New York, 6 June 2017
During the time of my predecessor, the discussions between the Governments of Portugal and Spain were extremely difficult. And whenever there was the perception that an agreement might be possible, there was in the press of those countries an uproar, with the question of whether governments were betraying or not vital interests of the country.
When I became Prime Minister and President Aznar became President of the Spanish Government, we decided that our common interests were far more important than the difficulties in the elaboration of the treaty, and so, with two small teams on both sides, it was possible quickly to come to something that we both considered to be reasonable compromise.
Not a perfect solution, for any of the countries, but a reasonable compromise. And till the last moment the uproar went on and the discussions in the media were furious about this issue, but the proof that political will is decisive is that the agreement was signed and from that moment onwards the discussion completely stopped; things were working perfectly between the two countries and enormous benefits, namely in the common management of the rivers, allowing, for instance, for floods to have a much less devastating impact that in the past. Something that looked almost impossible became easy when there was political will to do it and once there was political will to do it, nobody paid the price; on the contrary, everybody benefited.
I think this is a lesson that can be used in many parts of the world, where people are afraid to go the extra mile to reach an agreement with a neighbour or with a partner.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes has fostered collaboration and conflict resolution since 1992.
As of March last year, the Convention became open for all UN Member States, offering the opportunity to create a global framework for preventive diplomacy for dealing with trans-boundary water issues.
The United Nations actively promotes mediation and dialogue as effective tools for preventing and resolving disputes over water and other natural resources.
For example, the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia is collaborating closely with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea and other partners to build capacity in water diplomacy and to modernize the regional legal framework on the management of trans-boundary water resources.
I look forward to visiting the Aral Sea in the coming days. While there, I will discuss how the UN is supporting mediation to prevent and resolve local and trans-boundary disputes over water in Central Asia and elsewhere.
We stand ready to engage in preventative diplomacy and promote dialogue and mediation on natural resources and other issues wherever and whenever necessary.
Last year, the High Level Panel on Water, convened by former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the President of the World Bank, produced an action plan that champions a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water- and sanitation-related services.
The United Nations has also published a guide containing practical strategies and best practices in the area of water diplomacy.
As we work to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, we will expand on these initiatives.
I commend this Security Council meeting for highlighting how water is and should remain a reason for cooperation not conflict.
Let us commit to investing in water security to ensure durable peace and security for all communities and nations.