Tal vid öppnandet av Världsvattenveckan
Excellencies, Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today, taking part in the World Water Week and having the opportunity to speak about the role of water in sustainable growth and give you some overview of how Sweden is working with 2030 Agenda. First, I would like to thank The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) for organizing this important event during the past 26 years.
Let me begin with a quote that describes our responsibility for water. It is one of my favorite quotes, which I often used at the European Commission in my previous capacity as European Commissioner for the Environment.
“The same water that we can drink from a mountain stream in a northern country was once in the Cleopatra’s bath, in Abraham’s wells and in a nuclear power plant’s cooling system.” It is the same water because this is how nature’s fantastic ecocycle is constructed. The process of course takes time, but it is still the same water. This is how our ecosystem works and shows the great responsibility that we have to take care of and manage water resources, and ensure high quality of water in the south as well as the north.
The theme “Water and Sustainable Growth” has high relevance and clear links to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable growth requires sustainable development, stability, peace, healthy environment, gender equality and economic growth etc.
Our world is characterized by conflict, climate change, extremism and inequality. The humanitarian needs seem infinite and we are witnessing the largest number of refugees since the Second World War. At the same time, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Global Risk Report has identified water as one of the main challenges worldwide. The water crisis and climate change are closely interlinked and the impact of global climate change is clearly visible in the water resources and poses a serious risk to poverty reduction and threatens to undo decades of development efforts.
Millions of people are living in regions with water scarcity and at the same time a warming planet is increasing the stress on these regions. The world’s population continues to grow which also means increasing demands for water to produce food and for other purposes such as household needs, sanitation, industrial and energy production, etc.
Armed conflict is many times the reason for a lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Peace and stable development are generally requirements for attaining clean water and sanitation.
Climate change also constitutes a threat to global security, as it can be a catalyst for increased tension that could lead to conflicts and poverty, e.g. increasing competition for scarce water resources.
Shared waters and joint management of the transboundary water resources can however also be an important unifying factor, contributing to dialogue, peace, regional and political stability and economic growth.
We also know that climate change and lack of basic resources strike disproportionally at the most vulnerable and poor people of the world. It adversely affects security in fragile settings where governance is weak and institutional capacity to deal with shocks and crises is low. We have seen this in Syria, Mali, Sudan, and Somalia and in many other places.
Some of the most obvious effects of climate change have direct links to water. Droughts, wild fires, storms, floods, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise all have devastating effects for life and economic development. Sea level rise can lead to salt polluting fisheries, agriculture and not least the fresh water supply. It is important to remember that oceans and coasts partially support about 75% of the global population, residing in the wider coastal margins.
Access to water, sanitation and hygiene has a direct impact on the health of women and girls. For example, the lack of adequate sanitation and menstrual hygiene facilities at schools and work places often leads to absenteeism or dropping out. In many parts of the world access to a toilet is a matter of security for women and girls.
Access to water significantly reduces women’s and girls’ workload and the amount of time they spend on arduous tasks such as fetching water. It can free up time for market based activities, and enable them to attend school. But the women and girls in the world still experience gender inequality, lack of rights, representation and resources. In many families girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys to be the family member responsible for fetching water.
Women’s economic empowerment is not only a prerequisite for the realization of gender equality; it is also a prerequisite for economic growth, for reducing the number of people living in poverty and to more peaceful and prosperous societies.
There are some similarities between water and economy. Water starts its existence as rainfall, later creates streams and rivers, forms lakes and finally turns into the oceans. The economy works in a similar way. The flow of activities of individuals, both men and women, enables the economy to growth.
Successful realization of goal 6 of 2030 Agenda will underpin progress across many of the other goals, particularly on nutrition, child health, education, gender equality, healthy cities and healthy water ecosystems and- oceans.
2015 was an important year for global governance. With world-wide agreements on poverty reduction, disaster risk reduction, development financing and climate change – we now have the comprehensive normative frameworks needed to support sustainable development and peace.
The implementation of 2030 Agenda is a shared responsibility of all countries. It’s comprehensive approach involves all actors in the society. Sweden is actively working with the implementation of 2030 Agenda and this work is intimately linked to the development financing agenda – Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) and the Policy for Global Development which is the Swedish version of policy coherent for development. This connection is central to the implementation and should be seen as a coherent framework. The most visible example of the Swedish government’s work is the establishment of a national delegation for the implementation of 2030 Agenda.
International development cooperation is an important tool to support developing countries in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. But the efforts towards sustainable development and poverty eradication cannot be a task only for development policy or development actors. It requires involvement of a broad range of actors and efforts within and across all policy areas, including development cooperation, trade, foreign relations, climate, environment and migration policies etc.
Sweden emphasizes the importance of good multilateral donorship and is well advanced in many areas and is a leading voice in the international efforts towards more sustainable development. In this respect, dialogue with member states and work throughout the UN system, the EU, OECD, multilateral development banks and other international organizations will be crucial. The seat in the UN Security Council will also provide a platform for Sweden to work for international peace and security.
The Paris Agreement is an important milestone in the fight against climate change. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and a key priority to the Swedish Government. With my fellow Foreign Ministers within the European Union I am – and many Swedish embassies are – engaged in Climate Diplomacy to follow-up and spur implementation of the agreement. Sweden will also together with Fiji co-host a high-level UN-conference on oceans, which will take place in New York, in June 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen; as the world’s first feminist government and as a strong supporter of the women, peace and security agenda, it is crucial to see the gendered effects of conflict, poverty and scarcity of basic resources such as water. Gender mainstreaming – is a strategic approach for achieving gender equality and women´s empowerment at all levels of development.
It is time to turn the political commitments into real action.