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Celebrating water for life: The International Decade for Action 2005-2015: Previous page | 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13

International Decade for Action: Water for Life 2005–2015


In many parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, people take it for granted to turn on a tap for safe and clean water to drink, to cook, to wash — yet, more than 1 billion of our fellow human beings have little choice but to use potentially harmful sources of water. Each year, March 22 — World Water Day — marks a permanent effort to promote access to safe drinking-water and sanitation. It is a springboard for raising awareness about water, stimulating debate and focusing on the dangers that derive from inadequate access to safe water and basic sanitation.

The 10-year period of 2005–2015 will be critical: the time has come for intensifying advocacy efforts and action on the ground. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed this period as the UN International Decade for Action Water for Life 2005–2015, starting on 22 March, World Water Day 2005. The Water for Life Decade gives the world’s goals “a greater focus on water-related issues, while striving to ensure the participation of women in water-related development efforts, and further cooperation at all levels".1

The good news is that, with 83% coverage in 2002, the world as a whole is on track to meet the MDG target for safe drinking-water. The news is tempered, however, by slow progress in sub-Saharan Africa and stalled action on sanitation in most developing countries. In 2002, an estimated 2.6 billion people were without even basic sanitation facilities. In a broader perspective, the achievement of all of the MDGs will crucially depend on sound water resources development and management linked to health (water supply and sanitation, irrigated agricultural production), livelihoods (reliance products and services of aquatic ecosystems, hydropower generation) and vulnerability (protection against the impacts of floods and droughts).

The Decade offers an opportunity for revitalizing political commitment, but it also provides a unique chance to launch a provocative worldwide advocacy effort to catalyse greater public participation in the Water For Life global campaign. Thus, it is worthwhile to reflect on the following questions:

How many people know that, in 2002:

  • 1.1 billion people lacked access to improved water sources (tap water in the house or yard from public distribution systems, protected wells and springs, public stand posts, rain water collection), which represented 17% of the global population.
  • 2.6 billion (42% of the world population) lacked access to basic sanitation.
  • Of the 1.1 billion without access to improved water sources, nearly two thirds live in Asia.
  • 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera); 90% are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.
  • 80% of the population without access to drinking-water were rural dwellers, but future population growth will be mainly urban.

Based on current and emerging priorities, the overall objectives of the UN International Decade for Action Water for Life 2005–2015 (which include the campaign elements/messages of World Water Day 2005) are:

  • to infuse a sense of urgency and ensure acceleration of effort by all stakeholders in order to meet the 2015 MDG water and sanitation targets;
  • to promote greater awareness of the broader picture of how Integrated Water Resources Development and Management critically underpins the efforts to achieve all of the MDGs, not only Target 10.
  • To catalyse and scale-up the participation of civil society towards building greater societal commitment for the Water for Life effort.

1 In order to achieve water-related goals of the MDGs, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit for Sustainable Development and Agenda 21.

Celebrating water for life: The International Decade for Action 2005-2015: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 | Next page


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