In global diplomacy, the key ingredient in maintaining peaceful relations is interdependence on valuable resources. For most, economic resources such as oil and natural gas are the first to come to mind. With economic prosperity and financial assistance carefully balancing on free trade and relatively unfettered access, each international actor has an interest in resources availability.
In modernity, however, a seemingly plentiful resource, one that many of us don’t fully appreciate, is liquid gold for far too many people. While soft regulations have caused mild discomfort for the richer nations, the global water crisis remains for many a matter of life and death.
We have all felt the feeling of thirst; it is not uncommon. Fortunately for many of us, the solution for thirst is no further than a trip to a nearby fountain or faucet. Quite a few of us have felt this thirst turn into dehydration. Now imagine having to consider the cost of getting ill from an unkempt water supply versus the cost of further dehydration? Sadly, this is a reality with which millions have to live each and every day.
According to the 2012 Millennium Global Development report, 783 million people, constituting 11 percent of the global population, lack adequate accessibility to a clean water source. Undeniably, the issue of water access, suitable to basic human needs, is nothing new. Where there are growing populations, particularly where development is stunted, the infrastructure to meet these needs simply does not exist.
To meet this inadequacy, the global community has met the challenge with the explicit goal of alleviating the strain. The UN reports that “the United Nations Water Conference (1977), the International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990), the International Conference on Water and the Environment (1992), and the Earth Summit (1992)–all focused on this vital resource. The Decade, in particular, helped some 1.3 billion people in developing countries gain access to safe drinking water.”
As for the Millennium Development Goals, the UN is pleased to report that the world met water accessibility goals five years ahead of schedule. Between the years of 1990 and 2010, the proportion of people with access to an improved water source rose from 76 percent to 89 percent. With roughly 2 billion people now with access to improved water sources such as protected wells and pipes, where they otherwise would not have, the onus remains on the UN to further access to the remaining 11 percent.
To be sure, while efforts in providing access to improved water have dealt a blow to a parched earth, demand for water continues to skyrocket. With rising commercial and agricultural demand for water, the principal goal of providing individuals with the resource remains in tact.
On 28 July 2010, the UN general assembly passed Resolution 64/292, explicitly recognizing access to clean water (roughly 50-100 liters per person per day) as a human right. Moreover, the resolution makes clear that the water must cost no more than 3 percent of the individual’s income, and cannot be sourced further than 1000 feet from home. With this, the UN has an explicit responsibility to pursue these goals.
Despite these goals and the understanding that access is an inalienable human right, millions remain without clean water. With over 40 percent of the globe’s thirsty living in Sub-Saharan Africa, the final 11 percent reduction will focus principally on underdeveloped regions, which will not be an easy task.
– Thomas Van Der List