Launch of Global Alliance to Spare Water from Armed Conflict

4 Jun 2024 by The Water Diplomat

In his 2023 annual report  on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres notes that during the year in review, « Conflict ... […]  .. triggered and aggravated water scarcity. The destruction, damage and disruption – sometimes deliberate – of water services, combined with the impact of climate change and years of disrepair, left millions without safe water, causing contamination, the outbreak of deadly infectious diseases and the risk of malnutrition »

On May 23, 2024, at UN headquarters in New York, as part of the week dedicated to the topic of protection of civilians in armed conflict (an event which has been organised for the past 25 years), a round table was held on the topic of sparing water from armed conflict for the enhanced protection of civilians. 

During the event,, speakers repeatedly referred to and stressed the importance of UN Security Council resolutions 2417 (2018) and 2573 (2021), which focus on strengthening the protection of essential civilian infrastructure (particularly water) and facilitating humanitarian aid during armed conflicts.

Ambassador Božena Forštnarič Boroje, Director General for Multilateral Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia - and co-organizer of the event - underlined the centrality of international humanitarian law and human rights in this process :  “Attacks on objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population are never justified and constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Water and sanitation should never be targets of war”, she stated.

Caroline Pellaton, from the Geneva Water Hub, stated in her speech that “sparing water from conflict is not just about ensuring that water is delivered (...), it goes hand in hand with food security, living conditions and human dignity”.

During his presentation, Pax for Peace delegate Wim Zwijnenburg recounted the flagrant water-related violations of international and humanitarian law that have been taking place around the world in recent years. These include the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine in 2023,  drinking water plant in 2023, an attack on the Khartoum water treatment plant in 2023, and the destruction of the drinking water network and water desalination plant in Gaza in 2023-2024.

During the event, Slovenia, Switzerland and the Geneva Water Hub, joined by Costa Rica, Jordan, Indonesia, Mozambique, Panama, Senegal, Vietnam, UNICEF, Pax and Geneva Call, officially ,  launched the Global Alliance to Save Water from Armed Conflict. The Philippines also announced it would join the Alliance during the event. Furthermore, the representative from Panama added that 26 countries have requested the UN Secretary-General to consider instituting a special envoy on water.

According to the Geneva Water Hub, the aims of the Alliance are to gather  fact-based information on water and sanitation in armed conflicts, to facilitate knowledge development and dialogue, to formulate policy proposals and promote the furtherance of international law related to water including through the provision of elements for the strengthening of international law.