Blue Peace Voices > Sharing water in the age of green water politics: a new global perspective
Water pollution
water pollution
Tags: common bluepeace

The world’s leading actors on water gathered in Tajikistan in June for the third International High-Level Conference of the Dushanbe Water Process, seeking to galvanize urgently needed international action on the world’s water crisis. In years to come, we may look back on this as a milestone in one of the most important processes in international environmental diplomacy.

Not a day goes by without another news headline on an unprecedented water-related disaster somewhere in the world. Too much, too little and polluted waters batter our environments, economies and societies, and climate change only makes this worse. We must better understand and address these interdependencies and value water as the lever for change, the catalyst for impact and the connector an convenor for collaboration. The Water Action Decade, which began in 2018, intends to propel the need for water action to the top of the world’s agenda. Last year’s UN 2023 Water Conference marked a turning point for the world’s awareness of the crisis. Now, with only four years left, concrete action is overdue.

We all know, we can no longer manage our water resources as if they are stable; under growing pressures from human activities, the hydrological cycle is increasingly out of balance - within countries, across regions, and on the global scale. The key to understanding why water-related extremes have become the norm lies in recognizing where our water comes from.

Currently, the way we measure water-stress is by looking at how much freshwater is available to meet our demands. This “blue” water – the water in lakes, streams, rivers – does not account for the freshwater that is held as moisture in soils and as vapor in the air. Air condenses in rains that feed our rivers and our soil where water slowly returns to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration from vegetation. This “green” water constitutes about 60% or all rain on land, yet it is essentially invisible in the calculations of policymakers, financiers and business leaders. Ignoring this critical component not only puts water security at risk, with this we undermine all sectors in society and the foundation for an equitable and sustainable future for all. Water is too often taken for granted, yet it underpins all economic and human activity from health to food to energy, cities and infrastructure.

To focus the world’s attention on the importance of water for our economies, the Global Commission on the Economics of Water is providing the evidence-base to address policy gaps from the local to the global level. The Commission argues that the water cycle connects us all, that it is a shared good and that our collective mission must be to restore and protect it together, leaving no one behind.

Restoring and protecting the global hydrological cycle and securing the human right to water and sanitation is a global obligation we must agree upon, for all people and generations, our economies and environments, from the acknowledgement that our actions in one place have impacts elsewhere.

However, we cannot take meaningful and transformational action while water lacks a dedicated policy framework, cross-cutting agreements, or a prominent place on the global governance agenda. Water has no home at the UN, not in policy, agreements, or agenda, not institutionally or in capacity, not with the Member States and not through the UN system.

In a world wrought with overlapping crises that demand our collective attention, policy makers’ toolkits are missing the critical instruments and scaffolding required to achieve the SDGs. The time is now to build an institutional home, establish a clear agenda, a structured process, and strong leadership for water if there is any hope to hit any target under the Paris Agreement or Sustainable Development Goals.

The Dushanbe Water Process takes place at a critical juncture for the international water action agenda. The conference Declaration called for strengthened leadership, better governance and urgent delivery of UN Water Decade commitments, to counter worsening impacts, shaping the ambition towards the crucial third UN Water Conference in 2026. It is time for the world to stop fooling around and step up, act decisively together on water at the local to global level and embrace the responsibilities for collective action mitigating water disasters and ensuring a water secure world for all.