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Statement by President Michael D. Higgins on UN World Water Day 2023

Date: Wed 22nd Mar, 2023 | 10:00

“World Water Day is an important opportunity for us to remind ourselves of the vital importance of clean water and sanitation for our health, our environment and our planet’s future.

The theme for this year's World Water Day, "Accelerating Change", and the three-day UN Water Conference starting today in New York, highlight the need for urgent action to be taken if we are to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 – ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Water is essential to life. It sustains us, it nourishes us, and it provides the foundation for healthy communities and thriving, sustainable economies. However, despite its abundance on our planet, access to clean and safe water remains a challenge for far too many people around the world, including in our own country.

Dysfunction throughout the water cycle is not just an environmental concern, it is a serious social and economic problem, undermining progress on all major global issues, including health, hunger, gender equality, jobs, education, sustainability and peace.

The United Nations estimates that, at present, more than two billion people across the planet lack access to safe drinking water. How shameful it is that in so many countries, debt repayments have to be prioritised over investment in essential infrastructure, such as water infrastructure, resulting in human rights to water and sanitation remaining unfulfilled.

The UN have further warned that meeting drinking water sanitation and hygiene targets by 2030 requires a fourfold increase in the current pace of progress. At current rates, by that year, 1.6 billion people will still lack safely managed water, 2.8 billion will still lack safely managed sanitation and 1.9 billion will still lack basic hand hygiene facilities. This should not be acceptable.

On this World Water Day 2023, we must recognise that we belong to a greater family of global citizens and commit to accelerating change to more sustainable uses of water. Together, by confronting this great global challenge, we can create a world where every person has access to safe and clean water and adequate sanitation, and where our shared resources are protected from pollution, overuse, and climate change, and valued for the benefit of all.

This is not only our obligation, but a vital investment in our shared future.”