ROME, 23 MARCH – FAO hosted high level virtual event to mark World Water Day 2021 and QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization said: ”Water is an essential element of every aspect of development and safeguarding water means safeguarding humanity”. He called on all stakeholders to work together to safeguard water and widen access to this precious resource.
In his welcoming address, Qu described the gravity of the problem, saying that according to FAO’s 2020 State of Food and Agriculture report ”the lives of over a billion people are severely constrained by water scarcity or water shortages”. He added that, in the future, “population growth and changing diets will increase water needs, intensifying competition among water users”.
”We need the ingenuity of the private sector, the drive of civil society and the solidarity of the international community. We need to create synergy by joining hands and working together”, continued Qu.
In her opening address, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, said water was a valuable ‘blue gold’, adding that difficulties in accessing water can also be measured in terms of educational and economic losses. In his speech Gilbert F. Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and President of IFAD underscored that ”water is fundamental to life and livelihoods”, adding that we must take action to improve the management of water resources and accelerate progress if we are to meet SDG 6 by 2030.
The World Water Day virtual celebration included a special recorded message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis, in which he reiterated that water is a basic and universal human right, something that every human being without exception is entitled to, adding that it is crucial to act to improve access to water worldwide.
UN World Water Development Report 2021
The event also provided an opportunity to launch the UN World Water Development Report 2021, which annually provides an up-to-date overview of the current state of the world’s water. The FAO-led chapter on water use in food and agriculture highlights just how important water is for food security and nutrition. It has been shown that people who have better access to water tend to have lower levels of undernourishment, while lack of it can be a major cause of famine and undernourishment, especially in areas where people depend on local agriculture for food and income.
FAO’s work on water
In his speech, FAO Director-General stressed that intensifying water constraints threaten food security and nutrition. ”Challenges in access to water and increasing pollution are seen all along the food supply chain – including food processing – affecting food security, nutrition, health and ecosystem services, and posing major risks to vulnerable populations”.
He drew attention to FAO’s work on water and food security, including the partnership programme Global Framework on Water Scarcity (WASAG), which accelerates joint actions to cope with water scarcity in agriculture in a changing climate, and FAO’s recently launched Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, which contains a rich set of data to help strengthen evidence-based decision-making in the food and agriculture sectors. He also mentioned WaPOR, FAO’s portal to monitor Water Productivity through open-access of remotely sensed data, which assists countries in monitoring water productivity and finding solutions to reduce productivity gaps.