Secretary-General's message to the Summit of the Member States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea
ALMATY, 28 April 2009
delivered by Mr. Miroslav Jenca, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia
I would like to extend my sincere greetings to the Summit of the Member States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. I am heartened that, despite the serious global economic and financial crisis, the decision-makers of the Central Asian region have agreed, at the highest level, to discuss ecological issues of common concern, including those of the Aral Sea basin.
Central Asia's water resources are particularly vulnerable. In recent decades, the Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest lake, has shrunk by 70 per cent, threatening local livelihoods and national prosperity. Climate variability poses a further challenge in this region characterized by vast areas of arid and semi-arid land. The mountain glaciers of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that feed the lake are melting at an alarming rate. By 2050, water flow in the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers could diminish by up to 40 and 30 per cent respectively.
As a regional organization, the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea is ideally positioned to facilitate the development of mutually beneficial and durable solutions among Central Asian countries. The fact that the Fund was granted observer status to the General Assembly emphasizes the commitment of the United Nations to supporting you to realize this potential.
My Special Representative for Central Asia and the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy are prepared to assist you in formulating a long-term solution to the interrelated water and energy issues of the Aral Sea basin, and to offer mediation support to any future negotiations in this area. Wherever needed, United Nations specialized agencies also stand ready to provide assistance and technical expertise.
Any discussion of the Aral Sea must recognize the growing threat of climate change. This December, the world's governments will meet in Copenhagen to negotiate a new climate change agreement. It must be ambitious, fair and effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It must also assist countries to adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change by facilitating the development and transfer of relevant resources and technology.
Such an agreement can begin to unlock the investments and innovation needed to transform the climate crisis into an opportunity for equitable, sustainable growth for all countries. In order to seal the deal, we will need leadership at the highest level from all countries, powerful or poor. I encourage your active participation in this process, with the same spirit that you are engaged in saving the Aral Sea. I wish you a productive and successful meeting.