Annan calls for 'blue revolution' for global sharing of scarce freshwater

22 March 2003 – Marking World Water Day 2003, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a “blue revolution” of improved water management and sharing so that instead of igniting armed conflict, water scarcity and crises united the people of the world.

“It is often said that water crises and scarcities will at some point lead to armed conflict,” Mr. Annan said in a message delivered by Klaus Toepfer, Executive-Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to the Third World Water Forum currently underway in Kyoto, Japan. “But this need not be the case. Water problems have also been a catalyst for cooperation among peoples and nations.”

In his message, Mr. Annan noted that while poor countries overwhelmingly suffer the most – from a lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation – but countries with expertise in “drip irrigation” or the management of watersheds are beginning to share that knowledge and technology.

“Scientists, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, private businesses and international organizations are pooling their efforts in the hopes of bringing about a much needed 'blue revolution' and to improve management of this vital resource,” the Secretary-General said. “Whatever else divides the human community, whether we live upstream or downstream, in cities or in rural areas, water issues – the global water cycle itself – should link us in a common effort to protect and share it equitably, sustainably and peacefully.”

Warning that under present trends two out of every three people on Earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in little more than two decades, Mr. Annan said: “This year, the International Year of Freshwater, we must move from promises to practice, from commitments to concrete projects, from intent to implementation.”

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