Statements and Speeches
Statement by Dr. Wouter H. Zaayman, Counsellor (Political) of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Water, Peace and Security
22 November 2016
My delegation wishes to express its appreciation to Senegal for convening this important and timely debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Water, Peace and Security.
Conflict has cascading effects and far-reaching implications for water security, which lead to negative impacts on political situations, as well as for the social, economic, and environmental spheres of sustainable development. The impact of water on conflicts can be seen in Africa, particular in those countries along the River Nile as well as in the water scarce parts of the Middle East. Thus, we believe that water security must be one of the primary needs that should be addressed in the aftermath of conflicts in order to restore livelihoods and revive economic and social development.
In global terms, indications suggest that at the current rate, the overuse of freshwater relative to its supply will severely slow economic development. Lack of clean water will be the cause of massive food shortages and compromise energy output within the next 15 to 20 years. Potential conflicts over water resources can pose an imminent threat to security both globally and on the African continent, especially as people continue to seek better standards of living in the face of increasingly limited resources. This, in turn, will result in consequences such as an increased occurrence of economic migrants seeking sustenance elsewhere. This scenario is confirmed in the World Bank’s recent report "High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy" which concludes that “in the next 35 years, water insecurity -- made worse by climate change -- could force migration, spark conflict and be a significant financial drag on regional governments”.
Coming from a continent where water security remains such a high priority, I wish to stress the strong relevance of this issue to Africa. There is no doubt that the international community must increase its focus on the preservation of water, including by combating climate change. President Jacob Zuma is a member of the United Nations / World Bank High-Level Panel on Water in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the attainment of SDG6 on Clean Water and Sanitation. This Panel, which was convened at the initiative of the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank recently called for a fundamental shift in the way the world looks at water and issued an Action Plan for a new approach to water management that will help the world to achieve the SDGs. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum, in its Global Risk Report in January this year, identifies the scarcity of water as the number-one long term risk globally.
We should also work towards making the increase in competition for water become a catalyst for more intense cooperation and innovation rather than a source of conflict. Indeed, challenges surrounding water can also be a path for dialogue, mediation and confidence building between States. The work of the UN Department of Political Affairs in this regard is commended. South Africa shares trans-boundary river basins with three other African countries. In this regard, achieving trans-boundary water security has assisted us and our neighbors in stimulating regional cooperation. Shared waters provide opportunities for cooperation and support political development on wider issues such as sustainable development and economic integration. SADC remains a prime example of this, whereby the organisation coordinates trans-boundary water cooperation on 15 basins across Southern Africa. Added to this is our strong belief that a country’s water security is intrinsically linked to neighboring countries and is the very cornerstone of regional integration and development.
For South Africa, as a constitutional, democratic state, inclusiveness and gender sensitivity have always been core principles of our national policy. Therefore, the acceleration of the empowerment of women in regional water management is viewed as critical because women play an important part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. The pivotal role of women as providers and users of water and as guardians of the living environment are seldom reflected in institutional arrangements for the development and management of water resources.
Water scarcity is a major threat to economic growth and stability around the world. Water is and will remain at the heart of international peace and security, the defence of human rights and the imperative for sustainable development paths. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 development goals best articulate the demand that Africa has for water as it states that “Africa shall have equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for socio-economic development, regional cooperation and the environment.”
I thank you.