Water Should Be a Priority in Every Nation's Foreign Policy

I was glad to see more than 200 people in the audience for a discussion on water, peace, and security on the margins of the 67th meetings of the UN General Assembly yesterday. The United States, the European Union, and UN-Water co-sponsored the event, which drew senior representatives from governments, UN agencies, and international financial institutions. Secretary Clinton, whose remarks closed the event, has made water issues a priority in our diplomatic and development efforts, and I have been pleased to lead those efforts for the State Department.

Citing the findings in a recently released United States Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, Secretary Clinton noted that water is becoming an increasing source of tension between countries and a potential factor in state failure. She called water management and resource issues "both a moral imperative and a strategic investment" and noted that we cannot wait until we have a crisis to find solutions. To ensure that we head off potential crises before they arise, the Secretary encouraged governments to increase the priority given to water challenges and to work together to strengthen institutions that can support cooperation.

Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, opened the meeting and stated that "water security is one of the major security challenges of our time." She also highlighted the need to enhance partnerships and promote sustainable solutions to water security challenges.

The other speakers at the event -- Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Major General Richard Engel (Ret.) of the National Intelligence Council, Professor Konrad Osterwalder, the Rector of UN University, and Mara Marinaki, Managing Director of the EU External Action Service -- discussed the urgency of confronting water security challenges and the need for governments, academics, and others to work together to confront these challenges.

I moderated a rich, open discussion on the topic, in which senior officials from the African Ministers' Council on Water, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Tanzania, and UNESCO spoke clearly about the need for more cooperative action on water and sanitation issues, and the need to take action urgently. Conflict over water is not inevitable, but we have to work harder -- and faster -- to promote cooperation on shared waters and to ensure that people have the water they need, where they need it, when they need it.

Many of you are already working on developing practical solutions. How can we better connect and share what you've already learned? We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this critical issue.

You can watch video of the UN High-Level Roundtable Discussion on Water, Peace, and Security on the UN website.



Judith P.
September 27, 2012

Judith P. writes:

Maria, thank you for sharing these insights from the UNGA and calling attention to issue of global water security. It’s great to see some of the world’s leaders coming together to put some thought into this problem – you’re right when you say that there needs to be cooperation on shared waters and ensuring that people have the water they need, all of the time. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has supported several projects that speak to this issue, including the rehabilitation of nearly half the municipal water purification systems in Ghana, the distribution of water-conserving irrigation equipment in Mexico and a desalination facility in Algeria, which you can read about in this project profile www.opic.gov/hamma I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Naomi L.
California, USA
September 27, 2012

Naomi L. in California writes:

Undersecretary Otero, thank you for such a great post and for helping to champion Water Diplomacy. Here at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy we strongly believe that diplomacy, and public diplomacy in particular, are key tools to tackling water issues around the world and for strengthening American influence and standing. Through our Water Diplomacy Initiative we wrote a policy brief highlighting PD recommendations for US policies on water (uscpublicdiplomacy.org/publications/Water_Diplomacy_Policy_Brief_Online.pdf). Looking forward to continuing to track the U.S. efforts to champion water issues for the world.

Naomi L.
Assistant Director
USC Center on Public Diplomacy

Under O.
District Of Columbia, USA
September 30, 2012

Under Secretary Maria Otero replies:

Hi Naomi -- Thanks for your note and for your interest in water security. I'm pleased to hear that USC is very engaged on this issue, and look forward to studying your report and any future publications in more detail.

Hi Judith -- I'm pleased to hear about your interest in water security, and am looking forward to learning more about OPIC's projects. Thanks for the link.

New Mexico, USA
September 30, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Water in all its forms seems to be the most unevenly distributed resource on the planet even though a majority of the Earth is covered in it.

Melting Ice caps and droughts in lower lattitudes...if we can build oil pipelines from Alaska, we can avoid another lost crop season in America like we had this year.

And with rising sea levels, it would be less expensive for nations to figure out a way to desalinize enough to fill every dry lake on the planet and irrigate cropland, than to have major cities flooded globaly and lose arrible farmland.

If it's a matter of the security of nations, then you'all might as well solve more than one problem at the same time if possible.


Ashim C.
October 1, 2012

Ashim C. in India writes:

Fresh water scaricty.....uhmmmmm...need for massive desalination technologies...

October 2, 2012

W.W. writes:

water: another false (flag) problem to generate profit for the few in the stock market

all of this is just made to trade water for gas ....

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks at a Roundtable on Global Water Security
Posted by Maria Otero
September 26, 2012


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