DPM Minh's speech at ASEM dialogue on water management in Ben Tre
09:02 | 05/06/2015
VGP - Deputy PM, FM Pham Binh Minh delivered a keynote speech at the 4th Dialogue on Sustainable Development of the Asia - Europe Meeting (ASEM) on “Strengthening concerted actions on water management through the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, held in Ben Tre province on June 4.

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very delighted to join you all at this 4th Dialogue on Sustainable Development of the Asia - Europe Meeting (ASEM) on “Strengthening concerted actions on water management through the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

Your broad participation and invaluable inputs at our today’s seminar vividly demonstrate our determination to take bolder action for sustainable water resources management - a crucial element of the Post - 2015 Development Agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2. Water is the source of life. Success and failure of a nation in sustainable water use and management not only decide its own future but also impinge on the shared destiny of the whole region.

Nevertheless, there appears to be many grey spots in the background of the global water landscape.

It is clearly stated in the United Nations World Water Development Report 2015 that global water challenges have become more acute and complicated than ever before.

If solutions to those challenges cannot be found, achievements of humankind will be drawn back.

The alarming fact is that some 750 million people -- more than one in ten of the world’s population -- remain without access to an improved water supply.

In large parts of the world, water levels dropping in many river basins, including those in Mekong and Danube, are turning out to be more severe.

The danger of groundwater depletion, which currently accounts for 95 per cent of water resources supply, even in major cities such as Bangkok, Vientiane and Ho Chi Minh City
are getting harsher and harsher over time.

Roughly 80 per cent of untreated wastewater discharging into oceans, rivers and lakes, coupled with sea level rise and high tides, are jeopardizing the environment and causing adverse impacts on agricultural production and the livelihoods of our people.

Over the past years, we have also witnessed numerous devastating consequences of mega-disasters with ‘never-before-seen’ scope and intensity caused by climate change.

Notable of which are the historical floods in Thailand in 2011 and 2012, and in Europe in 2013. They are also the 2014 severe drought in China and the deadliest heat wave on record in India and many other countries.

And, right here in Ben Tre province, salt water at four parts per thousand is infiltrating into major rivers, causing adverse impacts on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers.

3. Such gloomy facts lead us to stress the need and urgency to take action. Right this year, the international community will have to complete all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and shape the Post - 2015 Development Agenda.

And, it is gratifying that the issue of “Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” has developed into one of the 17 goals of this important Agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

4. As one of the world’s largest suppliers of food products, water security in Viet Nam and global food security are closely linked.

Right here, where we are, Ben Tre is located in the centre for agricultural production of Viet Nam. It is also, however, a typical province of the Lower Mekong River Basin heavily affected by climate change and severe saline intrusion.

Having that in mind, Viet Nam has been making every effort to enhance cooperation with ASEAN members and parties to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) in sustainable water resources management of the Mekong River and in the shaping of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Viet Nam attaches importance and commits to promoting international cooperation in water resources management within sustainable development.

Your cooperation will enable us to successfully implement our “Sustainable Development Strategy for 2011-2020” and our “National Water Resources Strategy towards 2020”.

We are also an active member of the World Water Forum, the Global Water Partnership (GWP), International River Basin Organization (RBO), etc.

We are proud that Viet Nam just became the 35th country to accede to the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses in April 2014. This enabled the Convention to enter into force last August since its adoption 17 years ago.

Most recently, we have worked closely with members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to endorse a Resolution to take bold action on water at the 132nd IPU Assembly Meeting in Hanoi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

5. Since the Initiative on Sustainable Water Management was endorsed at the 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM10) in Godollõ, Hungary in 2011, we can be proud that ASEM has been making meaningful contributions to water management endeavors towards sustainable development.

Notably, a series of periodical ASEM Dialogues on Sustainable Development was held in Budapest, Can Tho, Ben Tre and will take place in Ruse, with a focus on enhancing cooperation in sustainable water resources management. This truly reflects ASEM’s vision of and holistic approach to water issue.

I welcome and highly commend tangible initiatives and projects on water resources protection and sustainable development undertaken by ASEM members.

These can be seen through the ASEM Water Resources Research and Development Center in Hunan, China, the Water Technology Initiative in India, and the ASEM Seminar on Waste-water Management in Singapore. They are vivid manifestations of ASEM tangible and substantial contributions to this important issue.

Our Leaders, at the 10th ASEM Summit in Milan last October, committed to working closely towards the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. They also stressed the importance of fostering trans-boundary cooperation and collective efforts in sustainable water management, including integrated river basin management, flood risk control and access to safe drinking water.

But above all, we need to translate words and commitments into concrete actions.

There are only 113 days left for the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly to adopt the Post - 2015 Development Agenda. And, there are now 179 days left for us to work out a meaningful universal climate change agreement at the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21).

It is time for us to take action. But time is not waiting on us. It is high time for ASEM members to join hands with the international community to promote the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and to attain a new global agreement on climate change at these two exceptionally important events.

6. In that spirit, I encourage you to use this meeting to share your ideas and be bold in your recommendations on the following issues:

First, what need to be done to promote a shared vision and concrete actions that ensure a deserving role of water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

It is my view that, only by integrating water into the national strategy for sustainable development and balanced, inclusive and innovative growth of each country, can we achieve sustainable and effective water resources protection.

Second, how we can develop new ways of thinking as well as comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach to sustainable water management. In this connection, I hold that
Tangible cooperation area on efficient and sustainable water management” must be expeditiously put into action.

And, at the same time, we need to make linkages to various initiatives, projects and tangible cooperation areas on water resources management, disaster management and mitigation, energy and poverty alleviation… Since, they are cross-cutting and interrelated.

Third, how we can enhance exchange of views, lessons learned and best practices and provide policy recommendations on sustainable water management, including sustainable use and sharing of trans-boundary water resources.

I encourage you to explore the possibility to hold an ASEM roundtable to share views and experiences of river management in Asia and Europe.

We also need to promote assistance in narrowing the development gap, and to foster
sub-regional and regional cooperation among ASEM members, including that between Mekong and Danube.

We really need to encourage corporate social responsibility and public-private partnership. We should also work to promote the use and transfer of green and clean technology in water management.

And, cooperation model between localities of the two continents such as that between
Ben Tre of Viet Nam and Tulcea of Rumania should be multiplied.

Last but not least, how we can work together to establish a network of information sharing and a linkage among various research centers and institutes for water management. For it to happen, we need primarily to bring into play the role of the ASEM Water Resources Research and Development Center in Hunan, China in projecting new ideas and initiatives for cooperation.

I do hope that developed members of ASEM will continue to provide technical assistance and capacity-building for developing members such as Viet Nam in monitoring water resources.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

7. If oil was the reason for wars in the 20th century, many may think that the wars of the 21st century would well be fought over water.

I, however, have a different viewpoint. What the world will look like largely depends on our today’s action, goodwill and cooperation.

Over the past 20 years, ASEM has proved itself as a crucial venue for enhanced dialogue, cooperation and mutual understanding among its members.

In 20 years to come, whether ASEM will continue to play such a key role or not relies much on our vision and action in addressing sustainable water resources management -- one of the biggest challenges to sustainable development.

Our deliberations at this meeting as well as various initiatives, projects to be undertaken in days to come will serve as a crucial preparatory step for the upcoming 12th ASEM
Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM10) in Luxembourg and the 11th ASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar next year.

This also constitutes ASEM’s significant contributions to the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in New York and the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris.

Only by joining hands in taking bold action, can our next-generations enjoy a better and more prosperous future.

Thank you!

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