Note to the press

Note No. 238
18 March 2003



VIENNA, 18 March (UN Information Service) -- On a suggestion of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, the General Assembly designated 22 March as World Water Day. The observance aims at promoting awareness of the extent that water resource development contributes to economic productivity and social wellbeing. The UN also uses the Day to urge member states’ increasing efforts to achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015: to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. This year, the 10th World Water Day coincides with celebrations marking 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, though especially celebrated all around the world.

"Water for the Future"

The goal for World Water Day 2003 is to inspire worldwide political and community action, and encourage a greater global understanding of the need for more responsible water-use and conservation. The theme for this year’s event is "Water for the Future". It calls on each and every one of us to observe sustainable approaches to water use for the benefit of future generations.

Events around World Water Day

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is co-ordinating the activities of the UN family for the Day. On the advent of World Water Day the United Nations released the first edition of the World Water Development Report, the result of a joint project involving 23 UN agencies that provides a comprehensive view of today’s water problems and offers wide-ranging recommendations to meet future water demand. The report has been launched at the Third World Water Forum, a major international meeting, held from 16 to 23 March in Kyoto, Japan. The World Water Day is observed in Vienna on 20 March with the Presentation Ceremony of the NEPTUNE Water Award at the Austrian National Library. The Austrian Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management together with the Austrian Environment Association is officially launching the International Year of Freshwater with "Aquavisions", an international symposium. The Symposium is to be held from 20 to 21 March at the Austrian National Library. Other activities will take place all over the world on a local and international level.

World Water Development Report - Water for People and Water for Life

The World Water Development Report is the first UN-wide evaluation of global water resources. All 23 UN agencies and commissions dealing with water have for the first time worked jointly to monitor progress against water-related targets in such fields as health, food, ecosystems, cities, industry, energy, risk-management, economic evaluation, resource-sharing and governance.

"Of all social and natural crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet earth," says UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. Despite the widely-available evidence of the crisis, political commitment to reverse these trends has been lacking. Several conferences in the past 25 years have focussed on water issues and several targets have been set to improve water management but hardly any have been met, says the report. Many countries and territories are already in a state of crisis, and by the middle of this century at the worst seven billion people in 60 countries will be faced with water scarcity. Indeed the water crisis is set to worsen despite continuing debate over the very existence of such a crisis.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s message on World Water Day 2003

The human community should be linked in a common effort to protect, share water equitably, sustainably, peacefully, says Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Freshwater is essential for healthy ecosystems, for sustainable development and for human survival itself. Yet, too often, in too many places, water is wasted, tainted, and taken for granted. If current trends continue, two out of every three people on earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in a little more than two decades from now. Overwhelmingly, it is the poor in developing countries who suffer the most. This is a social, economic, environmental and political crisis that should be among the world community’s highest priority. A "blue revolution" is strongly needed to improve management of this vital resource.

* *** *

All press releases issued in Vienna can be viewed in their entirety on the
UNIS homepage: