UN opens water summit calling for quick action on current crisis

United Nations, Mar 22 (EFE).- The United Nations 2023 Water Conference, the first summit of its kind in almost half a century, kicked off on Wednesday in New York with an urgent call to action to simultaneously protect hydric resources and see to it that everyone has access to adequate and clean water.

King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands – one of the two hosts, along with Tajikistan, of the conference – emphasized in his opening remarks that over the next three days “we want to get the water wheel spinning” and put the world’s water resource situation high on the global agenda.

“Water security is one of the defining concerns of our time and it will determine our collective sustainable future,” the Dutch king said.

The summit, which will last through Friday, for the first time since 1977 gathers together governments, companies and civil organizations to discuss the world management of water and comes at a time of serious crisis for this vital resource.

According to the UN, between two and three billion people around the world suffer from water scarcity, a problem that will grow worse in the coming decades. At the same time, water pollution is increasing and extreme weather disasters are multiplying as a result of climate change.

“Today, we have a global water crisis. To put it bluntly: the three forms of water disasters have created a human disaster. Too much water takes lives, too little water hinders dignified human development, (water that’s) too dirty … threatens our health and the nature we are part of,” said the president of the 77th UN General Assembly, Csaba Korosi of Hungary.

Along the same lines, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres insisted that the whole world is facing these serious problems.

Water is “humanity’s lifeblood” and a human right, Guterres warned, and yet the countries of the world are squandering it “through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating.”

At the same time, the UN leader said that three of every four natural disasters are linked to water and almost one in every four people lives without access to a secure and potable water supply.

Because of all this, Guterres said that this conference must produce “revolutionary commitments” for a new Water Action Agenda.

That document, which will be the main product of this summit, basically will include commitments by the public and private sectors, some of which are already known and others which will be announced during the course of this week.

These commitments include promises in all sorts of different areas, reform plans and investment funding, among many other things, but in all cases they will be voluntary instead of a big agreement negotiated by all parties, as is a regular result of other conferences, for example those geared toward fighting climate change.

Today, the UN designated four big areas in which it considers significant advances to be essential: water management and equitable access to water, investment in water and sanitation systems, improvement of water resilience via conservation, reutilization and purification and the fight against climate change.

For ecological organizations, it is fundamental that the world change the way it views water and gives priority to its protection as it continues seeking to guarantee an adequate supply of water for everyone.

“The water crisis is bad enough without climate change,” the World Wildlife Fund’s head of water stewardship, Stuart Orr, said, adding however that “We can build resilient societies and economies if governments and businesses urgently pursue policies, practices and investments that recognize – and restore – the full value of healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands.”

Despite the fact that the UN has spoken insistently about the historic nature of this conference, only a handful of international leaders have traveled to New York to participate in it, with the rest leaving representation of their countries to cabinet ministers or other top-level officials.

Bolivia, Iraq, Botswana, Bosnia and Slovenia, along with organizers The Netherlands and Tajikistan, on Wednesday were the only countries whose leading government officials were scheduled to speak, while a small group of states will have their prime ministers or deputy prime minister address the gathering.

“Our leaders are not stepping up to respond to one of humanity’s greatest existential crises,” Spain’s Patricia Martin Diaz, with the Avaaz campaign, said in an article.

Although there are not many top world leaders on hand, nevertheless the UN headquarters is full of interested parties on this occasion with dozens of government ministers, thousands of diplomats and officials and more than 6,500 representatives from civil society on hand for the summit.

EFE –/bp

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