Remarks by SRSG Mizutori at virtual event on the Implications of Environmental Degradation and Climate Change on Achieving SDG 6 and Ensuring Access to Clean, Safe and Sufficient Water

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United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

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The Implications of Environmental Degradation and Climate Change on Achieving SDG 6 and Ensuring Access to Clean, Safe and Sufficient Water

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

13 January 2022

 

Dr Mohamed Abdel Aty, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our most precious natural resource is all around us; it’s in our homes and places of work… usually not more than an arms-length away. Essential to our being, water is a human right.  And yet when linked with disasters or hazards, we are often at water’s mercy.

It is clear that water-related hazards are a threat on the rise. In the last fifty years, climate-related hazards, including those linked to water - floods, landslides, tsunamis, storms, and droughts – have been growing in both frequency and intensity. The damage has been profound.  Floods alone have amounted to economic losses of US$ 115 billion, while droughts resulted in 650,000 deaths. As a warming climate intensifies the water cycle, more intense droughts, rainfall and flooding are inevitable.

At the same time, access to water is a human right under threat.

Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water, endangering the human right to water and sanitation for billions of people.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an important reminder on the vital role of water for good hygiene and preventing the spread of illness. But when we look at the reality, it is a harsh one, as at the onset of the pandemic, 3 in 10 people worldwide did not have water in their homes.

Given this essential nature of water and its importance for many sectors, our world leaders dedicated a specific SDG, SDG 6, for water and sanitation, and this has indeed resulted in many promising collective efforts to address the water crisis. This includes UN-Water’s efforts to develop a UN-Water roadmap for the integration of human rights to water and sanitation; as well as collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

But as much more has to be done, at the UN Office for DRR, we are dedicating significant attention to water with an objective to first ensure safe water access, and second to mitigate the impacts of dangerous water-related hazards.

Our actions are guided by the global blueprint for DRR– the Sendai Framework.

The Sendai Framework addresses underlying disaster risk factors in a systemic manner, and it promotes better risk governance through the development of national and local DRR strategies that account for multi-hazard risks, including water-related hazards.

The Sendai Framework also calls for mainstreaming disaster risk assessments, mapping and management for areas prone to droughts and flooding.

And, last but not least, the Sendai Framework encourages investing in the resilience of new and existing critical infrastructure, such as water infrastructure, to enhance disaster preparedness and to “build back better”.

In order to support Member States to implement the Sendai Framework and to achieve SDG 6, UNDRR has developed a range of specific tools to assist in addressing water-related risk challenges.

For example, we offer a road map with concrete solutions for addressing water-related disasters in the context of climate change; a guide on establishing and implementing nature-based solutions for DRR and climate change adaptation; and last year we launched a special report focused on drought. We are also in the process of developing a guide for practitioners on the ground, on multi-hazard early warning systems.

Moving forward, we at UNDRR are determined to seize the momentum offered by the coinciding midterm reviews of the Sendai Framework and the Water Action Decade, which are both happening in the year 2023. This offers an opportunity to further integrate water -related issues into  DRR considerations, and will allow us to identify necessary adjustments toward risk-informed development that includes sustainable water resources and associated ecosystems.

At the March 2023 UN Water Conference co-organised by the Governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan, we would like to encourage that risk considerations are seen as an integral component, and that the interactive dialogues address the systemic nature of water-related risks. This would be especially relevant, as we are now witnessing with COVID-19, that contemporary risk surrounding us are interconnected, and that their impacts are compounded and cascading affecting each and every aspect of our lives.   

In closing I would like to emphasis that we consider COP27 hosted by the Government of Egypt, as an important opportunity to raise awareness about the strong interlinkages between water, climate change and disaster risk reduction.

At COP 26, UNDRR actively supported the Water Pavilion and curated its DRR theme in collaboration with partners with the aim to build resilience and enhance efforts towards climate adaptation. We will continue these efforts for resilience building towards COP27.   

Water shapes our lives and livelihoods, and we have to make sure its course runs smoothly.

Thank you very much.

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