Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World Water Day
22 March 2021
As is the case when it comes to anything having to do with the environment, the issue of water forces us to deal with our contradictions and our inability to accept that everyday resources are both fragile and in short supply.
This is particularly the case with water, even though it is a total social fact and a total human fact. Not only because humans cannot live without drinking water, but also because water is essential to all our lives.
As coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has reminded us, water is also matter of health. Access to clean water is vital to hygiene, yet in the middle of a pandemic, people are unable to wash their hands in two out of every five healthcare establishments.
The difficulty of water access can also be measured in time wasted and thus in educational and economic losses. The burden of fetching water is an unequal one, mostly borne by women and girls. The 200 million hours which they spend collecting water every day are vanished opportunities – for them and for society. They are 200 million hours which could have been spent learning, reading, or working.
Ensuring universal access to clean water is thus crucial, particularly since reserves are limited and needs are growing: nearly 4 billion people worldwide already experience severe water shortages at least one month a year.
Climate change will further aggravate global water stress. If we stand by idly, by 2030, humanity will be lacking 40% of the water it needs.
The consequences of such a situation are incalculable. As water reserves dwindle, so does society. All of society suffers. From forced displacement to rising child mortality rates, and from malnutrition to an increase in tensions related to access to resources, the crisis is a global one.
Yet we continue to waste water, dumping some 80% of untreated sewage into the environment.
Greater awareness is necessary if we are to put a stop to this crisis.
This is the reason why, in conjunction with the UN-Water family, we publish the World Water Development Report (WWDR) every year.
The publication of the WWDR is an opportunity for the Organization to highlight the most sustainable, most innovative and most inclusive ways to manage this allimportant resource. The value of water is far from being merely monetary.
As Benjamin Franklin said: “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” We should not wait for the well to run dry.
World Water Day is meant to be a call to action. Responsibility lies with all of us. Governments, associations, private partners: we must all recognize the multifold value of water and take action to conserve this basic resource, the resource which gives our planet its unique colour.