World Water Day: An element for peace

World Water Day is celebrated on March 22 to pay tribute to this resource and to encourage action to address the global water crisis. Today, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, with devastating consequences for their lives and for society as a whole.

 

Water for peace

 

Water can create peace or trigger conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal or no access to it, tensions between communities or countries can increase.

 

More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet only 24 countries have cooperative agreements for all the water resources they share.

 

As the impacts of climate change increase and populations grow, there is a pressing need, within and between countries, to come together to protect and conserve our most precious resource.

 

Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity depend on the proper functioning and equitable management of the water cycle.

 

Creating a positive cascading effect

 

The theme of World Water Day 2024 is “Water for Peace”.

 

When we cooperate on water, we create a positive cascading effect, promoting harmony, generating prosperity and building resilience to common challenges.

 

We must act on the basis that water is not just a resource to be harnessed and competed for: it is a human right, intrinsic to all aspects of life.

 

On the occasion of World Water Day, we all need to unite around water and use it for peace, laying the foundations for a more stable and prosperous future.

 

Water and conflicts

 

Water is under increasing pressure. Water-related climate change impacts are worsening and a growing world population is placing ever-increasing demands on a finite resource. In many countries, people’s access to safe drinking water is unequally and unfairly distributed. Between countries, the widespread lack of transboundary cooperation on shared water resources poses a risk to the quality and quantity of water supplies and thus threatens social and international stability.

 

Water often plays a role in conflicts:

 

  • Water can be a trigger when the interests of different water users, including states and provinces, clash and are perceived as irreconcilable, or when water quantity and/or quality declines, which can affect human and ecosystem health.
  • Water can be a weapon during armed conflict -used by both state and non-state actors- as a means to gain or maintain control over territory and populations or as a means to pressure opposing groups.
  • Water can be the victim of conflict when water resources, water systems, or utility employees are victims or targets of intentional or incidental violence. Attacks on civilian infrastructure, including water systems, pose serious health risks and violate international humanitarian law.

 

Access to water in numbers

 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, approximately half of the world’s population suffers from severe water shortages for at least part of the year.

 

Water-related disasters have dominated the list of disasters for the past 50 years and account for 70% of all natural disaster-related deaths, according to the World Bank.

 

Transboundary waters account for 60% of the world’s freshwater flows, and 153 countries have territory within at least 1 of 310 transboundary river and lake basins and 468 inventoried transboundary aquifer systems, according to UN Water.

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