By Lisa Zengarini
“Water is not a commodity; it is a universal symbol and source of life and health. It is therefore necessary to ensure drinking water and hygienic services for all”, the Holy See says.
Speaking at an Interactive Dialogue on Water and Sanitation, organized in Geneva during the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council, Msgr John Putzer, chargé d’affaires of the Vatican Permanent Mission to the UN, reiterated that universal access to drinking water is “central to promoting the dignity of the human person” and has always been a priority for the Holy See. He was referring to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, which raises awareness of the gravity of the global water crisis that humanity is facing and which is aggravated by the financialization of water, climate change, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have widened the water gap
“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”, Msgr Putzer said quoting Pope Francis’ words. “Unfortunately – he noted – even in our age of progress and technological advances, “access to safe, drinkable water is not within everyone’s reach” and this “water gap is further aggravated by the harmful effects of climate change and the current health crisis”. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has widened existing social and economic inequalities, highlighting the damage caused by the absence or inefficiency of water services among those most in need.
Universal access to clean water an urgent priority and responsibility for all
“It has also underscored how interconnected the global community is”, Msgr Putzer added, emphasizing that universal access to clean water and sanitation “is not only an urgent priority”, given the need to reduce the risks of global health emergencies, but it is also “a grave responsibility shared by all”.
The need for a concerted and coordinated effort
Hence the need for a “concerted and coordinated effort on the part of all stakeholders to ensure that all people have access to clean and adequate water”, the Vatican representative concluded.