KIX 92.1Oldies 98.397.9 The BeatQ-102Delta Country 105.7Star 101KIX 92.7WNIXWNLA AM 1380

Global water crisis is threatening world peace and prompting calls for change: UNESCO report


(NEW YORK) — Access to clean and safe water is the “great connector” of our world and critical in promoting peace, according to the 2024 United Nations World Water Development Report released on World Water Day.

Globally, 2.2 billion people still live without access to safely managed drinking water and 3.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation, according to the report.

The international agency’s report aims to highlight how tensions over water access are leading to scarcity and stress over the essential resource — exacerbating conflicts across the world.

“Water underpins prosperity through health, education, food and energy security, employment, sustainable ecosystems, and equitably sharing these benefits promotes peace,” Richard Connor, editor-in-chief of the United Nations World Water Development Report, told ABC News.

“Now, violent conflicts, epidemics, global warming, hyperinflation, mass migration and other crises both affect and are affected by water,” Connor said.

Using the example of the Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin (FASRB) — signed in 2002 by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia — the report explains how this multilateral, development-oriented agreement “has become a key driver of stability in the region, and now serves as an example of best practice for other regions of the world.”

In western and central Africa, Lake Chad has decreased in size by 90% over 60 years, leading to economic and security challenges for its surrounding countries, Cameroon, Chad, the Central Africa Republic, Libya, Niger and Nigeria, according to the report.

UNESCO’s report explains how The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) “has expanded to ensure the most efficient use of the basin’s waters, coordinate local development, and prevent the emergence of disputes that might arise among these countries and local communities.”

These two examples of geopolitical coordination around water access set a framework for lawmakers around the world, according to the report.

“By recognizing the importance of water and the importance of water towards a more prosperous society — it depends on sharing,” Connor said. “If you learn to share the benefits from water, that’s definitely going to promote peace.”

The report shines a spotlight on localized communities where the barricade to water access has had a direct impact on human rights, particularly for impoverished regions and explicitly for women and girls.

“In all cases, it’s the poorest that are the most vulnerable in that they suffer the most severe consequences,” Connor said.

Connor used the example of women in developing countries who are tasked with traveling to retrieve water supply with jerricans, the large containers used to transport liquids.

“It’s mostly women that need to go with jerricans to meet the truck or go to the well to collect water for their household,” Connor said, adding, “And that does expose them to violence, they can be victims of sexual assault.”

In addition to safety concerns, reduced access to water supply undermines women’s education and economic participation, which may also contribute to the higher secondary school dropout rate among girls compared to boys, according to the report.

In addition to water access, the UNESCO report focuses on water sanitation, noting that, globally, 2.2 billion people still do not have access to safe water supplies.

“In rural areas and poor countries, nearly 80% of people there don’t even have your basic basic water,” Connor said. “So even the water that they get is possibly contaminated, dirty and leads to health issues.”

On World Water Day, Connor hopes individuals and lawmakers alike look to the 2024 United Nations World Water Development Report as a clear and poignant signal for international reform.

“We are hoping to raise awareness among decision-makers so that the needed amount of investment and efforts are put into the development of water supply, sanitation systems and water infrastructure all the way from storage to irrigation systems,” Connor said.

“And clearly, water is the basis for prosperity,” he added.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.