Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 22, 2023
Good morning. Thanks for being here as we mark World Refugee Day* and kick-off the UN Water Conference. I’m so proud to be co-leading the U.S. delegation to this week’s conference, along with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who will deliver our national statement today.
The last time the UN gathered for a water conference was 1977. It’s been far too long. And it’s what makes the 2023 Water Conference all the more important. Especially because, right now, billions – billions – of people across the globe lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation or regularly face water scarcity.
When I was a refugee coordinator stationed in Africa some years ago, I learned just how valuable water is. Every refugee was allotted just 15 liters of water per day. That allotment was precious. It was treated like liquid gold. People needed it for cooking, for hygiene and sanitation, and of course, for drinking. And when a person’s supply is short, you see just how crucial those functions are for day-to-day living.
This was decades ago. And in so many places, water scarcity has gotten even more extreme – especially in conflict zones and locales hardest hit by the climate crisis. We really are 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. This is a crisis. One that affects people around the globe. And one that demands concrete action.
That’s why I am proud to announce that the United States is committing $49 billion toward equitable, climate-resilient water, and sanitation investments – at home and around the world. That significant number should demonstrate just how seriously we take water security. 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 – an innovative and unified approach that brings together U.S. diplomatic and development tools, as well as science and technology, to respond to water insecurity around the world.
But let’s be clear: this global crisis requires global cooperation. The Security Council must take up the issue of water scarcity – especially because we know water scarcity exacerbates conflicts and disrupts peace and security.
Without water, there cannot be food. There cannot be peace. There cannot be life. We must build a future where safe water flows freely for all.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Ambassador, there’s no binding agreement at the end of this. Isn’t there the danger it’s going to become just a talkfest.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s more than a talkfest, James. This is the first time we are getting together since 1977. The world has changed significantly since that point, and we need to address the crisis that is at hand.
So, more than a talkfest. There’s no agreement that’s planned to come out of this, but I think there will be commitments made.
*World Water Day