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Billions of People with No Access to Clean Drinking Water — Global Issues

  • Opinion by Volkan Bozkir (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

By current estimates:
– Some 2.2 billion people – almost a third of the global population – continue to lack access to safely managed drinking water;
– 4.2 billion people – more than half of the planet’s population – live without safely managed sanitation;
– 2 billion people don’t have a decent toilet of their own;
– and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities – even in the midst of a global pandemic.

If I may be candid: it is a moral failure that we live in a world with such high levels of technical innovation and success, but we continue to allow billions of people to exist without clean drinking water or the basic tools to wash their hands. And make no mistake, this is a global failure that has far-reaching implications for all of us.

We must remember:
– Water is life. We simply cannot live on this planet – and certainly not in any healthy capacity – if we are deprived of this most basic human need. Our entire agricultural system – all of the food we consume – is dependent upon water supplies. The same extends to all other life on this planet. Every ecosystem, every species, depends upon water.
– Water is sustainability. Safe drinking water systems and adequate sanitation is essential to ensure cities and towns grow sustainably. Without these core services and needs met, our ability to provide education, healthcare, and jobs and livelihoods will suffer.
– And Water is empowerment.

While we have recognized women’s central role in the provision, management, and safeguarding of water, the implementation of this core principle remains far from adequate.

For women and girls across the globe, the daily trek to collect water can be an impediment to accessing education, healthcare, or work. We cannot empower people, we cannot raise them up, when they are held back.

Delivering on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) and guaranteeing water and sanitation for all is a win across the board. Water is both an economic good and an SDG accelerator, facilitating progress on each of the other SDGs.

For this reason, we must see the recovery from COVID-19 as an inflection point in the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, and re-focus our efforts on sustainable and integrated water management.

I could point to dozens of examples where the lack of water or sanitation is impacting people around the world, but the most obvious and most topical is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact that billions of people have had to face this pandemic without basic handwashing facilities and that health providers in some of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) do not have running water is impossible to reconcile, especially when we live in a world of such abundance and of such profound innovation.

This stark example of global inequality can and must spur us to action.

While we cannot go back and change what has happened, we must acknowledge our failings and use this opportunity to root out the systemic gaps that have allowed the crisis to flourish. When the next global pandemic or crisis strikes, and we know that it will, we will have no excuse for having not acted now.

Delivering on SDG6 and guaranteeing water and sanitation for all is a win across the board. Water is both an economic good and an SDG accelerator, facilitating progress on each of the other SDGs.

For this reason, we must see the recovery from COVID-19 as an inflection point in the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, and re-focus our efforts on sustainable and integrated water management.

In light of all that I have outlined, our discussions and statements today must focus on tangible, concrete actions that deliver for the people of the world.

Among the many areas where I hope to see progress is support for the SDG6 Global Accelerator Framework, which promises to deliver fast results at scale, with an emphasis on COVID response and recovery.

The Framework, and other efforts like it, offer a clear path to ramp up progress at the country level, yet they remain vastly underfunded. As it is, the OECD notes that there is a critical need for investments in water infrastructure to the tune of $500 billion dollars by 2030.

For this reason, I call on the international community to provide greater financial and capacity-building support to water and sanitation related activities, particularly through their support to COVID-19 recovery.

In doing so, I ask that you consider and prioritize countries in special situations, notably LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, and that you make every effort to support those who have borne the brunt of the water-deficit, particularly women and girls.

Finally, I ask that we, as an international community, work closely with civil society groups and with young people to strengthen water-related goals and activities.

Young people and local groups, with their ear to the ground and their nimble ability to act, are often the first to usher in new technologies or approaches; we must take advantage of this tool and empower all people in this process.

Governments alone cannot achieve the 2030 Agenda and strong engagement of stakeholders is essential for the achievement of all SDGs. It is therefore important that we enable stakeholders from different sectors, ranging from civil society and academia, to the private sector, to fully participate in discussions in related events.

For this purpose, I have designated a special part of the panel discussion, dubbed “CSO Spotlight”, to give as many stakeholders as we can accommodate an opportunity to voice their concerns, visions, plans, successes and lessons, and calls for action.

In closing, allow me to emphasize that our discussion today is not just about liquid in a bottle…It’s presence or absence means so, so much more.

It is about dignity.
It is about opportunity.
It is about our health and our ability to survive.
And it is about equality.

*Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in his address to the High-level Meeting on the Implementation of the Water-related Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda on March 18.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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