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The Importance of Water Diplomacy
Written by Rayoung (Madeline) Lee | Published. 2020.03.12 16:26 | Count : 208

Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as the junior counselor for the 19th Diplomatic International Forum of Seoul (DIFOS). This event is designed to develop the skills and abilities of students who are interested in pursuing a career related to international relations by helping them to become globally-minded individuals. It also provides an opportunity for students to have an indirect experience on what it is like to work at an international level, through lectures by diplomats and embassy officials. Throughout the day, participants are able to gain a broader idea of what it takes to work on foreign affairs through group workshops and presentations.

[An embassy official from the embassy of Nepal giving a presentation.
Photo credit: Rayoung (Madeline) Lee]

This year’s theme of ‘Water Diplomacy’ was based on The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all members of the United Nations in 2015 to provide a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for the planet”. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are supported by 169 targets and 232 measurable indicators that are based on five themes: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. Among the 17 goals, water diplomacy is related to numbers 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15 of the UNSDGs.

Clean and accessible water is an integral part of our life, but in developing nations, due to poor infrastructure and weak economy, millions of people are dying each year from inadequate water supply and diseases caused by poor water sanitation. Not only that, water scarcity and water quality are creating negative effects on food security and the education of poor families around the world. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicts that, at this rate, by 2050, at least one in four people will live in a country that is affected by chronic or repetitive water shortages.

[A photo of me giving my presentation about water diplomacy in Egypt. Photo credit: Yun Lee]

Junior ambassadors were given the role of presenting a topic related to water diplomacy, so I decided to research on water pollution specifically in the Nile and its impact on Egypt. As a junior ambassador of Egypt, I already had prior knowledge of the seriousness of the issue of water scarcity in Egypt and how extremely polluted its water source is becoming. For example, the waterways running through Cairo are filled with rubbish and the factories in the Helwan Industrial District are disposing of this untreated industrial waste into the Nile. Only 12% of the factories are properly disposing of their wastes, while the remaining 88% are discharging highly toxic materials into the river. Also, around 90,000 Egyptians are dying each year from drinking contaminated water and of that, 17,000 Egyptian children dying from diarrhea. The government has tried to resolve the problem by operating multiple water purification plants in Cario, but this wasn’t enough. There are too few and far between and lack adequate water purification technology. 

Through the presentations from other junior ambassadors, I learned that the issue of water scarcity was not present in Egypt alone. One ambassador mentioned that education should be prioritized in developing countries to raise awareness about water pollution and another one stated that governments should come up with sustainable goals, not short-term goals.
Once all of our water supply becomes polluted, there is no second chance to bring it back; it can take hundreds of years to restore the environment. For Egypt, in particular, it is important to take comprehensive measures to protect its water supply now so that the future generations can also enjoy the Nile--“a gift from the gods”.


Rayoung (Madeline) Lee
Junior (Grade 11)
Seoul Foreign School

Rayoung (Madeline) Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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