UAE calls for decisive global action on water security

Country publishes comprehensive paper that outlines how access to water could be one of the most defining issues of our time

Many countries, including Yemen, face dire water shortages. EPA / Yahya Arhab
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The UAE has called for a decisive and co-ordinated international response to the urgent threat of global water scarcity in a comprehensive discussion paper.

Published by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the paper aims to serve as a global call to action to work together in new ways to address the emerging challenge of global water scarcity.

Entitled Ripple Effect Water Scarcity – the hidden threat to global security and prosperity, it examines global water scarcity and its main causes, highlights various implications of water scarcity already evident in parts of the world and pinpoints a range of potential solutions to this rapidly worsening issue.

"Concerned by the growing problem of water scarcity and the severe risks that it poses to the world, the UAE has published a discussion paper today that aims to contribute to the development of a co-ordinated international response to this issue, and the forging of new models for effective co-operation to address this multifaceted threat to global security and prosperity,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Urgent action needed

Water security is one of the most pressing issues in the world. The paper outlines how four billion people experience water scarcity at least one month a year, with this figure expected to grow in the years ahead. It also warns that based on current trends, global water scarcity could lead to loss of life; food insecurity; economic underdevelopment; humanitarian crises; involuntary migration; geopolitical instability; and the potential for armed conflict.

Despite this, the paper outlined how global water scarcity does not currently receive the same public attention and financial investment as other risks such as climate change and future pandemics

“The UAE believes that the seriousness and immediate urgency of the threat posed by water scarcity has not been fully recognised around the world,” said Sheikh Abdullah. "As a result, the international community is lagging in its efforts to confront this challenge, with potentially grave outcomes. As it becomes increasingly clear that no nation will be immune from the cascading effects of unmitigated water scarcity, we must seek new ways to quickly and effectively co-operate in addressing this significant global issue.”

The paper also outlined that the UAE would launch a non-profit initiative to accelerate the development and deployment of solutions to water scarcity

"Through a combination of prizes and other incentive programmes, an innovation fund, targeted philanthropic grants, and the convening of events to support international dialogue, this new initiative will aim to elevate the importance of water scarcity on the global agenda,” the paper stated, noting how the highly regarded XPrize initiative had already started work on the issue. The XPrize was founded by entrepreneur Peter Diamandis to help solve some of humanity's biggest challenges.

The paper also said the UAE would introduce domestic policy measures to improve the country's own water sustainability, including strengthening domestic water conservation initiatives and accelerating the implementation of the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036.

It also said the UAE would seek to harness the power of academic institutions, government agencies and water-related industries to increase research and development, accelerate innovation and facilitate the rapid deployment of promising new technologies that have the potential to address water scarcity in sustainable and affordable ways.

“As a nation on the front lines of the impending water scarcity crisis, and as a long-standing advocate for international dialogue and co-operation, the UAE is determined to raise global awareness of this issue and to help mobilise a decisive and co-ordinated international response to the threat that it poses to humanity,” said Sheikh Abdullah.

Ripple Effect Water Scarcity – the hidden threat to global security and prosperity is available to download in English and Arabic from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

It comes as the UAE gears up to host Cop28 in about two months' time. The Cop28 presidency said it has pinpointed water as one of the priorities for the crucial climate talks.

One day of talks, on December 10, will be dedicated to food, agriculture and water.

Updated: September 25, 2023, 4:49 AM