22 March 2012: World Water Day
At the start of the 21st century 900 million people – around one seventh of the world population – lack access to clean potable water. Some 2.5 billion are without basic sanitation facilities.
Water scarcity and poor water quality are among the chief causes of poverty, disease and environmental degradation. In the face of world population growth, increasing urbanisation and industrialisation and emerging climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide and maintain adequate water supplies.
One of the targets of the seventh Millennium Development Goal (Ensure environmental sustainability) is to "halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation".
This goal will not be met unless present progress on water and sanitation services and water resource management is significantly stepped up. Improved water and sanitation services are, moreover, key to the attainment of other Millennium Development Goals – such as food security, poverty reduction, health, environmental protection and also gender equality, since many girls are unable to go to school either because they are needed to fetch water or because the school has no sanitation facilities.
In 2008 the UN Human Rights Council adopted the first resolution on the right to water and sanitation (Resolution 7/22), as a result of a joint initiative by Germany and Spain. The resolution established the mandate for an Independent Expert on this human right. His task is to contribute to the clarification of the legal obligations related to this issue and to identify best practices. Germany supports the work of the Independent Expert in substance, financially and by supporting relevant resolutions. The most recent resolution in the UN Human Rights Council was sponsored by Germany in September 2011 and received support from 66 states from all regions. The resolution calls for comprehensive plans and strategies meeting all human rights standards in order to ensure the full implementation of the right to water and sanitation.
The United Nations has proclaimed 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action – Water for Life. Germany is supporting this by promoting the activities of UN Water. The General Assembly in 2010 adopted a resolution on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (A/RES/64/292), which regognized the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. Germany has been one of the main supporters of that initiative.
Internationally, Germany is one of the three largest bilateral donors in the water sector. Each year the German government spends around 350 million euros on programmes and projects in this field. Water is a priority area of German development cooperation in 28 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. Germany's ongoing development cooperation projects are helping some 80 million people worldwide to benefit from improvements to their water and sanitation services. Around 40 per cent of the funds are spent on sewage disposal and basic sanitation services.
Germany further plays a leading role in promoting water for peace through its support to transboundary cooperation, institutions and initiatives such as the Petersberg and Berlin process. Ongoing activities include UN ESCWA and ACSAD in the Middle East and support by technical advisors to the Mekong River Commission in Southeast Asia. It has just recently organized a Conference on water diplomacy in Central Asia.