World Water Day 2015: UN calls for global unity in pursuit of better water access for all

22 March 2015 – As the perils of climate change increasingly threaten the planet, the international community must unite in &#8220a spirit of urgent cooperation&#8221 to address the many water-related challenges facing humanity, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today.

In his message marking the 2015 edition of World Water Day, observed annually on 22 March, the Secretary-General warned that access to safe drinking water and sanitation was among &#8220the most urgent issues&#8221 affecting populations across the globe.

&#8220The onset of climate change, growing demand on finite water resources from agriculture, industry and cities, and increasing pollution in many areas are hastening a water crisis that can only be addressed by cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies &#8211 internationally, regionally and globally,&#8221 Mr. Ban affirmed.

Despite progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), some 750 million people, or more than 1 in 10 of the world’s population, remain without access to an improved water supply, the UN has reported.

Mr. Ban added that women and children are particularly affected, compromising their overall health and exposing them to numerous hazards during the &#8220unproductive and sometimes dangerous business of collecting water.&#8221

Moreover, the statistics on sanitation remain &#8220even less encouraging&#8221 as some 2.5 billion people around the world still live without improved sanitation while another one billion practise open defecation.

In his message, the Secretary-General also warned that the gains made by the international community in working towards a sustainable future were &#8220jeopardized&#8221 by climate change &#8211 an imminent threat that Member States were prepared to tackle head-on in December when they gather in Paris to draft &#8220a meaningful, universal climate agreement.&#8221

&#8220To address the many challenges related to water, we must work in a spirit of urgent cooperation, open to new ideas and innovation, and prepared to share the solutions that we all need for a sustainable future,&#8221 Mr. Ban stated. &#8220If we do so, we can end poverty, promote global prosperity and well-being, protect the environment and withstand the threat of climate change.&#8221

The dire straits facing the world’s water situation were further amplified in the UN’s 2015 World Water Development report, released by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and in time for today’s World Water Day celebrations.

According to the report, the planet will face a 40 per cent shortfall in water supply in 2030 unless the international community &#8220dramatically&#8221 improves water supply management. Demand for water is slated to skyrocket 55 per cent by 2050 while 20 per cent of global groundwater is already overexploited.

As a result, the report has urged the international community to devote an entire sustainable development goal to water itself &#8211 from issues of water governance and quality to wastewater management and the prevention of natural disasters.

Sanjay Wijesekera, head of the UN Children Fund’s (UNICEF) global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene programmes, similarly cautioned about the dangerous disparities in water access around the globe, noting that despite &#8220tremendous progress in the face of incredible odds,&#8221 there was still more to do.

&#8220Water is the very essence of life and yet three-quarters of a billion people &#8211 mostly the poor and the marginalized &#8211 still today are deprived of this most basic human right,&#8221 Mr. Wijesekera said in a press release.

On average, nearly 1,000 children die every day from diarrhoeal disease linked to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, or poor hygiene. In addition, in three countries &#8211 the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Papua New Guinea &#8211 more than half the population do not have improved drinking water.

In an effort to raise greater awareness about the importance of improving water quality and access, UNICEF has launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #wateris, the agency’s press release added.

Also marking the Day, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, called for the UN’s post-2015 development agenda to boost incentives for governments, providers and donors to expand their reach to those still struggling with water access.

&#8220We need to aim for a higher rate of progress for disadvantaged groups, otherwise we will not achieve access for all in the foreseeable future,&#8221 Mr. Heller stated. &#8220The world will see real achievement and ‘leave no one behind’ only when the efforts of the post-2015 agenda reach and impact the lives of the most disadvantaged groups.&#8221

Source: General