Trans-boundary water cooperation plays a crucial role in supporting wider regional integration: Pakistan

G-77 & China stresses enhanced int’l cooperation for implementing Madrid Plan of Action

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UNITED NATIONS: A senior Pakistani diplomat has underscored the importance of UN’s 2023 Water Conference, which is aimed at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation, as he pointed out that Pakistan is among the world’s top ten water-scarce countries.

“Because of climate change and other developments, we suffer from floods during the summers and drought in the winter repeatedly,” Ambassador Munir Akram said at the briefing Tuesday on the Conference to be held at UN Headquarters in New York, March 22-24, 2023. It will be co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands.

‘Thus,” he said, “we are concerned that the world remains off-track in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal no. 6,” which is about clean water and sanitation for all.

The conference will include an opening and closing session, six plenary sessions, and five interactive dialogues, as well as side events organized by participants. It will result in a summary of proceedings from the General Assembly President that will feed into the 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

In his remarks, the Pakistani envoy highlighted the importance of incorporating Water Governance issues, including Trans-boundary Water Cooperation as one of the themes of the dialogues.

“Trans-boundary water cooperation plays a crucial role in supporting wider regional integration, peace and sustainable development, as well as in tackling regional security challenges and in supporting climate change adaptation,” Ambassador Akram said.

Noting that at present trans-boundary waters account for 60 per cent of the world’s freshwater flows, he said that 153 countries have territory within at least one of the 286 trans-boundary river and lake basins and 592 trans-boundary aquifer systems.

“With most of the world’s water resources being shared between two or more countries”, the Pakistan envoy added, “the need for trans-boundary cooperation assumes even greater urgency with rising water scarcity.”

In this regard, he said the three elements which will be most important as regards our commitment are: finance, technology cooperation and partnerships.

“We are happy that you will aim for the adoption of a Compact on Water and a roadmap for its implementation,” Ambassador Akram said in conclusion. Earlier to this, Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, has stressed the need for recognizing the contribution that older persons make to the functioning of societies and towards the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda, which is aimed at ending poverty and protecting the planet.

“It is therefore essential to ensure the full and effective enjoyment of their (older persons’) human rights,” Ambassador Aamir Khan, deputy permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, told the Working Group on Ageing, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Pakistan is the current chairman of G-77 and China, which now has 134 members and is the United Nations’ biggest intergovernmental group of emerging countries.

The G77 chairman stressed the need for participating in the global efforts towards an age-inclusive implementation of the agenda, and urged member states to take measures in line with the 2002 Madrid Plan of Action to promote social, economic and emotional security for the older person.

“The Group stresses that enhanced international cooperation is essential to support developing countries in implementing the Madrid Plan of Action,” Ambassador Aamir Khan said.

The member states, he said, must ensure the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for older persons, including by progressively taking measures to combat age discrimination, neglect, abuse, and violence, and to provide social protection, access to food and housing, healthcare services, employment, legal capacity, and access to justice.

He also called for ensuring the development of robust health systems and universal health coverage by encompassing timely, affordable and equitable access to all essential health technologies, diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines, safe, quality and effective vaccines.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the G77 chairman noted has had a disproportionate impact on older persons, in particular older women, and that the responses to it must respect their dignity, protect their human rights and address all forms of violence, discrimination, stigmatization, exclusion, inequalities, as well as neglect, social isolation and loneliness.

Delivering Pakistan’s national statement, Pakistani delegate Muhammad Rashid also highlighted the problems the older persons faced during the pandemic and said that Islamabad places special emphasis on policy interventions targeted towards raising awareness of their needs and vulnerabilities.

“Despite the country’s ‘youth bulge’ and a high proportion of young population, we fully recognizes the importance of raising awareness of the special needs of older persons, as well as their contribution to the functioning of the societies in which they live,” Rashid, who is a Third Secretary at the Pakistan Mission to the UN, said.

The Senior Citizens Act 2021 envisages instituting essential protections to ensure that the elderly live a meaningful life, and to limit barriers that prevent their full participation in society, he said, adding that senior citizen cards give them free access to museums, parks and libraries. Senior citizens are also be entitled to discounts in medical and dental services as well as diagnostic and laboratory facilities and to subsidized medicines.

“We recognize the need, urgency and way forward in dealing with this very important issue at the global level,” the Pakistani delegate said.

Opening the debate, Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, emphasized that the basic rights of older persons need to protected more than ever before, but said that existing legal safeguards render them, in effect, “invisible”.

“Today, more than ever, older persons need stronger protection to fully enjoy their human rights”, Ms Bachelet added. “But the reality is that international legal frameworks, which should protect everybody, without discrimination, still render older persons invisible.”

She noted that by 2050, there will be twice as many older persons aged 65 than there are now, and will outnumber young people aged 15 to 24.

“We should ask ourselves: what kind of world do we want to live in by then? I would like to imagine a world where older persons everywhere are guaranteed to live a life of dignity, with economic security.

“A world where they can continue their work and contribute to society for as long as they wish and are able to. Where they can live independently and make their own decisions.”

She called for action to end violence, neglect and abuse of older persons, where “quality health services, including long-term care, are easily accessible.”

Ageism is “woven into the very fabric of life” of older persons, said Ms. Bachelet, and all pervasive.

“The stereotypes resulting from ageism and discrimination are counterproductive and can even be dangerous. They significantly contribute to the vulnerability of older persons and are one of the main obstacles to their enjoyment of human rights.”

Currently, she said, none of the UN human rights treaties contain any specific provision on age discrimination or ageism.

“We need to fight against this. In Our Common Agenda, the UN Secretary-General called for a renewed social contract anchored in human rights. Older persons are integral to this.”

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