World water scarcity and the High Panel on water

With water availability being a global threat whose effects are visible today, the UN and World Bank Group seek to promote sustainable measures and tackle a coming water crisis. 

The High Level Panel on Water was announced in the World Economic Forum in Davos (January 2016), but in previous weeks it was launched,  bringing together ten world leaders as well as two special advisors to resolve the global water crisis amid warnings of water scarcity and by 2030.

It will be working on accelerating the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) which focuses on ensuring the availability and management of water and sanitation.

According to the UN an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in regions with water scarcity in the near future. By 2030 the world may face a 40% fall in water availability.

But today at least 663 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to improved sanitation. And up to 2 billion are estimated to be drinking contaminated water.

This conditions lead to at least 675 thousand premature deaths per year and cause economic losses of up to 7% of GDP in some countries.

The Panel is a joint collaboration between the World Bank Group and the United Nations.

“Ensuring water and sanitation for all is crucial for reducing poverty and achieving other Sustainable Development Goals,” said SG Ban Ki-moon.

Meanwhile, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “addressing this challenge, and ensuring that we can provide clean water and sanitation for all, requires the kind of global action, strong leadership and commitment shown by the members of the High Level Panel on Water.”

It will be co-chaired by President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and President Ameenah Gurib of Mauritius.

The other world leaders involved are Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; János Áder, President of Hungary; Abdullah Ensour, Prime Minister of Jordan; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; and Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.

The Special Advisors are Dr. Han Seung-soo, Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea and Mr. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of State for the Environment of Peru.

Among their plans they seek to promote efforts to mobilize financial resources and investment in SDG6 with innovative strategy's implementation and motivate effective action through focusing in public policy dialogue and civil society initiatives.

It is important to remark what Darceey O'Callaghan, International Policy Director at Food and Water Watch, told IPS, referring on how to address the water crisis.

“First, we must provide clean, safe, sufficient water to all people because water is a human right. Affordability is a key component of meeting this need. Second, we must protect water sustainability by not overdrawing watersheds beyond their natural recharge rate.”

She highlighted the importance of water remaining under public management, because water privatization has resulted in poor service, higher rates for consumers and degraded water quality. Also, profits being the priority over providing a basic need such as water and sanitation is a recipe for disaster.

As President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said, "we have a single opportunity to change the narrative of water into one that pursues a positive economic and social developmental path in a sustainable and equitable manner for all of humanity and the world."

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