I thank you for your introductory words, as well as for co-organizing this meeting in the "Arria" format. Switzerland is also grateful to you for hosting this event under your presidency of the Security Council.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I, too, welcome you on this March 22, World Water Day.
This date is very symbolic this year as it coincides with the opening of the United Nations Water Conference 2023.
Switzerland welcomes the return of this topic to the surface of the UN agenda, 46 years after the last conference on water, in 1977.
The current challenges in terms of access, management and governance of water are multiple and require multilateral solutions.
This is why Switzerland will speak out in favor of including this issue in the priorities of the UN during the general debate of the Conference. The Security Council must also pay attention to it.
With this in mind, we - Switzerland and Mozambique - have decided to address a complex aspect of access to water: the protection of water services and infrastructure during armed conflicts.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Water is essential to all life on earth and access to water is a fundamental right. It must be guaranteed at all times, including in times of war.
Yet, despite commitments made within the Security Council itself, and despite their protection under international humanitarian law, water facilities continue to be destroyed or damaged in armed conflicts. This must change without delay.
The consequences are dramatic:
First: Civilians trapped in the fighting are left without resources, without hygiene and without drinking water. The first victims are mostly children and the elderly. To attack water is to attack the most vulnerable among us. We have a platform here today to make an unequivocal appeal: International humanitarian law - supported by Security Council resolutions on the protection of vital infrastructure and access to water - must be respected and implemented, everywhere and without exception.
Second: If water is essential to populations during conflicts, it remains indispensable after the end of hostilities. No solid peace process, no sustainable reconstruction is possible without basic infrastructure. Reconstruction is expensive - in money, but especially in time. This wait puts entire regions on "pause" - if I dare say so. It delays the return of displaced persons and mortgages their chances of returning to normal life. In turn, this situation prevents any resumption of economic and social activities in areas already hard hit by the war. Instability remains and there is a high risk of fueling old tensions.
Third: Safe water and safe facilities are a barrier to other hazards. Risks of pollution, disease, and vulnerability to natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are greatly reduced.
This, dear colleagues, is why water is a major issue during and after armed conflict, including for the actions of this Council in favour of peace.
It is also in this spirit that the Geneva List of "principles relating to the protection of water infrastructure in the context of armed conflict" was drafted. This list is part of the Blue Peace movement, focused on water diplomacy and initiated by Switzerland.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I look forward to the discussion ahead to identify - and implement - effective measures for the protection of essential water services and infrastructure.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that the protection of access to water and sanitation infrastructure is at the heart of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This is one of Switzerland's priorities as a member of the UN Security Council.
Thank you for your attention and enjoy the discussion.