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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks in the October/November issue of "Civilization" magazine
November 8, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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"The Face of the Waters"

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have seen at first hand the strains created by the lack of water security in arid regions of the Middle East and Africa, windswept highlands in Central Asia, and crowded cities in South Asia and China. Today, around the world, more than two billion people live in countries experiencing some degree of water stress, and more than one billion lack access to safe drinking water.

Managing water is both a technical and a diplomatic challenge. New technologies and analytical tools can help us reduce waste, mitigate pollution, and allocate water more efficiently. But to be effective, management must be done on a basin-wide or watershed basis. This requires countries that share resources to cooperate in using them wisely. That, in return, requires effective diplomacy.

Last April, on Earth Day, I unveiled an initiative called "An Alliance for Global Water Security in the 21st Century." My purpose was to heighten awareness and enlist support for a strategy aimed at improving management of the world's water resources:

  • Our first step should be to encourage leaders in key regions to developsound, area-wide water management plans. In some cases, this will require local rivals to work together on water despite differences on other matters.

  • Second, the international community should be prepared to providesubstantial and well-coordinated support for the plans regional leaders devise. This is especially important in less prosperous or developing areas of the world, where countries may need help in acquiring or taking advantage of more efficient technologies.

  • Third, we must ensure that development projects supported by internationalfinancial institutions and by private foundations incorporate sound water management practices.

  • Fourth, we need to encourage international dialogue on how to manage water wisely. This debate should include the controversial issues of subsidies and pricing, and should invite the participation of scientists, public advocates, economists, engineers, and representatives from the business and agricultural communities.

  • Finally, we must do all we can to educate people about the imperative of sound water management. We cannot afford to continue wasting this precious resource, or simply stand by while competition for water becomes a threat to international stability and peace.

A global strategy for water security will take many years to implement and the support of citizens on every continent to succeed. But few tasks are more important than ensuring an adequate supply of clean water. The United States is deeply committed to this goal and is prepared to work closely with others both in and outside government to achieve it. The well-being of our planet and the health of generations to come depends on our success.

[End of Document]
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