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Holy See Urges Access to Safe Water for All

“The world’s water challenges are not just technical, economic, political and social issues, but ethical ones as well.”

“The Holy See has always emphasized that the quality of water available to the poor is a particularly serious problem,” according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. “Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by micro-organisms and chemical substances.”

The archbishop’s statement came March 23, 2018, during the High-Level Launch Event of the “International Decade for Action: ‘Water for Sustainable Development’” at the United Nations in New York.

In his intervention, Archbishop Auza focused attention on the quality of water available to the poor, since unsafe water results in death and the spread of water-related diseases. Pope Francis, he said, has emphasized that access to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right and a condition for the exercise of other human rights. As such, there must be increased funding to ensure universal access to basic water and sanitation, efforts to reduce waste and inappropriate consumption, and increased education and awareness.

Archbishop Auza mentioned the projects supported by the Holy See, like the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, that provide safe drinking water for the poor, fight against desertification, pump water, train technical personnel, and develop agricultural units. The world’s water challenges are not just technical, economic, political and social issues, but ethical ones as well, requiring what Pope Francis called an “ecological conversion” to a culture of care and solidarity.

His intervention follows.

Mr. President,

My Delegation wishes to thank you for convening this high-level event and welcomes the opportunity to share its perspective on the questions related to water in view of the 2018-2028 International Decade for Action, entitled “Water for Sustainable Development,” which is being launched today.

The Holy See has always emphasized that the quality of water available to the poor is a particularly serious problem. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by micro-organisms and chemical substances.

During the last few years, the very preventable diseases of dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, have caused thousands of deaths and are a significant cause of infant mortality.

In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, Pope Francis notes that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. The world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”[1]

Mr. President,

Water is a scarce and indispensable resource and a fundamental right that conditions the exercise of other human rights This indisputable fact must be at the forefront in considering priorities in the allocation and use of water. It also calls for reducing waste and inappropriate consumption, increasing funding to ensure universal access to basic water and sanitation, and raising awareness and understanding about the connection between life and water.

The Holy See actively promotes projects that provide safe drinking water for the poor. The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, for example, annually allocates significant resources to assist communities where water is scarce or non-existent. The Foundation carries out projects aimed at anti-desertification, water pumping, the development of agricultural units and training technical personnel to serve their communities. It also promotes social cohesion and religious harmony among individuals and communities benefiting from water projects.

Mr. President,

The world’s water challenges are technical, economic, political, and social, but ultimately they are ethical and moral issues as well. For this reason, the water crisis is also a summons to profound “ecological conversion,”[2] manifested in 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 live healthy and dignified lives.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 30.
2. Idem. 216.

Copyright © 2018 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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