In global diplomacy, the key ingredient in maintaining peaceful relations is interdependence on valuable resources. For most,  oil and natural gas are the first economic resources to come to mind. With economic prosperity and financial assistance carefully balancing on free trade and relatively unfettered access, each actor has an interest in making resources readily available. In modernity, however, a seemingly plentiful resource, one which many of us do not fully appreciate, is liquid gold for far too many people. The global water crisis remains for many a matter of life and death.

According to 2012 Millennium Global Development report, 783 million people, constituting 11% of the global population, lack adequate accessibility to a clean water source. The issue of water access 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 established an 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% to 89%. With roughly two 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%.

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% of the individual’s income, and cannot be sourced further than 1000 feet from home.

Despite these goals, millions remain without clean water. With over 40% of the water insecure living in Sub-Saharan Africa, the final 11% reduction will focus principally on underdeveloped regions.

– Thomas van der List

Sources: United Nations
Photo: Copenhagen Consensus Center