Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Protection of Civilians and Water-Related Essential Services

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 22, 2023


Thank you to Mozambique and Switzerland for sponsoring today’s event, and to the briefers for their invaluable insights.

As we speak, billions of people across the globe lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation – or regularly face water scarcity. Billions – that’s with a “B.” And what worries me most is that we’re headed in the wrong direction.

A 2022 study by the University of California Los Angeles estimated that almost half of the world’s population will suffer severe water stress by 2030. The causes of this crisis are multi-faceted, but today I’ll highlight two key drivers: conflict and climate change.

First, for those that live in conflict zones, being cut off from water or sanitation can have devastating consequences. Increasingly, we see the impact that conflict-driven water insecurity has on displacement and gender-based violence. In some conflicts, armed forces are damaging water infrastructure and controlling access to headwaters.

In Ukraine, Russian forces have attacked water infrastructure and left over 11 million Ukrainians – or one quarter of Ukraine’s population – without reliable access to clean water. It’s beyond cruel. To that end, the United States welcomed the adoption of a resolution under the Ramsar Convention that called upon Russia to cease abuses that prevent Ukraine from protecting, restoring, and using its wetlands.

Of course, the Council has a critical role to play when it comes to addressing conflict-driven water insecurity. As part of our mandate to maintain international peace and security, we must provide Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions with the tools necessary to tackle the challenges brought about by water scarcity.

People need water. So, peace means water. It’s that simple.

Second, we cannot talk about water insecurity without talking about climate change. We know that water scarcity can trigger the onset or escalate intercommunal conflict between groups or states. And we know that climate-related severe weather events, including floods and droughts, affect the ability of vulnerable communities to produce food in ways they have used for generations. These are threats that demand action, that require all of us to do our part.

That’s why today, the United States was proud to announce that we are committing more than $49 billion toward equitable, climate-resilient water and sanitation investments – at home and around the world. These investments will help create jobs, prevent conflicts, safeguard public health, reduce the risk of famine and hunger, and enable us to respond to climate change and natural disasters.

This announcement builds on the first-ever White House Action Plan on Global Water Security. The Action Plan laid out an innovative and unified approach that brings together U.S. diplomatic and development tools, as well as science and technology, to respond to rising global water insecurity. And this plan engages civil society and the private sector to support a more water-secure world for all.

Since the launch of the Action Plan, our targeted investments have helped provide more than five million people with water and more than six million people with sanitation. We are also working to protect critical infrastructure, including vital ecosystem services that include water systems and waste management.

But colleagues, none of us can do this alone. Addressing water insecurity requires global cooperation. And that cooperation extends to the Security Council. We have an obligation to address water scarcity, which exacerbates conflicts and disrupts peace and security. We must take action – across UN agencies – to protect civilians from this pressing threat, rather than remaining mired in debates over the venue for such discussions.

By doing so, we can unlock the full potential of the UN and work toward a future where every single person in every single country has access to safe water and sanitation services. Let us build that future together.

Thank you.