is the only way that this most basic of needs will be adequately protected, and so too the civilian population caught in the crossfire of conflict.
Thank you, Mr. President.