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UNGA Debates Achieving the Right to Water in the Context of the MDGs

29 July 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) concluded its debate on challenges to achieving the human right to water and sanitation in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with some delegates stressing the impact of climate change on the realization of this right, in particular in least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS).

Kyrgyzstan emphasized his country's reliance on glacial water sources, noting that under the influence of global climate change, the surface area of its glacier had shrunken significantly, threatening the security of water supplies. Slovenia stated that forecasts showed that by 2025, 1.8 billion people would live in areas affected by severe water stress, owing to climate change, environmental degradation and population growth.

Chile underscored that the challenge of supplying drinking water for a growing population was further hampered by climate change and the demands of economic development. Tajikistan called on the UN to pay greater attention to the question of water. Stressing that Central Asia's water reserves had been shrinking, he urged addressing this issue within the context of climate change and food security.

Solomon Islands stated that for many LDCs, access to clean drinking water and better sanitation was a real challenge, especially among women and children. Highlighting the issue of salt-water intrusion into the groundwater as a result of sea-level rise in many SIDS, she called for durable solutions to such “water poverty.” Noting that many LDCs were off-track in meeting the MDGs, she stressed the vulnerability of SIDS to climate change, which she called a “threat multiplier,” resulting in rising sea levels, coastal erosion, droughts, floods and king tides. Solomon Islands further underlined the need for an ambitious reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, stressing that current pledges to that end fell short, and lamenting the fact that some countries had announced their opting out of a second commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.

New Zealand emphasized that extreme weather events threatened to damage or destroy water infrastructure, while sea-level rise could jeopardize the availability of safe, clean drinking water. He underscored the particular vulnerability of atoll communities, and pointed to New Zealand's support to improvements in rainwater harvesting and distribution infrastructure in the Cook Islands and other areas. [UNGA Press Release]