Administrator Samantha Power at the Launch of the Action Plan on Global Water Security

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

White House
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much Alice for your remarks, and for your leadership of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is a vital tool as you heard, in this context and as we see in so many contexts, a vital tool in America’s toolbox and a massively impactful development actor in the world.

Also, thanks to Deputy Secretary Hicks for your remarks and for the role as you’ve indicated, the Department of Defense plays in protecting water security around the world. It is an under-heralded feature of DoD’s vital work.

And thank you to Vice President Harris for the invitation to speak today. The Vice President has long been an advocate on water security, going back to her time as a Senator, when she introduced legislation to strengthen the safety and sustainability of our domestic supply, while supporting global programs which seek to do the same abroad.

Twenty-two years ago, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright— a personal friend, mentor, and hero of mine, but much more importantly, Alice’s mother—called for the creation of the Alliance for Global Water Security that would establish a coalition of global partners to eliminate water as a source of instability in the world.

Her call to action was groundbreaking at the time. In her remarks, she detailed the ecological and economic threats that climate change posed as temperatures rose. She did all of this again, not ten years ago, not twenty years ago, but 22 years ago, in 2000—at a time when most of the world was not seriously prioritizing water security.

Secretary Albright always had foresight, and on this issue, of course, she was unfortunately again correct. As we know, the climate crisis has had dramatic, often shattering, devastating effects on water security, and today at USAID’s 80 missions around the world, we see the repercussions of water insecurity everywhere.

In the Horn of Africa, droughts are causing livestock to die of thirst and delaying a planting season that had been consistent and reliable for generations. This is putting sixteen million people are at risk of starvation just this year

As every nation grapples with the climate crisis, some leaders are taking advantage of water insecurity and actually wielding it as a weapon of war.

As a result of Putin’s attacks on water treatment plants and bloody seizures of critical waterways, nearly a quarter of all Ukrainians––that’s over 11 million people––currently do not have access to clean water. A very, very different circumstance that existed in Ukraine prior to February 24.

In Mariupol, water was almost completely cut off during the siege as distribution infrastructure was destroyed. One resident said they were relying on water that was filled in baths months previously before the pumps stopped working, and bottled water that quickly ran out.

The United States has united a strong coalition to support the people of Ukraine, and we will continue to address water insecurity and support efforts aimed at proper hygiene and sanitation.

At USAID, we will use our years of experience combating water-related challenges to address this in Ukraine, this crisis, and so many other water-related crises around the world. Since 2008, our Agency has enabled nearly 60 million people to access safe drinking water and 45 million people to access sanitation.

Despite our efforts though, the scale of the challenge remains immense. Today, nearly 2.2 billion people––almost one-third of the world––lack access to clean water.

So rather than rely solely on our own funding, we’re bringing in new partners, and over the last three years, we have mobilized $314 million in new public and private financing for water and sanitation.

As Secretary Albright said back in the day, “the result of water insecurity is economically crippling and…flat out unacceptable.”

More than two decades later, her words echo with powerful resonance.

We cannot wait another twenty two years, the stakes are too high. As Vice President Harris will soon discuss, now is the time to address global water insecurity and expand access to proper sanitation and hygiene for everyone around the world.

Thank you so much.

Last updated: July 15, 2022

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