World Water Day: the importance of this scarce resource for world peace

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Today we celebrate
World Water Day
World Water Day, a date established in 1992 by the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness and promote actions to address water scarcity. Today, some 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and nearly half of the world’s population suffers from severe water shortages for at least part of the year. Moreover, these figures are expected to increase due to the effects of climate change.

The 2024 theme, “Water for Peace,” underscores the importance of this scarce resource in many of the world’s challenges, from climate change to political instability, and emphasizes that water and peace go hand in hand. “When we cooperate on water, we create a positive cascading effect, promoting harmony, generating prosperity and building resilience in the face of common challenges,” the UN says.

However, according to the organization, this resource can also be a point of contention between communities, especially when access is unequal or scarce, triggering conflicts. Only 0.5% of the Earth’s water is usable and available, and climate change threatens that supply. Also, over the last twenty years, continental water reservoirs have declined at a rate of one centimeter per year.

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

This situation is further complicated by the fact that more than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. However, out of 153 countries that share rivers, lakes and aquifers with their neighbors, only 24 have cooperation agreements for all the water resources they share.

Access to water and sanitation is a human right recognized in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. As such, it is a key element in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), “Clean Water and Sanitation,” which seeks to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all people.

According to the World Health Organization (2022), every year 1.4 million people die and 74 million have their lives shortened by diseases caused by lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services. In addition, almost half of the world’s population lacks safe sanitation systems and a total of 1. 800 million people are served or work in health care facilities that lack basic water services.