Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that unless the international community takes global challenges around water seriously, the world could face more international conflicts and unmanageable migration crises.
Addressing the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York on Friday, the foreign minister said humanity is facing its most complex challenges yet with regards to security, the economy and health. Many of these challenges pertain to nature, he said, noting that natural disasters were becoming increasingly common and tended to lead to greater food shortages. Challenges around water deserve special attention, the minister said, noting that they are the cause of around 70% of natural disaster-related deaths. Forecasts show that by 2050, three billion people will be living in areas hit by droughts, 1.6 billion in flood-prone areas and 2.2 billion people will not have access to clean drinking water, Minister Szijjártó warned, noting that a daily 1,000 children die worldwide due to drinking polluted water. “All these alarming facts and data show very clearly that water will be a real security risk in the future,” Minister Szijjártó said, adding that water-related challenges could also trigger armed conflicts as well as mass migration waves. The minister noted the “enormous efforts” Hungary has had to make over the last seven years to protect its borders from illegal migrants “who usually behave very aggressively and show absolutely no respect to our rules and regulations”. This is also a matter of sovereignty, he said, arguing that no one had the right to violate Hungary’s borders or infringe on Hungarians’ right to decide whom they want to live together with. The dangers of migration can also be seen within the European Union, which, despite the efforts aimed at integrating migrants, has seen the emergence of parallel societies, a rise in the threat of terrorism and a faster spread of viruses, Minister Szijjártó said. “So migration is a dangerous phenomenon and must be stopped” by tackling the root causes, he said, adding it was clear that water challenges were among the most severe of those causes. Hungary is ready to do its share in tackling these root causes, Minister Szijjártó said, noting that the country has developed world-class water management technologies. Hungary has recently launched 800 million euros worth of tied-aid schemes and international development programmes based on its water technologies in countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya, Rwanda, Mali, Cape Verde, Ecuador, and Kyrgyzstan, he said. Minister Szijjártó called on the international community to take the challenges around water seriously, underscoring the importance of monitoring countries’ fulfilment of their commitments in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals. If the world does not take the water-related challenges seriously, more international conflicts will break out and millions will migrate, which will lead to unmanageable migration challenges, Minister Szijjártó said. “It would be much better to avoid that,” he said. “Hungary stands ready to contribute.”