On World Water Day, we remember how much access to sufficient, safe, drinkable, physically accessible and affordable water is precondition for a decent life. The fundamental human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation apply to every human being and are fully recognised and backed by the EU in its diplomatic efforts and development policy.
Yet 2.1 billion people across the globe lack access to drinking water and 340,000 children under five die annually from unsafe drinking water and diarrhoea due to poor sanitation. Too many women and children still have to walk kilometres in inhumane conditions to access drinking water sources in some parts of the world.
Rising tensions and conflicts because of access and utilisation of water, increasing threats of water scarcity and a remaining poor water quality have the potential to affect peace and security in several regions. The need to collectively address the water-related consequences of climate change and the conflicts around the appropriation and overexploitation of water resources is therefore a major challenge of our time.
Promoting transboundary water cooperation at all levels is the most efficient mean to ensure peace and dialogue. This is why the EU decided to step up its engagement on water diplomacy last year. The adoption of a new approach towards our policies on water, tackling the growing challenges of climate change and taking into account EU's global commitments to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the European Consensus on Development was of utmost importance to frame EU's action among the different multilateral initiatives.
The universal access to water and sanitation is also a longstanding core element of EU’s development cooperation. Over the last decade we have spent more than €2.5 billion on water and sanitation in 62 countries, mainly in the African, Caribbean, Pacific countries as well as in our neighborhood. In many of these countries, we implement projects thanks to the strong cooperation with our UN partners – UNICEF, UNESCO and UNECE – and international financing institutions such as the World Bank.
Strongly opposed to the use of water as a weapon of war, the EU will pursue its tireless work to prevent and resolve conflicts, contributing to the equitable, sustainable and integrated management of water resources, and to promote resilience to climate change and other impacts on water. The EU believes that the universal ratification and consequent implementation of international conventions such as the UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Water courses and International Lakes, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses are vital for the peaceful management of transboundary water resources.
Only through cooperation and in partnership with our Member States, international and regional organisations, the private sector as well as civil society and human rights defenders, we can achieve progress and ensure universal access to water for personal and domestic use and to enhance the potential of water as a tool to encourage sustainable peace.