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Good morning and welcome.  My name is Uzra Zeya, and I am the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. Department of State. I would like to extend a warm welcome to all those joining this session today, both in Stockholm and virtually from around the globe.

I would also like to thank the Department of State’s Dr. Rebecca Peters for providing remarks this morning; our moderator and expert panelists; and our NGO organizer, the International Water Management Institute, including their Director General Dr. Mark Smith.

Stretching across the southern border of the Tibetan Plateau, the Himalayan mountains are home to one of the largest stores of frozen water in the world. Often called the “Third Pole,” the Himalayan region includes over 100,000 square kilometers of glaciers, which form rivers weaving across South and Southeast Asia.  These rivers — including the Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra, and Mekong — provide water to over 1.8 billion people, roughly 23% of the world’s population.  However, climate change and infrastructure development, among other issues, continue to threaten this critical source of freshwater.

As one example, in recent years, the People’s Republic of China has dramatically increased large-scale water diversion projects and hydropower development across the Tibetan Plateau.  These policies have been designed and implemented without input from the six million Tibetans in China, leading to the displacement of traditional Tibetan communities.  These projects have also had negative implications for the water security of downstream nations.  As the world becomes increasingly water insecure, reduced access to fresh water for a region of 1.8 billion people will have drastic environmental, economic, and societal consequences.

Today, we look forward to hearing from our expert moderator and panelists who will share their perspectives on how we can accelerate progress in addressing these water security challenges.  In addition, I am pleased to announce that the International Water Management Institute will be publishing a white paper following this event, with insights from our panelists and recommendations for governments and civil society groups. I hope that today’s session serves as a call to action for governments across the globe, including the PRC, to increase collaboration and data sharing on these issues.

The United States looks forward to advancing our partnership with the stakeholders attending today as we work together to tackle climate change and advance a more water secure world for all.  Thank you again for joining this important conversation.

U.S. Department of State

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