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World Water Day: Germany to hold dialogue on overcoming global water crisis

On the occasion of World Water Day, the German Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, is calling on the international community to engage in a worldwide dialogue on the future of the water supply.

Svenja Schulze
German Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze

Current figures compiled by the United Nations make it clear that the international community will fail to meet the goal of sustainable water management for all, and that the world is heading towards a global water crisis.

The German government advocates a more ambitious and targeted contribution from the United Nations and has thus initiated the Water Dialogues for Results – Bonn 2021. This process will culminate in an international ministerial conference on July 1, 2021.

The objective is to agree on a harmonised approach to implementing the water targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On March 18, 2021, the United Nations General Assembly in New York held a high-level meeting on the topic with member states, international organisations and civil society.

Schulze commented: “When it comes to water, the international community is increasingly facing extreme situations. The demand for water is on the rise all over the world while climate change is causing longer drought periods in many regions. Almost one third of the global population still lacks access to clean drinking water. In light of this, we need a coordinated approach to prevent a global water crisis now more than ever.

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“We cannot survive without water. Without secure access to clean water, we will not be able to ensure good health care or protect natural landscapes that are rich in biodiversity. That is why we must act swiftly.”

Currently, 2.2 billion people have no regular access to clean drinking water and 4.2 billion people have no access to safe sanitation. This year’s World Water Day therefore focusses on sustainable management of water and sanitation for all as laid out in Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. This goal can only be achieved if a universal understanding for the true and multi-dimensional value of water is developed.

Economic growth and a growing global population cause a constant rise in demand for water. Over the past 100 years, worldwide water consumption has increased sixfold and continues to grow by about 1 percent every year. Climate change exacerbates uncertainties around availability and leads to more frequent occurrences of droughts and floods.

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More and more waterbodies and groundwater reserves are polluted and can only be used for supply through great efforts. Use conflicts and competition are on the rise and putting some groups of the population at a disadvantage regarding access to water and sanitation.

Against this background, the United Nations General Assembly declared a Water Action Decade (2018-2028) to promote initiatives to implement the water goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2023, a UN conference will carry out a midterm review of the Water Action Decade and the progress made towards implementing the goal. This is only the second conference dedicated specifically to water in the history of the UN, 46 years after the first.

On behalf of the German government, the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) is supporting the UN in organising the conference and has initiated the international Water Dialogues for Results. These dialogues will take place from February to July 2021 and include all member states of the United Nations from all regional groups as well as groups under the auspices of the United Nations (scientific & technological community, business and industry, local authorities, indigenous peoples, women and children and youth).

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A number of expert and regional platforms will gather information on what needs to be done at global level to secure a sustainable water supply and ensure the human right to water. The outcomes will flow into the Water Dialogues for Results – Bonn 2021, which will take place on July 1, 2021. This is one of the official preparatory conferences for the midterm review of the Water Action Decade. The aim of the German preparatory conference is to adopt concrete recommendations for action.

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