Opening speech at the 3rd Baghdad International Water Conference by The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator MR. GHULAM ISACZAI
06 May 2023
Distinguished guests, good morning.
Today, I have the honor of speaking at the 3rd Baghdad International Water Conference, at the invitation of H.E. Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Prime Minister of Iraq, and H.E. Aoun Diab, Minister of Water Resources.
I would like to begin by highlighting some positive developments related to the water agenda that have taken place in recent months, thanks to the joint efforts of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.
Specifically, I would like to congratulate Iraq for being the pioneer in the region to accede to the UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. This accession will open new opportunities to enhance transboundary water cooperation, while strengthening national water policies and practices, and enhancing intersectoral cooperation and stakeholder participation.
From our side at the United Nations, we have established a Water Task Force comprising water experts from different international organizations and think tanks to provide technical assistance and advice to the Government of Iraq on water issues. Our advocacy and engagement on water challenges in Iraq have increased significantly, reflecting our commitment to supporting Iraq in addressing its looming water crisis.
At the national level, there is a need to:
Initiate a national dialogue on water and around SDG6 on Clean Water and Sanitation leading to development of a national Water Roadmap.
Make water resources management as a national priority, while allocating sufficient funds towards research, analysis, innovation, and transfer of efficient technologies for integrated water resources management.
Invest in national capacity building, water infrastructure including dams, irrigation systems, and wastewater treatment plants, to maximize water usage.
Promote water conservation measures: such as repairing leaky pipes, introduce water-saving technologies, and enforce regulations on water usage.
Revive traditional Rainwater harvesting practices such as building catchment systems, to collect and store rainwater for future use.
Establish water monitoring systems for river and ground water, and take regulatory, technological, and behavioral measures to prevent water pollution, while also investing in urban water recycling.
Combat desertification through integrated and adaptive land, water, and forest management.
Launch education and awareness campaigns to promote responsible water usage and conservation.
At the regional level there is a need to:
Strengthen regional cooperation to develop equitable and eco-friendly water use policies, while developing a negotiated strategy encouraging riparian countries to sign river-basin-management agreements based on a win-win approach.
Conduct regional water assessment of the economic, environmental, regional integration and political benefits costs of non-cooperation on water resources.
Actively leverage relevant global legal instruments on transboundary water.
To effectively address Iraq’s water challenges, we must work jointly and transparently. The cross-cutting nature of water means that challenges must be addressed through a whole of government and whole of society approach, and approach that is inclusive and engages the Iraqi people, that is those most directly affected by the water situation.
On our side at the United Nations, we will continue to actively engage with our government counterparts, through the Water Task Force and the Inter-agency working group on climate and environment.
Let me close by saying that all technical solutions to the water problems are within our reach; what we need is effective policies, investments, incentive mechanisms, regulations, and enforcement actions.
The United Nations stands ready to support. I wish you all a fruitful conference.
Ghulam Mohammad Isaczai
Deputy Special Representative, Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq