Beirut, 22 March 2017 (Communication and Information Unit) – The United Nations has launched a decade for action on water that seeks to forge new partnerships, improve cooperation and strengthen capacity to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the Arab region, about 15 per cent of the population does not have access to good drinking water, and 18 per cent lack decent sanitation facilities. Nearly all member countries of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) suffer from freshwater scarcity, with 18 out of 22 Arab States below the water poverty line of 1,000 m3/person/year.
Water shortages, high energy costs associated with pumping, insufficient storage capacity, and destruction to water networks are just some of their common challenges, with conflict, occupation and humanitarian crises aggravating the situation.
To address these inter-related challenges, the new International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028 was launched in the Arab region by ESCWA and its partners on World Water Day, marked annually on 22 March. Representatives from governments, civil society and international organizations met in Beirut, Lebanon at the Hilton-Habtour Hotel to discuss the connections between water, energy and food security, and how to limit adverse impacts on current and future generations.
Organized under the auspices and in the presence of the Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water, César Abi Khalil, the meeting was held in collaboration with the Directorate General of Hydraulic and Electrical Resources of Lebanon, the Sustainable Water Integrated Management and Horizon 2020 Support Mechanism 2016-2019 (SWIM-Horizon 2020 SM), the Mediterranean Network of Basin Organisations (MENBO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), MEDURABLE and the International Office for Water.
The Director of the Sustainable Development Policies Division of ESCWA, Roula Majdalani, presented the regional commission’s latest findings on energy, water, food and climate change. These were recently compiled in a report launched in September 2017 called the Regional Initiative to Assess Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region (RICCAR), and are mostly related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2, 6 and 7 on ending hunger and ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.
However, Ms. Majdalani stressed that all SDGs are linked to water and that the RICCAR report proves the negative and direct impact of climate change on water resources throughout the Arab region. She underlined that temperatures are rising, a trend that is expected to continue until the end of the century. Meanwhile, precipitation trends are largely decreasing across the region, despite some limited areas where an increase in their intensity and volume is expected.
Ms. Majdalani highlighted where ESCWA has invested many resources to support water-related efforts, including its regional research and reports, and the mechanisms it leads such as the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development (AFSD), an annual high-level regional platform where stakeholders discuss coordination pathways for the implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The outcome of those efforts are presented at the High-level Political Forum on sustainable development which will convene this year in New York from 9 to 18 July 2018.
Learn more about the International Decade here: http://www.wateractiondecade.org/
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