The Ambassador said that humanity is currently facing one of its defining moments in history, and that water plays a central role in this.
“Water is life but water can also be a threat to life. During the past decade, water related disasters have not only struck more frequently but have also been more severe, hampering sustainable development by causing political, social and economic shocks in many countries. Over 90% of disasters in the world are water-related in terms of number of affected people.”
He warned that time is of the essence if some major catastrophes are to be avoided, and that cooperation is the only way to be sufficiently prepared.
“Water disasters may take years to develop, or they may strike suddenly and ferociously, without warning, sweeping away all within their path. Not a single nation in the world can claim immunity from water disasters, not a single nation, town or village should be indifferent to the causes or consequences of water disasters. This is a global problem that requires a unified global response.”
The Ambassador said that a great deal can be achieved if humans and nations work together, but warned that nothing can be achieved if some people think they can be winners, and others can be losers. He ended his speech with a word of caution:
“This is a moment of truth for us. We either face the future together or none of us have a future at all.”
A discussion followed the lecture, with many participants interested in the Ambassador’s view on a range of water and climate related problems.
Despite his earlier warnings of what can happen if nations can’t agree on united action against climate change, the Ambassador also shared his optimism of what can still be achieved.
“Human beings have adapted before, and we are already seeing some trees and plants that are adapting to climate change. There are things humans can do, and I’m still hopeful. I think we still have time to put pressure on the leaders for change.”
Replying to GWP Executive Secretary Ania Grobicki’s question on what he thinks of efforts to get a stand-alone goal on water as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the post-2015 development agenda, the Ambassador was positive:
“I have great faith in GWP and your ability to get the message through. If I didn’t think it was possible to get a Water SDG, I don’t know how I could sleep at night. I do believe it is possible.”
Ambassador Robert F. Van Lierop’s entire speech is available to download in pdf, and it is also available on GWP's YouTube channel.
Photo: Ambassador Robert F. Van Lierop delivering his speech in Stockholm 1 September 2013.