Access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right that affects our health and our safety. We need safe water to drink every day, and we need adequate sanitation facilities to ensure that everyone has the ability to attend school or work, and is protected against sexual assault. And, we need to manage the flow of wastewater safely to protect our fragile ecosystems. But we have a long way to go.
Today, about 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services, and about 2.5 billion people—36 percent of the world’s population—live in water-scarce regions. More than two billion people must drink contaminated water, resulting in a child dying every minute. Globally, 80 per cent of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, and droughts and floods are increasing in severity as a result of our changing climate.
The Water Action Decade, launched on World Water Day last March, is working to halt this growing water crisis. The “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development,” as it is known in its unanimous General Assembly resolution, serves as a platform for countries to share some of their major water challenges and possible solutions. The Decade puts greater focus on sustainable development and an integrated management of water resources to achieve social, economic and environmental objectives.
“The Water Action Decade provides a unique framework to support efforts to overcome these challenges by energizing the implementation and promotion of programmes and projects on integrated and sustainable management of water and sanitation,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General. “It further provides an exceptional opportunity to strengthen cooperation and partnership at all levels to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and other water-related goals and targets.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, with the support of UN-Water, has drawn up a plan for the Decade, which will be active until 20 March 2028. In it, the Secretary-General calls for the energized implementation of existing water programmes and projects, and mobilized action for water as a tool for sustainable development.
Countries and organizations around the world are already implementing this plan by sharing their experiences with water and sanitation projects on a new website for the decade – www.wateractiondecade.org.
Additionally, the Government of Tajikistan, with the support of the UN system, organized the High-level International Conference of the Decadein Dushanbe from 20 to 22 June under the theme “Promoting Action for Policy Dialogue.” The Conference was attended by high-level delegations and representatives from 120 countries, including heads of state and government, and provided valuable opportunities for Member States and other stakeholders to promote actions, partnerships and policy dialogue to support internationally agreed water goals and targets.
On 28 November, the General Assembly’s Second Committee adopted a resolution by consensus, calling for a United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the Decade, to take place on 22-24 March 2023 in New York.
Furthermore, Member States requested the President of the General Assembly, to convene a one-day high-level meeting to promote the implementation of the water-related Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda in New York in 2021.
All of these different actions are in line with the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Water, which in its outcome document, “Making Every Drop Count,” emphasized the need to convene UN meetings on water at the highest possible level to spur commitments of global leaders.