Switzerland gives priority to water on the United Nations agenda

Bern, 25.09.2013 - On 25 September 2013, Switzerland, together with other partners, organised a ministerial event in the margin of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to highlight the importance of water security. At the event, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter appealed to the international community to make strong commitments in the fields of water management and water quality as well as access to water and sanitation for all in the context of the debate on the post-2015 objectives on sustainable development.

In his speech, Didier Burkhalter, who co-hosted the event, proposed the creation of a broad-based platform to support an ambitious objective on water for the post-2015 agenda to address the risks associated with water and reap the benefits of the sustainable use of water for human well-being, economic growth and the environment.

The event was organised in cooperation with Colombia, the Netherlands, the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) and the World Water Council, and brought together some thirty ministers and high-level officials.

Nowadays, water is considered to be one of the main challenges facing all countries. In the world context of development, which is being subjected to unprecedented upheavals, the fair and sustainable management of public goods or global common goods is of fundamental importance. The world’s fresh water resources are among those vital global goods that are being overexploited, wasted and polluted. To continue in this way would lead to a major crisis for humanity.

To meet the needs of a world population of more than 9 billion by 2050, the demand for water for agricultural purposes will increase by 70% and for energy production by 50%. It is estimated that more than half of the population will be living in countries where water is scarce. Currently, 5 million people, in particular children, die every year from water-related diseases as a result of a lack of access to drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene. 

The water crisis can be avoided but it will require a massive increase in the productivity of water as well as fair access for all, while respecting environmental imperatives. It will demand an enormous effort in water management and good governance both at the national and international levels and require the mobilisation of all public and private sectors and academia. It will also be an opportunity to create growth in synergy with the protection of resources and the environment.

Switzerland is tackling these issues and has long been at the forefront of efforts in this field. The post-2015 sustainable development objective for water it is proposing has been taken up in international debate. Furthermore, water diplomacy is one of Switzerland’s strong commitments in the international water sector.


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