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The following three articles, spanning three years, illustrate how water has remained an issue at the forefront for the United Nations and the world. The WWO will continue to present important articles on water in this forum. Please see also our video links for informative water related videos available through other Water Organizations.

The Global Water Crisis: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: the first wave in a tide of change
UN Calls Water Top Priority: UN Chief Urges World to Put Looming Water Crisis at Top of Global Agenda
Ban Ki-moon urges greater efforts to tackle ‘silent crisis’ of safe water for all

The Global Water Crisis: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: the first wave in a tide of change
Author Unknown
The UN Works, December 2009.

At the United Nations, March 22nd is World Water Day. We don’t expect people to stop what they are doing and observe a moment of silence ­ but maybe they should. Every 20 seconds, a child dies from diseases associated with a lack of clean water. That adds up to an unconscionable 1.5 million young lives cut short each year.

More than two and a half billion people in the world live in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation. Helping them would do more than reduce the death toll; it would serve to protect the environment, alleviate poverty and promote development. That’s because water underpins so much of the work we do in these areas.

Water is essential to survival. Unlike oil, there are no substitutes. But today, fresh water resources are stretched thin. Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst.

As with oil, problems that grow from the scarcity of a vital resource tend to spill over borders. International Alert has identified 46 countries, home to 2.7 billion people, where climate change and water-related crises create a high risk of violent conflict. A further 56 countries, representing another 1.2 billion people, are at high risk of political instability. That’s more than half the world.

This is not an issue of rich or poor, north or south. China is diverting hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water to drought-prone Beijing ahead of the Olympics, but shortages are expected to persist for years to come. In North America, the mighty Colorado River seldom reaches the sea. Water stress affects one third of the United States and one fifth of Spain.

The water system of Lake Chad, in central Africa, supports some 30 million people. Yet over the past 30 years, it has shrunk to one-tenth of its former size, thanks to drought, climate change, mismanagement and over-use. Visiting Brazil this fall, I had to cancel a trip down a major tributary of the Amazon. It had dried up.

I have spent the past year beating the drum on climate change. We’ve seen the results in the “Bali Roadmap,” which charts a course for negotiations on a legally binding treaty limiting greenhouse gas emissions to take over when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. This year, I will make a similar effort to raise public awareness about the Millennium Development Goals.

Among other things, the so-called MDGs set a target of cutting by half the number of people without safe access to water by 2015. This is critically important. When you look at the health and development challenges faced by the poorest of the world’s population—diseases like malaria or TB, rising food prices, environmental degradation—the common denominator often turns out to be water.

This September, I will gather top-level officials from across the world at a summit in New York on how to reach the Goals, particularly in Africa. In the meantime, we need to begin thinking about better strategies for managing water—for using it efficiently and sharing it fairly. This means partnerships involving not just governments but civil society groups, individuals and businesses.

We are at the early stages of this awakening. But there are some encouraging signs, especially in the private sector. Corporations have long been viewed as culprits. The smokestacks from power plants pollute our air, the effluents from industry spoil our rivers. But this is changing. More and more today, businesses are working to become part of the solution, rather than the problem.

Earlier this month, members of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative, gathered in New York for a meeting on water. The companies in that room had a total worth of about half a trillion dollars with employees in some 200 countries.

The main theme: moving beyond the mere use of water to stewardship. This translates into a commitment to engage with the United Nations, governments and civil groups to protect what is becoming an increasingly scarce resource and ensure that local communities benefit.

Every journey is comprised of myriad small steps, and they spoke about those, too. A major textiles company told how it was working with local governments and farmers to conserve watersheds in growing cotton. A jeans designer is planning to change its labels, calling for washing in cold and hanging dry as a step to save water.

A drop in the bucket, yes. But I see it as the first wave in a tide of change.

Site: http://www.un.org/works/sub3.asp?lang=en&id=124 accessed 7 Dec 2009.

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UN Calls Water Top Priority: UN Chief Urges World to Put Looming Water Crisis at Top of Global Agenda
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press, February 2008.

DAVOS, Switzerland - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world on Thursday to put the looming crisis over water shortages at the top of the global agenda this year and take action to prevent conflicts over scarce supplies.

He reminded business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum that the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan was touched off by drought and he said shortages of water contribute to poverty and social hardship in Somalia, Chad, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Colombia and Kazakhstan.

"Too often, where we need water we find guns instead," Ban said. "Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst. Many more conflicts lie just over the horizon."

He said a recent report identified 46 countries with 2.7 billion people where climate change and water-related crises create "a high risk of violent conflict" and a further 56 countries, with 1.2 billion people "are at high risk of violent conflict." The report was by International Alert, an independent peacebuilding organization based in London.

Ban told the VIP audience that he spent 2007 "banging my drum on climate change," an issue the Forum also had as one of its main themes last year. He welcomed the focus on water this year saying the session should be named: "Water is running out."

"We need to adapt to this reality, just as we do to climate change," he said. "There is still enough water for all of us but only so long as we can keep it clean, use it more wisely, and share it fairly."

Ban said he will invite world leaders to "a critical high-level meeting" in September to focus on meeting U.N. development goals including cutting by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015 particularly in Africa.

Ban's call for global action on water got strong support from several top business executives.

"Water is today's issue," said Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Co., the world's second largest chemical company. "It is the oil of this century, not a question."

E. Neville Isdell, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., said "this is an issue which ranks next to climate change. ... However, water has got lost as part of the climate change debate."

Isdell urged the world to "raise the issue of water to the level that we have managed to raise the issue of climate change."

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman and CEO of Nestle SA, the world's biggest food and drink company, said "time is still on our side but time is running out, just like water is running out."

Ban urged top business executives to join a U.N. project to help poor people gain access to clean water and he praised Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and Nestle for their programs and their efforts to be part of the water solution.

Site: http://www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcglobal/8unxxchie2.html accessed 7 Dec 2009.

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Ban Ki-moon urges greater efforts to tackle ‘silent crisis’ of safe water for all
Author Unknown
UN News Service: October 2007

Ban Ki-moon addresses opening of the exhibit on water

24 October 2007 ­ Unveiling a new exhibit at United Nations Headquarters highlighting one of the earth’s most precious resources, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for greater efforts to ensure the most basic of human needs ­ safe water.

“Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development, and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals,” Mr. Ban stated, referring to the global targets to slash poverty, illiteracy, disease and other social ills by 2015 collectively known as the MDGs. Speaking at the opening of the exhibit on water and the interlinked issue of sanitation, organized by the American Museum of Natural History and the UN Department of Public Information, Mr. Ban noted that living in New York makes it easy to sometimes forget just how precious water is and to take it for granted.

“We turn on a tap, and it gushes out. We walk into any corner store, and shelves groan under its bottled weight. Yard space, rather than sprinklers, is the scarce commodity. And rain brings consternation, not relief,” he said.

However, the “sobering reality” is that the planet’s water supplies are under great stress due to high population growth, unsustainable consumption patterns, poor management practices, pollution, inadequate investment in infrastructure, and low efficiency in water-use.

Every day, a lack of safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation claims about 6,000 lives, most of them children, the Secretary-General pointed out. Some 700 million lives in 43 countries are affected by water scarcity. By 2025, these ranks could swell to more than 3 billion.

In addition, in many areas climate change will likely make a bad situation worse; causing floods in some parts and droughts elsewhere, he added, stressing the urgent need for integrated and sustainable approaches to water resource management.

Mr. Ban also said the Museum’s initiative was timely, given that General Assembly has declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation in order to spotlight this “silent crisis.” The Headquarters display ­ containing over 50 images from the gigantic water tunnel under construction beneath New York City to a fishing village floating on the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia ­ is part of a new major exhibition, “Water: H20 = Life,” that opens at the American Museum on 3 November and will travel to venues in Canada, Asia and South America next year.

Site: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24397&Cr=water&Cr1= accessed 7 Dec 2009.

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