Roundtable on Water Security

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United Nations
New York City
September 25, 2012

The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube

Thank you very, very much, Maria, and I am delighted to be able to join you for this meeting. Sometimes when you look at the busy schedule of the UN General Assembly, you see only the headlines, the problems, the hotspots, the conflicts, the challenges, and all of those are certainly important. But you also have to look at the trend lines, and you’re here because you know that water is an issue that cuts across borders and affects every human being.

You know better than any that water management and resource issues are both a moral imperative and a strategic investment, and I want to thank everyone who has participated in this, because whether you’re talking about economic development or improving global health, whether you focus on promoting food security or building peace or coping with climate change or providing sustainable energy, access to clean water is critical. And the problems that are already coming to the forefront around the world will only intensify as populations grow and demands increase.

Now, this year alone in the United States, we’ve experienced extreme drought conditions in some parts of our country and devastating floods in others. We are well aware that Europe, Asia, and Africa have all experienced similar challenges. Now, you’ve already heard about our Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, and I hope that you will have if you didn’t today have a chance to really study it, because water scarcity could have profound implications for security. The report found that dwindling supplies and poor management of water resources will certainly affect millions of people as food and crops grow scarcer and access to water more difficult to obtain. In fact, in some places, the water tables are already more depleted than we thought and wells are drying up.

In other parts of the world, water resources could become a real source of manipulation and increasing instability. And we want to get ahead of what those potential problems might be. We can’t wait until we already have a crisis. So I think water should be a priority in every nation’s foreign policy and domestic agenda, and we need to work together to advance cooperation on shared waters. Here at the UN, we have to work in our continuing efforts to ensure no child dies of a water-related disease and certainly no war is ever fought over water.

Now, to give just one example of what we need to be doing, the United States is working with the UN Development Program and other partners from not only governments but the business world, civil society, philanthropy, and academia on the shared waters partnership to help build really robust institutions. And also, as part of that, we will be looking for ways to establish online platforms to facilitate cooperation and to facilitate regional dialogues. All of us are here today because we understand the urgency. It is for me a critical issue that we have to start asking ourselves what are we going to do today and tomorrow to address.

Many of you are already working on developing practical solutions. How can we better connect and share what you’ve already learned? How can we build more effective institutions for managing shared water resources? And how do we bring safe drinking water and sanitation to all the world’s people? I’m sure it’s been said many times already today, but there are countries where there are more cell phones than toilets. How do we look for every possible creative, innovative approach to safe drinking water and sanitation? I’m excited, because I think this is now getting the attention that it so richly deserves. I thank Under Secretary Otero for leading our efforts inside the United States Government, and I look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations and working with you to try to implement your very practical solutions. Thank you all. (Applause.)

PRN: 2012/1511