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Lee stresses urgency of water crisis

Vows in UN speech to triple overseas aid, increase peacekeeping missions

Lee stresses urgency of water crisis

President Lee Myung-bak, center, and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, left, preside over the UN summit on climate change at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

The international community should establish a new governance system to effectively deal with the global water crisis, President Lee Myung-bak said in his UN speech.

In his keynote speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Lee noted the seriousness of the water crisis, urging the United Nations and world leaders to pay special attention to this critical challenge.

“Fossil fuels are replaceable, but water is irreplaceable,” Lee said, according to the Korean-language text of his address, provided ahead of his actual delivery of the speech on Wednesday, New York time.

“More than half of the world population is suffering from the scarcity of water,” Lee said. “Disasters caused by climate changes are mostly related to water such as floods, draughts and the rise of sea level.”

Lee said South Korea has reviewed water problems in Asia and the most urgent tasks were the supply of clean water and infrastructure and policy development to prevent floods.

“It is time for the international community to form an effective water governance system,” Lee said.

“I understand that about 20 UN bodies have paid attention to the water crisis and worked on the issue. It is a complex matter that will have a widespread effect. Therefore, I call for a more specialized, consolidated plan to manage water in order to establish more effective international cooperation system,” he said.

A Blue House official said South Korea seeks to become the home for a new water governance organization if the international community agrees to launch a new water management body. “Lee hopes to realize the plan during his term, but it’s a matter that will take some time,” the official said.

In his UN speech, Lee also said Korea is trying to become a global nation by providing more international aid. Lee reconfirmed Korea’s promise to triple its official development assistance by 2015 and highlighted Korean youths’ volunteer work in 40 nations.

Lee also pledged to increase Korea’s participation in peacekeeping operations around the world to fight against terrorists, prevent global conflicts and provide help to disaster-stricken areas.

Ahead of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Lee attended the UN summit on climate change and urged world leaders to maximize their efforts to fight the environmental changes.

Lee said Tuesday that South Korea will announce its midterm greenhouse gas reduction target before the end of this year.

The move will make Korea the first developing country to do so voluntarily, the Blue House said.

In a recorded speech posted on the UN Web site, Lee also urged all countries to participate in efforts to fight climate change.

“As an Asian axiom says; ‘ten spoonfuls of rice add up to a full bowl.’ Collaboration is always crucial and even the smallest contribution should count,” Lee said.

“What really matters is not the size of the spoon, but the willingness to pitch in,” he added.

By Ser Myo-ja


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