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PoC Week Event: Protection of Water and Water Infrastructure in Armed Conflicts

Civilians in armed conflicts around the globe continue to suffer from destruction, damage, and misuse of water infrastructure and therefore the lack of adequate and essential water supplies. Similarly, the quality of water as an indispensable resource for survival is all too often the victim of armed conflicts, for example, when water sources are polluted because of hostilities. Direct and reverberating effects of armed conflict on the delivery and access to water supply have deadly and potentially long-term effects on civilian lives and livelihoods, further driving displacement and instability. Lack of sanitation and hygiene as consequences of disrupted water supplies, can lead to the further outbreak or spread of infectious disease. In addition, these disruptions can hinder prevention control measures to public health emergencies, such as COVID-19.

Moreover, as fighting increasingly takes place in urban areas, both the negative impacts of the disruption of critical water infrastructure and the numbers of civilians impacted have grown. Today, millions of civilians in armed conflicts are living in areas affected by the targeting, destruction or pollution of water. Attacks on water and water infrastructure, as well as the misuse of water infrastructure are an immense and growing challenge for the protection of civilians. Furthermore, women, children, the elderly and vulnerable groups face particularly disastrous consequences when safe water and sanitation are lacking.

Ensuring respect for international humanitarian law is key to protecting water and water infrastructure, an indispensable resource for the survival of the civilian population. UNSC Resolution 2573 of 2021, introduced by Viet Nam, which calls for an enhanced protection of critical infrastructure such as water installations and UNSC Resolution 2417 of 2018 on conflict and hunger are both critical contributions of the Security Council for a better protection of water and water infrastructure.

Objectives of the side event

This side event aims at highlighting challenges and opportunities related to protecting and promoting access to clean water in conflict and at-risk settings, including the role of the UN Security Council. Emphasis will be placed on recalling the relevant IHL obligations and showcasing concrete examples of their implementation on the ground.

Guiding questions

  • What are the most important IHL obligations for parties to armed conflict to protect access to water and water infrastructure?
  • How can a better understanding of the civilian impacts of water security in conflict, including the compounding effects of climate risks, guide the protection of water and water infrastructure in policy, humanitarian engagements, and military planning and response?
  • What practical steps can be taken at all levels to better prevent, mitigate, and respond to the direct and reverberating effects of conflict on civilian access to water and water infrastructure?
  • How could the Security Council further contribute to access and protection of water in armed conflicts?


This side event will be held in a hybrid format via Webex from 11:30am to 01:00pm EST on Tuesday, 24 May 2022. Following introductory remarks by Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations, the panel consisting of distinguished experts from the following entities will offer their presentations (5 minutes each):

Segolene Adam, Chief of Humanitarian Policy Section, UNICEF

  • Ms. Adam will share examples from the field where systematic attacks on water and sanitation services, as well as misuse of infrastructure and denial of access, have all had a devastating impact on children. She will also outline what measures should be taken to ensure that children, civilians and water and sanitation services are better protected during armed conflict.

Michael Talhami, Regional Water and Habitat Adviser for the Near and Middle East, ICRC

  • Mr. Talhami will address the challenges faced in delivering essential services, such as water and sanitation, when they have been severely damaged or destroyed during times of conflict. With extensive experience from the field, especially in areas of protracted crises, Mr Talhami will point to practical measures that can be taken to mitigate the multiple, and inter-connected, effects of the use of explosive weapons on critical infrastructure.

Saba Azeem, Project Lead, PoC Team, PAX

  • Ms. Azeem will share some insight from civilian perspectives on the impacts of the targeting of water infrastructure and the reverberating effects of toxic remnants of war on the lives and livelihoods of those living in armed conflict such as in Gaza or Syria.

The panel will be followed by a moderated Q&A session with interventions (3 minutes each) from Member States, UN agencies and civil society representatives. Closing remarks by Ambassador Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations, will concluded the event.

Register here

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