UN chief urges global cooperation on sustainable use of water

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Security Council meeting on maintenance of international peace and security, preventive diplomacy and transboundary waters. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

It is essential that nations cooperate to ensure water is shared equitably and used sustainably, the UN Secretary-General told the Security Council on Tuesday.

António Guterres was addressing a meeting looking at the issue of preventive diplomacy and water disputes across national borders.

Dianne Penn reports.

Mr Guterres pointed out that water, peace and security are "inextricably linked." 

He said water scarcity is a growing concern, with demand for freshwater projected to grow by more than 40 per cent by the middle of the century. 

"Without effective management of our water resources," he stated, "we risk intensified disputes between communities and sectors and even increased tensions among nations." 

The Secretary-General delivered his address partly in Spanish.

"All told, there are more than 270 internationally shared river basins, which serve as the primary source of fresh water for approximately 40 per cent of the world's population. That is why it is essential that nations cooperate to ensure water is shared equitably and used sustainably. Indeed, water has proven to be a catalyst for cooperation among nations, even those that are not on good terms. In the second half of the 20th century alone, some 287 international water agreements were signed." 

The UN chief also previewed his upcoming visit to Central Asia, which will include a stop at the Aral Sea. 

Once the world's fourth largest lake, the Aral Sea has shrunk by more than 70 per cent in recent decades as its tributary rivers were diverted for irrigation projects. 

The Secretary-General's agenda also will include discussions on how the UN is supporting meditiation efforts to prevent and resolve local and transboundary disputes over water. 

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'54"

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