Water should be a factor for cooperation between States [fr]
Water, peace and security - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 22 November 2016
I would like to begin by warmly thanking the Senegalese presidency for organizing this essential debate on the relationship between water, peace and security. I would also like to thank Mr. Danilo Türk, Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace; Ms. Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; and Mr. Sundeep Waslekar, President of Strategic Foresight Group, for their very edifying briefings.
Against the backdrop set out in the excellent concept note (S/2016/969, annex) circulated by the Senegalese presidency, I would like to make including three messages. The first is that water should never be a source of division, but rather a factor for cooperation between States. That is an essential element. For that purpose, we must use and promote the major conventions on water use, namely, the Economic Commission for Europe Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, agreed in Helsinki, and the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, agreed in New York. It is true that natural resources are at stake in many conflicts. That has been the case for at least 40 per cent of them over the past 60 years, according to consistent estimates.
Climate change of course exacerbates the situation, in particular because of its impact on land degradation and desertification. But even in times of war, the sharing of water resources can facilitate dialogue between the warring parties — for example, the discussions between Jordan and Israel and of the South African agreements signed during the wars in the 1970s and 1980s.
In that context, in order to help States to make the sharing of water resources a tool for cooperation, we need an equitable multilateral framework endowed with high-quality expertise. That is why France so actively supports and promotes the two essential tools of international law that we have at our disposal. The first tool is the Economic Commission for Europe Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, known as the Helsinki Convention, which has been open to all States Members of the United Nations since 1 March. The second tool is the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, known as the New York Convention.
The Helsinki Convention, we must underscore, provides a dialogue and arbitration mechanism for cases in which there are tensions between States situated along the same river, lake or aquifer. It includes a secretariat and a legal and technical support mechanism for States parties, but also for non-State parties. Those two Conventions are the primary instruments for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6, on water and sanitation, and Sustainable Development Goal 16, on peace, justice and strong institutions, under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I therefore welcome the involvement of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace in the promotion of the two Conventions that I have mentioned. I also would like to emphasize the fact that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction has an important role to play in encouraging States to become parties to the two Conventions on the management of transboundary watercourses.
My second message is that the Security Council has a key role to play in the essential issue of water-resource management. It must ensure that there is protection of the infrastructure and other essential services, in particular water, but also electricity, during conflicts and post-crisis phases. Goods that are indispensable to the survival of civilians are protected under international humanitarian law. Human services are part of that protection, as is the quality of many other services, such as health services, as the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross recalled a while ago.
The Security Council must therefore ensure respect for humanitarian law. It must also ensure that peacekeeping operations have a minimal environmental impact. On the other hand, the Security Council has to study and learn all of the lessons in the operational recommendations on these issues that the High-Level Panel on Water and Peace will formulate in 2017. We look forward to those recommendations on the global architecture for the prevention and resolution of water-related conflicts and on water use as an instrument for cooperation and peace.
That leads me to my third and final message, which is of a more general nature. It is high time to reflect on the global water architecture. The current global water governance is not up to the challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its fragmentation weakens it. That is why France thinks that it is necessary to facilitate dialogue on the issue of water-resource management among Member States and United Nations agencies. Several United Nations agencies are working on that issue: UNESCO on surface and groundwater resources, the United Nations Environment Programme on resource quality issues, and UNICEF and the World Health Organization on the links between water resources and people’s access to drinking water.
In that regard, France is in favour of establishing a space for dialogue on water issues in their entirety to cover access to water, but also water quality, pollution and use, as well as the sustainable and integrated management of resources, the protection and restoration of aquatic environments, climate change and prevention as a response to disasters.
In short, those are comments that I wanted to make on this essential issue of water, peace and security. The underlying thread of my statement and the central message of France is that concerted management of water resources, in particular access to drinking water, is not only a technical subject, it is also a vital issue when it comes to development, human rights and security. It is therefore a top priority for our Organization. The Security Council, naturally alongside the General Assembly, has every legitimate right to be seized of the matter. I am thoroughly convinced that our discussion today, thanks to you, Mr. President, and the Senegalese presidency, is both very enlightening for all of us and very promising for the future.