Ensuring universal access to water and using it wisely in agriculture is essential to end famine, drought and political instability, United Nations officials said as the World Water Day falls on Thursday.
A girl quenches her thirst in Hanoi, Vietnam, 2008. [File photo]
"Over the coming decades, feeding a growing global population and ensuring food and nutrition security for all will depend on increasing food production. This, in turn, means ensuring the sustainable use of our most critical finite source - water," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message marking World Water Day.
The theme of this year's observance is water and food security. Today, nearly one billion people suffer from hunger and some 800 million still lack a safe supply of fresh water.
UN water and sanitation expert Catarina de Albuquerque urged countries to recognize the right to water and sanitation for all during the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development taking place in Rio de Janeiro in June.
In July 2010, 122 countries formally acknowledged the "right to water" in a resolution of the UN General Assembly. In September, 2010, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution recognizing that the human right to water and sanitation are a part of the right to an adequate standard of living.
Albuquerque said that countries cannot go back on their decision to support this right, as Canada and the United Kingdom are trying to do.
"Some states, including Canada and the United Kingdom, are apparently proposing the removal of an explicit reference to the right to water and sanitation for all from the first draft of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development outcome document," Albuquerque warned. "We should be marking World Water Day with progress, not debating semantics and certainly not back-tracking on these issues."
In honor of World Water Day, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is hosting a series of events at its headquarters in Rome - discussions on improving water management, reducing food and water waste, and building up communities' resilience to climate change.
The UN Environment Programme is among the 15 partners involved in a sustainable development initiative in Haiti with a 20-year vision focused on achieving large-scale lasting change in the island nation's South Department - the Côte Sud Initiative.
Speaking from Port Salut on World Water Day, UNEP's Haiti Country Programme Manager Antonio Perera said the new monitoring system, a first for the region, is vitally important in the development of accurate early warning systems for watershed residents.