Panel Discussion: Statement by Ambassador Thoms on "The strategy for water in the western Mediterranean"

Jan 28, 2014

Co-Chairs,Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege for me to participate in today’s panel discussion and to present Germany’s view.

Water is at the core of human life and of ecosystems. It is central to a life in dignity and health. At the same time, as we just have heard, this precious renewable resource is limited, not only in the Mediterranean. Demand for water resources is increasing due to different reasons: spread of unsustainable consumption patterns, population growth, urbanization, climate change and economic growth to name but a few.

We all know that if we continue under a “business as usual” scenario, we will face serious shortages of resources in a few years. In 2030, there will be 40% less water resources available than needed; energy demand will increase by 40% and food demand is predicted to increase by 50%. At the same time, roughly 30% of the food produced worldwide – about 1.3 billion tons – is lost or wasted every year, which means that the water and energy used to produce it is also wasted.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is an essential human right, universal recognition of this was reaffirmed by the UN General Assembly just last month. Since 2008, Germany and Spain have initiated several resolutions on the human right to water and sanitation. At the last session of the Human Rights Council in September, a record number of 111 co-sponsoring States agreed on a comprehensive definition of this human right. We believe that this definition can guide States in designing and implementing measures to achieve access to water and sanitation for all.

The Millennium Development Goals  have both access to safe drinking water and sanitation at their center. . However, the target on sanitation remains one of the most off-track as more than 2.5 billion people still do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. And even though the Millennium Development Target to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water was formally reached in 2010, 605 million people will still lack access to safe drinking water by 2015.

As the collective vision of what a post-2015 development agenda will look like is taking shape, we are convinced of the necessity to ensure an adequate place for the human right to water and sanitation in the discussion and design of the future agenda, bearing in mind the principles of equality and non-discrimination as well as a focus on the rights of the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups while implementing this right. 

It is therefore important, in our view, that in the resolution adopted by the General Assembly in December 2013, all UN Member States agreed on the necessity to ensure an adequate place for the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in the discussion and the design of the post-2015 development agenda.

It is also important to remember that the human right to water and sanitation, like any other right, requires a broad view of the social, environmental and economic factors that are essential pre-conditions for its realization. Sustainable access to drinking water and sanitation can only be realized when we take into account that both elements are deeply interconnected and embedded in a larger context. Achieved levels of drinking water and sanitation coverage can be endangered by serious deficiencies in waste water treatment, as these can lead to water pollution that will negatively impact future drinking water access. It is therefore essential to take into account the role of proper management of water resources, water quality, waste water treatment, water efficiency and the important role that ecosystems play in the sustainable realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by providing two examples for Germany’s action on water.

1. Germany currently supports projects with a focus on water and sanitation in over 50 countries worldwide. These include activities on sustainable water management and integrated water resources management, such as support for trans-boundary cooperation through lake or river basin commissions. An estimated 80 million people benefit from these activities.

In light of extreme water scarcity in most countries of the Mediterranean region, Germany supports numerous water projects in the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans. The water sector is a priority area of our cooperation e.g. in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and the Palestinian Territories. German Development Cooperation focuses on ecological sustainability, on securing the long-term availability and quality of water resources as well as on drinking water provision and wastewater management.

2. In order to effectively address the water scarcity problem, we need to recognize the various interdependencies between water, energy and food security. Germany has been actively working on this Nexus since 2011. The Berlin 2013 Policy Forum “Realizing the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus” was hosted by the German Government last November. It produced a number of important policy recommendations in six so-called opportunity areas from the international to the local implementation level, with a special focus on regional cooperation.

In the water-scarce Mediterranean region, the Water, Energy and Food security Nexus needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. 66 % of cropland is affected by desertification in the region. Energy projects, for example Concentrated Solar Power, compete with water use for agriculture. Germany welcomes that several countries of the region as well as the League of Arab States have already identified the need for intersectoral linkages and taken up Nexus problems and solutions on their agenda.

I thank you for your attention.

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