Minister Fajon: Slovenia's initiative to appoint a UN Special Envoy for Water endorsed by 150 countries
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Tanja Fajon is attending the United Nations Water Conference in New York. This is only the second time in 45 years that a conference has been devoted exclusively to water. “Slovenia has succeeded in getting 150 countries to support its proposal for the appointment of a UN Special Envoy for Water. This is a great success for Slovenian diplomacy”, said Minister Fajon.
“I am very pleased to be able to take an active part in the UN Water Conference. Water is a natural resource on which we all depend, yet it is poorly managed. Water supply is therefore one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. More than two billion people around the world lack safe access to drinking water. Almost half of them have no access to sanitation and 80% of wastewater is released untreated into the environment. Therefore, Slovenia has taken an active role by proposing the appointment of a UN Special Envoy for Water. Slovenia is also one of the four countries that have contributed to a fund to co-finance the participation of representatives of the poorest countries in the Conference. Only by working together can we make a difference," said the Minister. She also presented Slovenia's proposal for holding regular inter-governmental conferences on water. "In Slovenia, we are well aware that our future, the future of our children and the destiny of the world depends on water. That is why we are working to move water issues higher up the global agenda and to address them comprehensively at all levels.”
In the margins of the conference, the Minister attended the UN Security Council Arria-formula Meeting on Protection of Civilians, which focused on the protection of water infrastructure and supply in armed conflict. "Unfortunately, water and sanitation infrastructure continues to be used as a strategic target in armed conflicts, despite the fact that international law prohibits the destruction of facilities indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. For this reason, the UN Security Council should aim to play a more active role in protecting both civilians and water resources and infrastructure," the Minister said during the debate.
Speaking at a side event entitled "Sparing water systems in armed conflicts", Minister Fajon stressed: "I am pleased to hear that Slovenia is being recognised as a leader in pursuing its agenda - in preventing conflict, engaging in dialogue to alleviate human suffering, and in seeking a swift joint agreement on reconstruction.”
Referring to the Joint Statement of the Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition, which was delivered on behalf of the Coalition by President Nataša Pirc Musar, Minister Fajon expressed her belief that water cooperation can be a harbinger of peace. As an example, she pointed to the Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin. "It was the first regional agreement after the devastating war in the Western Balkans. It helped build trust among the former warring parties and paved the way for cooperation in many other fields." The Coalition comprises 40 countries, regional and international organisations, international financial institutions, non-governmental organisations, and academic and research centres.
Minister Fajon will deliver her closing speech tomorrow, 24 March, at the fifth interactive dialogue "Water Action Decade: Accelerating the implementation of the objectives of the decade", where she will highlight the following: "The UN Water Action Decade will continue to serve as a platform for political dialogue, sharing best practices and building partnerships to tackle water-related issues and challenges. I hope that five years from now, we will look back on the commitments made at this Conference and see that they marked a turning point in our journey towards a more secure global water supply.”
In the margins of the conference, the Minister also held a number of bilateral meetings where she presented Slovenia's foreign policy priorities and objectives. She met with Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister of Public Works and Public Housing of Indonesia, Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, Robert Mardini, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Grace Fu, Minister of Sustainability and the Environment of Singapore, Tran Hong Ha, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam, Inés María Chapman, Deputy Prime Minister of Cuba, Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and Terhi Hakala, EU Special Representative for Central Asia.