AGENDA ITEM: Using Water as a Weapon Of Mass Destruction


The Disarmament and International Security Committee was established in 1993. It is the First and one of the main committees of the General Assembly. The role of DISEC is outlined in Chapter IV, Article 11 of the United Nations Charter which states, “The General Assembly may consider the general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments and may make recommendations with regard to such principles to the Members or to the Security Council or to both”. As per this article, the mandate of DISEC is highlighted as, “to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”.


“Water is used as a weapon of war in ongoing conflicts, the UN has warned.

Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.

Aleppo has had intermittent access to water from the beginning of May 2014, with a total cut in supply on 10 May.

“Preventing people’s access to safe water is a denial of a fundamental human right,” The UN chief warned. “Deliberate targeting of civilians and depriving them of essential supplies is a clear breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Using water as a weapon to weaken people is a tactic used not only in Syria, but also in the Middle East and Africa, including Iraq, Egypt, Israel and Botswana.

Maude Barlow, spokesperson of the Council of Canadians and Food and Water Watch, told Inter Press Service (IPS) that during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Mesopotamian Marshes were drained.

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein also drained them further during the 1990s.

The privatization of water in Egypt was a major factor in the Arab Spring uprising, said Barlow.

She added that Botswana used water as a weapon against the Kalahari bushmen in an attempt to force them out of the desert in 2012.

In Gaza, a conflict lasting more than four decades has made it impossible to develop or maintain water infrastructure, causing the contamination of drinking water .

“Water as a weapon of war is a strong argument to governments and the UN that they must make real the human right to water and sanitation, regardless of other conflicts taking place,” the spokeswoman added.”


“Grave concerns have arisen over the dams that the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) has strategically taken in northern Iraq and Syria. IS controls six of the eight large dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and is now continuously attacking a seventh one.

IS is specifically using the natural resource as a weapon, observes the conflict researcher Tobias von Lossow at Berlin’s Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). “On one hand, IS is damming the river to retain water and dry up certain regions, thereby cutting off the water supply to villages and communities. On the other hand, it has also flooded areas to drive away their inhabitants and to destroy their livelihoods,” said von Lossow in an interview with DW.”

“Apart from cutting off water and flooding, there is another way of using water as a weapon: contamination or poisoning. In December 2014, IS made water unsafe to drink south of Tikrit by putting crude oil in it, according to von Lossow. IS wanted to use this method on European soil in July 2015: IS supporters tried to poison the largest water reservoir in the Kosovan capital Pristina but were exposed just before they committed the act.

The greatest threat is the mounting pressure on IS, says von Lossow. If IS is pushed back by the military and is weakened, it would lose large parts of its territory and population. Subsequently, IS would see itself forced to fight its final battle against its enemies while it stands on the verge of the apocalypse. In this situation, IS could possibly try to blow up dams on the Euphrates and Tigris, thereby opening the floodgates, making water a weapon of mass destruction.”


Russian Federation: Recalling Syria’s efforts to stamp out ISIL with help from partners, including his own country, said the terrorist group is spreading its activities across the world. Every effort must be made to halt that trend and prevent attempts to reformat ISIL into a more sophisticated terrorist organization, he emphasized.  Providing a snapshot of the threat’s reach, he said about 3,000 ISIL members still operate in Syria alongside other terrorist groups, some hiding, concealing themselves among displaced persons.  In Iraq, jihadists have transformed themselves to support subversive acts, fuelling tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims, he added.  While terrorists have capitalized on Libya’s collapse, flourishing in the oil crescent, they are also forging ties with criminal groups in Egypt and other countries, with various splinter groups vocally supporting ISIL, from Islamic State in Western Africa and Islamic State in the Sahara to similar terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.  Ending the financial flows supporting such activities is among the greatest challenges, he said, stressing that in order to counter the threat of ISIL spreading, the international community must operate in a cohesive manner to eliminate its training ground in the Middle East.

Germany: Emphasized importance of including measures to counter the financing of terrorism in national responses.  Germany currently holds the vice-presidency of the Financial Action Task Force and is committed to supporting its work in setting the international standard, he said, while stressing that it is essential to ensure that human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law are always adequately considered in the fight against terrorism.  Trust in State institutions must also be strengthened, he said, noting that disrespect for them could lead marginalized people to violent extremism and into the hands of terrorist networks.  Pointing out that women often find themselves in horrific situations during violent conflict, he underlined the importance of including a gender perspective in the Security Council’s work.

China: Emphasized the need for results-based cooperation, as well as the central role that the United Nations and the Security Council must play in coordinating counter-terrorism measures.  He called for a holistic approach that addresses and eliminates the root causes of terrorism, with more assistance also being extended to developing countries for counter-terrorism efforts.  He emphasized the importance of tailored international judicial cooperation focused on the movement of foreign terrorist fighters, terrorist financing, collusion between international terrorist groups and organized crime, and misuse of the Internet by terrorists.  The strength and expertise of relevant United Nations mechanisms should be fully leveraged, he added.

United States: Called attention to efforts by the 81-nation Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the ground and in such areas as counter-financing, counter-messaging, repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters and stabilization of liberated areas.  That work is far from complete and the Coalition remains committed to carrying on the fight, he said.  Expressing concern about the concentration of ISIL fighters in civilian camps, he encouraged Member States to repatriate and prosecute their citizens as appropriate.  ISIL affiliates threaten other part of the world beyond Iraq and Syria, from West Africa to South-East Asia, he said.  Describing the designation of ISIL affiliates and the adoption of resolution 2462 (2019) as significant developments, he stressed that Member States must act on those measures to make them meaningful.  He also urged them not to overlook the ongoing threat of Al-Qaida and to ensure that the group does not consolidate power and threaten the United States or its allies and partners.

Dominican Republic: Acknowledged the collective pain of victims and survivors of heinous attacks around the world, including New Zealand and Sri Lanka.  Agreeing that there is urgent need for greater resources to address terrorism, he pointed out that the population of Syria’s Al-Hawl camp has grown seven-fold.  He went on to welcome efforts by the United Nations to develop principles for dealing with women and children linked to terrorist groups, while noting that the perverse relationship between terrorism and transnational organized crime further tests the response capacity of Member States.

United Kingdom: expressing concern about conditions in the camps in north-eastern Syria, welcomed the increased attention from the United Nations and its efforts to prevent the spread of extremism in those locations.  Expressing support for the work of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD), he said the breadth and wealth of Da’esh is alarming, adding that a collective approach is required to tackle the threat.  Equally concerned about terrorist recruitment in prisons, he encouraged the United Nations and Member States to address the trend, adding that his delegation is encouraged by efforts centred on rehabilitation and reintegration.  Expressing support for the Christchurch Call to Action, he said he anticipates working with partner States and the private sector to combat the spread of terrorism online.

South Africa: Said his delegation is particularly concerned about the spread of terrorism in Africa, with Libya in the north becoming fertile ground for ISIL supporters, and the 4,000 fighters of Islamic State West Africa Province making it among the strongest regional affiliates.  Indeed, reports indicate that ISIL is trying to establish itself in Central Africa and in the southern region, he noted.  South Africa is committed to international cooperation in fighting terrorism because no country can shoulder the burden alone, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations must play its crucial role in coordinating and facilitating global efforts.  Commending the Organization’s efforts to date, he called for a holistic approach, from treating terrorism as a security threat to tackling its root causes when shaping counter-measures aligned with international law.  States must refrain from taking unilateral coercive counter-terrorism measures, which often result in unintended casualties and feed a vicious cycle of resentment and hatred that ultimately perpetuates further violent extremism and terrorism, he stressed.

Indonesia: Said ISIL/Da’esh remains a serious threat, including in his country where authorities successfully foiled a plot by a related terror group in May.  Indeed, ISIL’s evolution from a territorial entity to a covert network — along with the activities of its regional affiliates, among other threats — are huge challenges around the world.  Underlining the importance of international cooperation, he described as crucial the international community’s responses in such areas as cutting off terrorist financing, securing judicial cooperation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration, and engaging communities.  For sustainable, long-term success in the fight against terrorism, it is crucial to adopt a holistic approach.  In that context, he said that, alongside “hard measures”, Member States should also invest in soft approaches to counter terrorist narratives and steer people away from extremism.

Kuwait: Said Da’esh continues to work covertly in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the world, with the Secretary-General’s report noting the group’s continued ability to fund subversive acts in ways that are difficult for the authorities to detect.  Emphasizing that the war against Da’esh has resulted in many humanitarian challenges, he noted that Kuwait has established a centre that provides guidance to persons affected by abhorrent ideologies.  He underscored the importance of international cooperation, including the exchange of information and efforts to counter incitement.  Kuwait condemns terrorism as criminal acts that have no association to any religion, civilization or ethnicity, he said.

France: Underlined the importance of the coalition to adopt inclusive solutions in Iraq and Syria with a view to preventing the re-emergence of Da’esh through such actions as ending impunity.  In this regard, the newly agreed Paris road map aims at guiding the coalition over the coming months.  Highlighting three priority areas, she first encouraged all States to fully implement resolution 2462 (2019) on preventing and combating the financing of terrorism and meet their obligations.  The second priority concerns the treatment of foreign terrorist fighters, requiring the international coordination of information-sharing among civil, military and financial institutions.  Foreign terrorist fighters should be prosecuted where the relevant crimes were committed, she said.  The final priority must aim at preventing the Internet from being used for terrorist activities, she said, noting that the Christchurch attack demonstrated that much remains to be done in this regard.  As a result, France and New Zealand launched the Christchurch Call to Action, appealing for voluntary, collective partnerships between Governments and service providers.

Belgium: Said his delegation remains concerned about the spread of Da’esh and the conditions in camps and detention centres in Iraq and Syria, particularly regarding the situation of radicalized women and children.  The threat is far from having disappeared, including in Europe, he said, adding that the most dangerous individuals are those who have been prevented by authorities from joining Da’esh and yet still want to contribute to the terrorist group through an individual act.  Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge about this phenomenon and of monitoring prisoners.  For its own penal system, Belgium adopted an approach based on individual evaluation and management of risks, with partner institutions — from the police to psychosocial service providers — sharing information in following up on released prisoners to ensure their rehabilitation.  However, States must do their utmost to fully implement all relevant Council resolutions.  In addition, efforts must be made to ensure humanitarian workers have access to do their work in situations affected by terrorism.  He also underlined the importance of paying attention to the polarization of society stemming from Da’esh supporters, emphasizing the importance of taking a multilateral approach to combating terrorism.

Poland: Security Council President for the month and speaking in his national capacity, underlined the need to remain vigilant given expectations that ISIL/Da’esh will revive its operational capacity as soon as circumstances allow.  Voicing deep concern about the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, returnees and relocators, he warned that overcrowded camps for internally displaced persons — where families with links to designated terrorist groups are stranded — may present easy recruitment targets for terrorists if not properly addressed.  Underlining the challenges facing countries in the areas of justice and correction systems, he said radicalization in prisons remains an important issue in Europe with thousands of foreign terrorist fighters returning from conflict zones.  “Without additional resources […] prisons will become a place where radical ideologies can thrive,” he said, also encouraging Member States to allow experts from sanctions committee monitoring teams to conduct their work related to sexual violence perpetrated by terrorists.


  • What is a weapon of mass destruction?
  • Can water constitute as a mass destruction weapon if so under which circumstances?
  • What can UN do to prevent these types of situations?