National Statement by Sweden at the Security Council Briefing on Preventive Diplomacy and Transboundary Waters

National Statement on behalf of Sweden, Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister, at the Security Council briefing on Preventive Diplomacy and Transboundary Waters. Tuesday, 06 June 2017, New York.

Mr President,

Let me first express my condolences and that of the Swedish government and people on the loss of life following the vicious and cowardly attacks in Kabul and London. Our thoughts are first and foremost with the families of those who have lost loved ones and those who are now recovering from their injuries. We share the shock and outrage of the British and Afghan people and I assure you that Sweden stands with you at this time.

Mr President,

[Moving to the subject of today's discussion,] I would like to thank Bolivia for putting the issue of Preventive Diplomacy and Transboundary Waters on the agenda. Water is indeed one of the essential building blocks of human life; without it nothing can survive.

I also thank the Secretary-General, for his insightful and thought-provoking intervention today. You have vividly underlined for us both the challenges and opportunities presented by transboundary waters. You have also underscored the vital importance of preventive diplomacy as a tool for averting conflict and fostering cooperation through water management.

Today's meeting coincides with another important meeting focusing on water, this time our seas and oceans. Sweden, together with Fiji, is proud to co-host the Oceans Conference, which, as you know, started yesterday. We believe this conference can be a game changer, leading to a reversal in the decline of the oceans to the benefit of people, planet and prosperity.

This is vital and urgent. The effects of climate change are real. They are being felt every day, not least by those who depend on rivers, lakes, seas and oceans to sustain their lives and livelihoods. For instance, in Sweden we are currently facing unprecedented low groundwater levels in some parts of the country, which in time could affect water supplies. It is imperative that we all respond to this challenge by raising the level of our global ambition to meet our global responsibility.

Mr President,

Sweden is deeply and fully committed to the prevention agenda being pursued by the Secretary-General and discussed by this Council in January. This commitment to a more holistic approach to prevention builds on an acknowledgment of the many varied and interlinked drivers of conflict. The issue of the management of transboundary waters is an important example.

A large proportion of the world's population depends on shared water resources for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses. How shared water is managed between communities has a profound effect on all aspects of human life as well as economic growth and sustainable development.

Considering its importance, it is not surprising that shared waters can also be a source of tension – fuelling conflict and threatening peace.

The negative effects of climate change have the potential to increase these tensions. To quote the Secretary-General: "Climate change is a threat in itself and a multiplier of many other threats – from poverty to displacement to conflict".

In response, we need to support countries' efforts to make informed and efficient decisions when responding to the effects of climate change, including on transboundary waters. The UN needs an institutional home for the climate change related security risks already affecting countries. Such a home would ensure that the UN has the skills set needed to provide adequate risk assessments and to deliver comprehensive risk management strategies with regard to the impact of climate change. Together with increased capacity for more integrated, cross-pillar analysis, such work would also provide the early warning needed to support this Council's work to prevent conflicts emerging. This need was underlined in the Council's resolution on Lake Chad in March.

Mr President,

Improving the management of water resources so as to ensure water security must be a top priority at global, regional and national levels. We simply cannot afford not to responsibly and sustainably manage our waters. Issues of shared waters must, and can, be turned into opportunities for cooperation. Doing so can help prevent conflicts and deliver positive outcomes for all communities across borders. We have a number of tools to support these efforts.

Firstly, international law relating to water, which sets out key principles, amongst others, around prevention and avoiding transboundary harm, can play a significant role in preventing conflict.

The Århus Convention is an important instrument for ensuring the participation of the public and non-governmental organisations in environmental decision making. In this regard, it is equally important that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognised, taken into account and included in decisions regarding water resources.

Secondly, regional actors have a crucial role to play. Europe has a long history of managing shared waters. We have developed extensive systems for transboundary water governance, including an overreaching treaty framework. The European Union has lessons to share in this regard.

So too has Sweden, where we have made efforts to build experience in the area of water-diplomacy for the benefit of all countries. The Stockholm International Water Institute, and the UNESCO International Centre for Water Cooperation and Global Water Partnership, hosted by Sweden, hold extensive knowledge pertaining to transboundary water and actively engages in Water Management Dialogues.

Finally, we should enhance and deepen our efforts to work together around transboundary waters. Cooperation needs to be extended beyond managing a shared resource, to areas such as increasing the quality of water and protecting the environment. Cooperation over shared waters can have far reaching positive impact and build trust far beyond the issue of managing a shared resource, further reducing the risk of conflict.

Mr President,

The waters that we share – whether rivers, lakes, seas or oceans –sustain life and support our common prosperity; however, they are more and more under threat.

No one country acting alone can respond; instead we must work together, as partners, across borders to secure our shared future and protect our planet for everyone.

Thank you

Contact

Lisa Laskaridis Sarmiento
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis Sarmiento