Press Releases

27 February 2002


NEW YORK, 26 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the World Day for Water, observed 22 March:

The theme of this year’s observance of World Day for Water -– "Water for Development" –- reflects the fundamental place of water in sustaining life and conserving the environment.

An estimated 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion people have no access to proper sanitation, and more than 5 million people die each year from water-related diseases –- 10 times the number killed in wars, on average, each year. All too often, water is treated as an infinite free good. Yet even where supplies are sufficient or plentiful, they are increasingly at risk from pollution and rising demand. By 2025, two thirds of the world’s population is likely to live in countries with moderate or severe water shortages. Fierce national competition over water resources has prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds of violent conflict.

But the water problems facing our world need not be only a cause of tension; they can also be a catalyst for cooperation. Two thirds of the world’s major rivers are shared by several States. More than 300 rivers cross national boundaries. Increasingly, countries with expertise in the management of watersheds and flood-plains, or with experience in efficient irrigation, are sharing that knowledge and technology with others. Scientists from many nations and disciplines are pooling their efforts, to assess the threat and in the hopes of bringing about a much-needed "blue revolution" in agricultural productivity. The organizations of the United Nations system, for their part, in addition to a vast array of operational projects are also preparing the first edition of the World Water Development Report.

Later this year, heads of State and government, non-governmental organizations, private sector representatives and many others will gather in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed next year the "International Year of Freshwater". Everyone has a stake in seizing these opportunities to chart a decisive course of action for meeting the Millennium Development Goals on access to freshwater. If we work together, a secure and sustainable water future can be ours.

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