Focus on Water

Micah Castelo, a Notre Dame of Maryland University student who is a member of the SSND delegation at the UN-CSW, asks a question during one of the sessions. Panels and workshops attended by the SSND participants on Tuesday included: Defense of Land and Water: Economic Empowerment for Indigenous Women; Countering Xenophobia: The Social Economic Contributions of Migrant Women; Eliminating Barriers to Women’s Economic Advancement in Sport; Expanding Women’s and Adolescents’ Health: Integrating Noncommunicable Diseases through a Lifecourse Approach; and Youth Action to End Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

March 21, 2017

Defense of Land and Water panelists (from left) Sejal Dand. with the office of the Commissioners to the Supreme Court in the Right to Food, and Nicolas Franke, associate expert in water policy at the United Nations.

Defense of Land and Water

The importance of rights to land for livelihoods includes rights over land, water, forests, seeds, capital and commons – areas that members of a community have the right to use and share for their benefit, said panelists who discussed the Defense of Land and Water.

Nicolas Franke, associate expert in water policy at the United Nations, shared water statistics that illustrate the importance of a human rights approach to sustainability and water. For instance:

  • Two-thirds of the global population live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least once a month.
  • One-third of the global population live in areas with water pollution.
  • More than 80 percent of the used water worldwide is not collected or treated.
  • The total water footprint of the average consumer in the world is 1,004 gallons a day; yet, only 3.8 percent of that is for home use.
  • UNICEF estimates that more than 50 percent of the world’s schools have no access to drinking water or sanitation.
  • Approximately 3.5 million people die each year due to inadequate water supplies, sanitation and hygiene.
  • An estimated 5,000 children die each day from water or sanitation related causes, which computes to four deaths a minute.

Water ties to other SDGs

Clean Water and Sanitation is Sustainable Development Goal #6, and it is closely linked to so many of the other goals, Franke said. For instance, responsible consumption and production (SDG # 12) leads to improved freshwater ecosystems (SDG #15 – Life on Land), which leads to safe drinking water sources (SDG #6). Likewise, access to drinking water, sanitation and health (SDG #6) leads to healthy children (SDG #3 – Good Health and Wellbeing), which results in improved school attendance (SDG #4 – Quality Education).

“It’s not sufficient to only look into safe drinking water,” Franke said. “We need a more holistic approach. We need an integrated water approach because every action has an impact on water.”