Water

World Water Day 2023: accessible and safe water for all

World Water Day 2023: accessible and safe water for all

Photo: Javier Morales from flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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March 21, 2023

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Published:

March 21, 2023

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World Water Day is celebrated on March 22, and the focus this year is on the global water and sanitary crisis, as an estimated two billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. On the same occasion, the United Nations 2023 Water Conference is being held in New York for the first time since 1977, while joint global initiatives have proclaimed the Water Justice Manifesto.

The lack and unavailability of water undermine progress on all major global issues, including health and food security, education, industry, efforts to mitigate natural disasters, and peace in the world. Billions of people are being held back because their right to water and sanitation still needs to be fulfilled.

The sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. However, the UN warns that humanity has seriously gone off track. Latest data shows that decision makers and governments must work four times faster.

Everyone needs to take action to achieve the goal, the UN said. Global water demand is projected to increase by 55% by the middle of the century.

Two billion people do not have access to safe drinking water

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), two billion people worldwide, or one in four people, do not have access to safe drinking water. Almost half of the global population, about 3.6 billion people, lack proper sanitation, while 44% of household wastewater is not safely treated.

Due to diseases associated with poor water, sanitation, and hygiene, 1.4 million people die annually, while the lifespan of 74 million people is being cut short.

The UN conference is a once-in-a-generation opportunity

The World Water Day coincides with the start of the UN 2023 Water Conference, which takes place from March 22 to 24 at the global organization’s headquarters in New York.

The event is a unique opportunity for the world to unite around resolving the global water crisis and sanitation. It is necessary for governments and other stakeholders at all levels to make “voluntary commitments” to accelerating progress in achieving global water-related goals, the organizers point out.

One of the goals is to adopt the proposed Water Action Agenda for rapid, transformative change by the end of this decade and encourage UN member states to act.

The last global water conference was held in 1977

The conference at the UN headquarters was presented as a once-in-a-generation opportunity as the last gathering at the same level was held back in 1977 in Argentina.

The organizers expect several thousand participants. The host countries are Tajikistan and the Netherlands. Iva Marković from the Pravo na vodu (Right to Water) initiative from Serbia will attend the gathering. She will present the struggle for the right to water and water resources in the country and the Balkan region.

Joint movements declare Water Justice Manifesto

Water justice movements have joined forces and formed the People’s Water Forum.

Water is a common good and must be accessible to all and be managed publicly and not as a commodity

In the runup to the conference, the Water Justice Manifesto has been proclaimed by the People’s Water Forum, citing facts essential to achieving water justice for all:

  • Water is a common good and must be accessible to all without discrimination, under public control, and not a commodity. Personal and domestic uses of water should have the highest priority over productive uses, such as agri-business and industry.
  • Water policies must prioritize the sustainable management of water resources, and governments must ensure that agri-business and industrial users are accountable and responsible for their use of and impact on all natural resources.
  • Privatization, commodification, or financialization of water and sanitation services endanger the realization of human rights, and should therefore not be considered as policies at the global, national, or local level, as well as in international cooperation.
  • Water and sanitation services must always be guided by human rights, leaving no one behind, including those who, because they live in situations of vulnerability, marginalization, or poverty, find it difficult to pay.
  • Existing fragile multilateral UN frameworks must be overcome and intergovernmental mechanisms for water and sanitation infrastructure introduced.

Initiatives and movements warn of corporate and private interests

The founders of the People’s Water Forum said it derives from the decades of opposition to the corporate capture of global water governance, claiming that it is taking place through the World Water Forum.

The forum added that during over the last few decades of global efforts, more private sector participation has constantly been touted as the solution. And yet, about 90% of investments in water infrastructure come from the public sector.

About 90% of water infrastructure investment worldwide comes from the public sector

Judging by the topics and the list of participating organizations, the New York conference will be another event dominated by corporate and other private interests, according to the People’s Water Forum.

Nevertheless, the initiatives and movements highlighted the necessity of finding solutions to protect and guarantee access to water and protect ecosystems, urgently needed in the context of climate and social crisis.

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World Water Day 2023: accessible and safe water for all

World Water Day 2023: accessible and safe water for all

21 March 2023 - World Water Day is celebrated on March 22, and the focus this year is on the global water and sanitary crisis