March 22, 2017
Water for Sustainable Development

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations

“International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development”
First dialogue to discuss improving the integration and coordination
of the work of the UN on the water-related goals and targets under its sustainable development pillar

New York, March 22, 2017


Distinguished Co-Moderators,

My delegation wishes to thank you for having prepared this working level dialogue and welcomes the opportunity to share its perspective on the questions related to water, also in view of the 2018-2028 International Decade for Action , “Water for Sustainable Development.”

Today in the Vatican more than 400 water experts and grassroots advocates from all over the world have gathered to discuss replenishing water values for a thirsty world. His Holiness Pope Francis gave a message that said that the meeting was an important step in the common commitment of various institutions to increase awareness of the necessity of protecting water as a good for all, and underlined also the cultural and religious value of water.

Questions concerning the right to water are not marginal, but basic and pressing: basic, because where there is no water there is no life; and pressing, because there is urgency to protect and care better for our common home.

Not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality. Every day, water-borne diseases, like dysentery and cholera, remain a leading cause of death, especially among infants and children. Every day, millions of people imbibe polluted water, making them sick and pushing them ever deeper into extreme poverty. Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and a condition for sustainable development. Thus, it needs to be put front and center in public policy, in particular in programs to lift people out of poverty.

Inherent in the basic right to water is the equally basic responsibility to care for and share this life-sustaining resource. As Pope Francis affirmed a month ago[1], our right to water is also a duty regarding water, including the duty of every State to implement, also through juridical instruments, policies concerning the need for a secure supply of drinking water.

Competition for water can be very destabilizing, in particular where vital aquatic sources cross national boundaries, like rivers running through several countries and lakes territorially shared by several States. The implications of water for national, regional and international peace and security can hardly be overstated. Indeed, water experts and advocates ominously predict that the Third World War will be about water. When he visited the Food and Agricultural Organization in 2014, Pope Francis said: “Water is not free, as we so often think. It is a grave problem that can lead to war.”[2] Thus, rather than causing conflict, the need for water sharing should be an opportunity for cross-border cooperation and greater efforts toward adopting binding instruments to ensure stable and predictable transnational relations.

Moreover, non-state actors, and each one of us, are called to assume our responsibilities in this field so decisive for present and future generations, indeed, for the future of humanity. Rather than remaining indifferent to the water-related challenges we face, we must develop a culture of care and solidarity, making our common home a more habitable and fraternal place, where no one is left behind and all are able to eat, drink, live healthy lives and grow in accordance with their dignity.

Thank you, Co-Moderators.

1. Pope Francis, Address to the Participants in the Fourth Workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled “The Human Right to Water: An Interdisciplinary Focus and Contributions on the Central Role of Public Policies in Water and Sanitation Management”, Vatican City, 24 February 2017.
2. Pope Francis, Greeting to the Staff of FAO, 20 November 2014.