SRSG's remarks at the International Conference "Towards the 6th World Water Forum — Cooperative Actions for Water Security"
Distinguished participants of the conference,
Allow me to express my gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan for extended hospitality and the excellent organization of the conference that takes place in the run up to the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille in 2012.
This impressive gathering of high caliber national, regional and international experts is an outstanding demonstration of the countries' commitment to consolidate further efforts aimed at ensuring water security. I appreciate the opportunity to address the esteemed audience and contribute to the constructive discussion on issues of significance to the entire Central Asian region and beyond. I also would like to commend the work of the World Water Council for raising the awareness about global water agenda and providing a platform to review potential solutions.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
The UN Regional Centre has established close partnership with all Central Asian states. In consultations with the countries of the region issues related to the management of water resources have been identified as one of the priority areas for the Centre's activities.
Two transboundary rivers of Central Asia – Amudarya and Syrdarya – historically have been providing a basis for hydrological, social and economic interaction between the societies living in the region. Nowadays, these water arteries remain indispensable factors for economic development and further improvement of living standards, thus contributing to achieving development goals identified in the Millennium Declaration. Consequently, the efficient and rational approach to the water sector is of crucial importance for developmental needs of Central Asia and its long-term stability. It requires responsible attitude from all countries of the region.
During his visit to Central Asia in April 2010, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon witnessed one of the world's worst environmental disasters as he flew over the shrinking Aral Sea – a sight which he said underscored the need for collective action to save the planet's resources. Mr. Ban emphasized that much more needed to be done to enhance regional cooperation in the management of common natural resources and pledged continued UN's assistance for countries' efforts. He proposed to use the UN Regional Centre as a platform for dialogue to resolve disputes and to find negotiated durable solutions for problems facing the Aral Sea Basin.
The Centre's approach in addressing existing challenges in this area is collaborative, responsive and strategic. It is based on the letter and spirit of the Joint Statement by the Heads of all Central Asian states-founders of the IFAS adopted at the Summit of this unique regional organization in April 2009. In line with the conclusions of the Summit the Centre is engaged in efforts to assist with institutional strengthening of the Fund and support the development of mutually acceptable mechanism of a comprehensive use of water resources and environmental protection in Central Asia with consideration of interests of all states of the region. To institutionalize our cooperation with the Fund, the Centre signed a MoU with the IFAS Executive Committee and agreed on a specific "road map" for further joint activities. Until present, we have undertaken a series of activities that provide a neutral platform for discussion on existing barriers to increased cooperation while strengthening commitments to the implementation of existing initiatives. These activities included the organization of two ministerial level meetings that have brought senior Central Asian state representatives together with donors to clarify and strengthen their commitments to the IFAS and to design the next 5 year basin development plan (ASBP-3 for 2011-2015), which was supported in principle last December at a meeting in Almaty. I hope that in the near future the plan will be ratified by relevant bodies of all Central Asian states.
One of the key prerequisites for incremental progress in the management of common natural resources is full respect to norms and principles of International Law. With this in mind the Centre, in cooperation with UNECE and other partners, convened a number of meetings focusing on international legal instruments and best practices in negotiating mutually beneficial water agreements. We strongly believe that the UN legal instruments notably UNECE water conventions of 1992 and 1997 provide a solid framework to discuss and find solutions to existing problems on trans-boundary Rivers in the region.
The current situation in the management of water and energy resources remains very complex. While some countries lay special emphasis on hydro power development including big hydro power plants, the others express concerns about possible implications for their economies, safety and environment. A clear example of growing disputes is the planned construction of the Roghun hydro power plant. The UN position on the subject was stipulated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit to the region. A durable solution can only be found through constructive dialogue respecting interests of all riparian states and in line with international law. The UN fully supports an independent objective international risk assessment of the project, led by the World Bank, and urges all parties concerned to facilitate an unimpeded preparation of the study and subsequently to comply with its recommendations.
I wish you constructive deliberations that would contribute to enhanced cooperation and better understanding in the region and result in concrete proposals for a successful World Water Forum 2012 in Marseille.