Expert Voices Vol 25, No. 03 - March 2021

Nicolas Franke, Sustainable Development Officer at UN DESA

What does water mean to you?

A chemical substance? A life-giving force? A human right? A commodity? Water means different things to different people. As we prepare to celebrate World Water Day on 22nd March, we talk about the value of water with Nicolas Franke, Sustainable Development Officer at UN DESA.

In December 2020, a world’s first futures market in water was created on Wall Street, meaning that water can now be traded by financiers like gold or oil. Has the world entered a water crisis? How can we stop it?

“Many countries face water crises every year, either through drought, floods and/or contamination. We have all seen them on social media. As a matter of fact, almost one-third of the world’s population live in water-stressed countries and we foresee the numbers to increase due to climate change and unsustainable water resources management.

The less predictable a resource becomes, the more valuable it gets, and Wall Street has recognized that. But should the futures market trade with a resource that is a human right? People should better understand the value water has in their life and act to prevent future water-related crises.”

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is valuing water. Why this theme and what does it mean?

“The idea behind the theme is to generate a global, public conversation on how people value water for all its uses. The aim is to better understand what water means to us and all the different ways water benefits our lives, so we can value water properly and safeguard it effectively for everyone.

The value of water is about much more than its price – water has an enormous and complex value for our households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource.”

We are in the third year of the Water Action Decade and last year saw the launch of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework. What do these initiatives hope to achieve and how?

“The Water Action Decade aims to accelerate efforts towards meeting water-related challenges. During the decade, the international community sets out to advance sustainable management of water resources, energize existing programmes and projects, and inspire action to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

The SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework was launched by UN-Water members, including UN DESA, to improve support to national progress on sustainable water management in five identified crucial areas: optimize financing, improve data and information, build capacity, scale-up innovation and improve governance.”

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