World cannot take water for granted, say UN officials at launch of global decade for action

A water mill by the Manavgat River in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Tuba Coşkun/UNIC Ankara
A water mill by the Manavgat River in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Tuba Coşkun/UNIC Ankara

The United Nations on 22 March launched a decade for action on water that seeks to forge new partnerships, improve cooperation and strengthen capacity to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Most directly linked to Sustainable Development Goal 6, safe water and adequate sanitation are indispensable for healthy ecosystems, reducing poverty, and achieving inclusive growth, social well-being and sustainable livelihoods – the targets for many of the 17 Goals.

However, growing demands, poor management and climate change have increased water stresses and scarcity of water is a major problem in many parts of the world.

Furthermore, more than two billion people worldwide lack access to safe water and over 4.5 billion to adequate sanitation services, warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“By 2050 at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water will be chronic or recurrent,” he said, speaking at the launch of the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028.

Quite simply, water is a matter of life and death. Our bodies, […] our cities, our industries and our agriculture all depend on it.”

Stressing that water cannot be taken for granted, the UN chief said that while solutions and technologies to improve water management exist, these are often not accessible to all. In many cases, end up perpetrating inequity within and among countries.

“As with most development challenges, women and girls suffer disproportionately. For example, women and girls in low-income countries spend some 40 billion hours a year collecting water,” he stressed.

Addressing these and other challenges needs a comprehensive approach to water supply, sanitation, water management and disaster risk reduction, said the UN chief, highlighting that  aligning existing water and sanitation programmes and projects with the 2030 Agenda will also be vital.

Also crucial is the political will for strengthened cooperation and partnerships, he added.