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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

22 March 2017, New York – Intervention by the European Union at the United Nations President of the General Assembly’s expert level meeting on water

The EU and its Member States are committed to the full implementation of Agenda 2030 in which water has a prominent role. SDG 6 is linked to almost all other goals and is cutting through the three dimensions of sustainable development, illustrating the food-water-energy-ecosystems nexus.

We therefore thank the PGA for facilitating this first water dialogue, and hope that it will help us identify existing gaps and challenges.

We remain committed to the fulfilment of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Addressing gender perspectives is vital in this regard, with an estimated 16 billion hours invested by women and girls yearly in Africa alone to collect water. Women should have a stronger role in decision making on water management and must be involved in the development of targeted strategies towards achieving SDG targets.

The effects of climate change and demographic development are major water security challenges. Water is a scarce resource, and should be treated as such. It shall be managed in an integrated way, bringing together all those who use water, influencing its quality and quantity, through collaborative arrangements. This is important for a rules-based system aiming at reconciling competing interests and at preventing political tensions, instability or conflicts.

In the EU, we are well on track to meet the targets of SDG 6 by 2030. Integrated Water Resource Management is central to the European approach to freshwater, and in order to successfully achieve that, water planning at the basin level is essential. Since 2000, we have set the common goal of “good ecological and chemical status” for all waters in the EU, including quantitative status for ground water. We have seen tremendous improvement in water quality over this period.

Water pricing is another key element of EU policy. Further efficiency gains can be made by upgrading water supply networks, especially by reducing leakage.  We also intend to increase waste water reuse through a specific new policy that fits in our drive towards a more circular economy. We believe it is crucial to improve resilience and to address water scarcity both structural and that caused or exacerbated by droughts, through inter alia, water storage infrastructures and non-conventional resources, as well as through a more efficient use of existing resources”

Another cornerstone of our EU policy is the joint implementation of measures, managed at river basin level, following a multi-stakeholder approach and involving of all relevant actors – authorities at all levels, water industry, major water users, scientists, civil society, or farmers -.in the definition of the most appropriate policy solutions, ensuring transparency as well as comprehensive data collection and monitoring.

A major challenge at all levels is still water governance. Often, water related issues are being dealt with by a range of different ministries and UN Agencies.

The EU cooperates with a range of other organisations and countries on water issues and supports partner countries and regions, sharing best practices and supporting capacity development; but also discussing norms and standards that can be applied in water policy. Our cooperation brings in a wide range of stakeholders.  Partnerships including civil society, research institutions and the private sector with its innovation potential, bring good results, as demonstrated by the Sanitation and Water for All initiative. Cooperation with International Financial Institutions further allows us to tap into more financial resources to support development and upgrading of water infrastructure where needs are huge.

At international level, further work on strengthening approaches to effective transboundary water management and integrated water management is needed The work and experience of the international river commissions are important sources of lessons learnt, such as the Danube River Commission or the Rhine Commission as well as the Albufeira Convention in Iberia Peninsula and other regional initiatives such as the Strategy for Water in the Western Mediterranean or the Conference of Ibero-American Water (CODIA) Directors .  We are fully supportive of international agreements on water cooperation including the New York Watercourses Convention and the Helsinki Water Convention which is open to all countries.

With the 2030 Agenda, there is finally an indisputable and coherent set of goals, targets, indicators as well as a monitoring framework to oversee and measure their achievement and we very much support the upcoming review of SDG6 by the HLPF in 2018 and the mainstreaming of water concerns throughout the implementation of the Agenda in the UN system.

Various UN bodies and structures provide real added value at country level and contribute to water policy at the global level and we acknowledge coordinating efforts of UN Water. However, implementation efforts at country level need to be supported by continued political attention and exchange at regional and global level.

There is a tremendous interest in sharing best practices; both at policy and technical levels, and in supporting financing and investment. We welcome existing multilateral initiatives, but recognize that unlike other issues as important for sustainable development as water, global water governance is highly fragmented.

Without pre-empting any solutions, and mindful of the ongoing alignment process within the General Assembly, we are ready to engage in further discussions on whether the existing coordination mechanisms at the international level are appropriate and to look at best possible options to provide appropriate political guidance. With this in mind we look forward to listening to the views of others and to exploring the issue further in our next dialogue.

  • Ref: EUUN17-024EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: General Assembly - Plenary,Other
  • Date: 22/03/2017

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