Access to Water Seen as a Factor for Peace

Holy See Presents Updated Document at a World Forum

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2006 ( The Holy See, insisting that every human being has a right to access to water, presented that challenge as a “key factor for peace and security” in the world.

The Holy See affirmed this in a document it distributed at the 4th World Water Forum, under way in Mexico City through Wednesday.

The international meeting aims to raise public awareness about issues involving water, and to stimulate dialogue among various groups and nations that are looking to promote sustainable development.

The document, prepared by the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, updates a 2003 document, “Water, an Essential Element for Life.”

“Water is much more than just a basic human need,” says the text. “It is an essential, irreplaceable element to ensuring the continuance of life. Water is intrinsically linked to fundamental human rights such as the right to life, to food and to health.”

“Access to safe water is a basic human right,” it states, citing a message to the bishops of Brazil in 2004, in which Pope John Paul II wrote, “as a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival, thus everyone has a right to it.”

For the poor

The Holy See document says that defining access to safe water as a human right “is an important step in making this access a reality in the lives of many people living in poverty.”

It further recognizes that the “vital importance of water to humanity means also that it is a strategic factor for the establishment and maintenance of peace in the world.”

“Water is a dimension of what is referred to today as resource security,” the document continues. “Conflicts have already occurred for control over water resources and others may come center stage the more water scarcity manifests its consequences on the lives of human beings and their communities.” It cited two examples: the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

“To foster peace and an appropriate level of security in the current world situation,” the Holy See contends, “governments and international organizations will inevitably have to increase efforts to ensure that every person has access to safe water.”

The document observes that water governance and management is “a question of justice and responsibility.” It also recognizes: “There are particular ethical issues involved in water management decision-making.

“Perhaps the most controversial and contentious of these issues is water pricing. At present, people living in poverty often pay substantially more for access to safe water and sanitation than those more financially secure. The payment by the poor is not limited only to the financial realm. Many times they pay more also in terms of physical effort and in terms of their health.”

“Solutions for access to safe water and sanitation,” the document adds, “should express a preferential love and consideration for the poor.”

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