Remarks at a UN Security Council Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security and Climate-Related Security Risks

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 11, 2018


Thank you, Madam President, for convening this meeting. We also would like to thank the Deputy Secretary-General, Minister Janabi, and Ms. Ibrahim for their important and compelling briefings this morning.

The task of addressing challenges to peace and security is complex and influenced by many factors. The United States remains committed to strengthening international security in a comprehensive manner, and we recognize the efforts of the United Nations in helping to advance our understanding of emerging issues related to human security, including this one. This Council most often is focused on armed conflict as the most conventional threat to international peace and security, but it is right that we also consider natural phenomena disasters such as droughts, monsoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, desertification, volcanic eruptions, and other such events. They have taken lives, destroyed homes, impacted resources, and caused widespread displacement both within and beyond national borders. Unlike conflict where there are sides to be taken, in response to these crises, we are all on the same side – the side of survival, of recovery, and of resilience.

Madam President, in many parts of the world where vulnerable populations suffer from natural disasters, displacement, and food and water scarcity, the United States is partnering with governments and regional organizations to bring relief to those who need it most. We are applying innovative solutions to help communities better prepare for and respond to climate-related pressures. One example of U.S. assistance is in Iraq, where high temperatures and drought conditions present a particularly daunting challenge.

We are the single largest donor to Iraqi-led, UNDP-supported stabilization programming, which includes projects to restore access to household water and electricity in areas formerly under ISIS control. The United States has provided $265 million to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization since 2014. These stabilization activities have helped set the conditions for more than 3 million Iraqis to return to their homes. This funding from the United States has enabled UNDP to fix water treatment plants and water networks, as well as to repair bridges across the Tigris and allow for greater freedom of movement.

At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States has also played an essential role in maintaining Iraq’s critical water infrastructure, especially at the Mosul Dam, whose structural integrity was in question, and which is vital to water management for millions of Iraqis living downstream. At significant expense, the United States deployed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the Iraqi-awarded contract to an Italian firm for emergency grouting and dam maintenance. The ongoing stabilization of the dam’s foundation will allow the Iraqi government to store more water to mitigate scarcity resulting from severe drought.

Madam President, more broadly, the United States is also working closely with Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands to address the specific challenges associated with shared waters. Through the Shared Waters Program managed by the Stockholm International Water Institute, we have been working together to promote cooperative management of shared waters around the world where water is, or may become, a source of tension.

As the Lake Chad region grapples with its own water management issues, the United States is listening carefully to learn more about the challenges citizens there face and welcomes further dialogue on efforts to promote sustainable development there.

The United States acknowledges the special challenges that small island developing states face in achieving sustainable development related to their size, geographic isolation from markets, and limited infrastructure and institutional capacity. We have heard from our friends in the Pacific that they consider climate change to be an existential threat to their populations, and we understand the priority they place on the UN system and the international community supporting their unique needs.

Our support for small island developing states takes many forms. We are taking concrete action to address priorities identified in the SAMOA Pathway, the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and other bilateral and multilateral initiatives. We participate in the Small Island Developing States Action Platform, and in addition the United States is seeking new ways to improve cooperation and align our programs more closely with the priorities of small island developing states.

Madam President, disaster risk reduction and building resilience to cope with natural disasters are important elements of promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty. As appropriate, they should be integrated into policies, plans, programs, and budgets at all levels.

As a global leader in innovation, the United States continues to support access to cleaner and more efficient energy sources, promotion of effective and sustainable land use practices, and other activities aimed at improving resilience – particularly where such support benefits broader mutual economic development, and foreign policy and national security objectives.

Madam President, the United States wants to work with other countries to continue advancing the development and deployment of a broad array of technologies that will ultimately enable us to achieve greater resilience in the face of these daunting challenges.

Once again, we appreciate this opportunity to reflect on these issues.

Thank you.