Closing Statement at the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting
As delivered by Political Officer Dustin DeGrande
Vienna, October 15, 2019
Thank you, Mr. Chair, Ambassador Žugić, and the Slovak Chairmanship for your statements. And thank you, once again, to the Chairmanship and Office of Economic and Environmental Activities for organizing this week’s Economic and Environment Dimension Implementation Meeting (EEDIM).
EEDIM gives us the opportunity to reflect on how we, the participating States, have been implementing our OSCE commitments, in this case, in issues related to water resource management and security. It also gives us the chance to look at what the OSCE is doing in these areas and encourages us to seek solutions to future challenges.
Around the world, more than 275 rivers cross political boundaries of two or more countries. For this, and for the many reasons we heard throughout the week, water will absolutely be a key area for future stability and security. With water resource management and cooperation increasingly critical, we cannot ignore the challenges and opportunities from transboundary water cooperation. The OSCE works to implement our shared commitments to prevent conflicts, mitigate the threats of natural disasters, and promote sound management of shared water resources in the western Balkans, Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.
The United States has for years recognized the importance of cooperation for water management and security of these critical resources. For example, much of the world’s longest border, between the United States and Canada, runs through fresh water bodies. The Great Lakes make up 21 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water. The 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty established the International Joint Commission to assist us in managing them. The Columbia River Treaty has contributed to economic development, benefiting millions of people on both sides.
At the OSCE workshop on water diplomacy in November in Strasbourg, the United States will share our experience managing the world’s largest fresh water resources in partnership with Canada, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers mechanism. We also heard many examples this week of individual countries’ plans and legislation to manage water in their own countries; we hope others across the OSCE region will also recognize the benefits of cooperation in these areas.
One final point I’d like to make is with regards the modalities of EEDIM, itself. If we truly want to account for how well participating States are implementing their OSCE consensus commitments, we should encourage much greater civil society participation in these meetings. It is one thing to hear from governments that we are fulfilling our promises. It is quite another to hear from the experts on the ground. Civil society organizations’ role as government watchdogs is important across all three OSCE dimensions. We value the contributions this week from the civil society organizations that participated. We hope future Chairmanships will make an explicit effort to broaden this participation. Doing so will only strengthen the “implementation” focus of EEDIM and encourage still greater responsiveness of governments to our citizens.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.