World Water Day 2020

Two years before his death, Francis of Assisi wrote the ‘Canticle of the Creation’, praying tribute to the diversity yet interconnectedness he had come to see in the world around him. This song, which would inspire Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, praises water as “so useful, lowly, precious and pure.” In this contradiction he recognized water as a resource that is both a daily commodity and fundamental to sustain all life which must be protected and preserved.
The year 2020 present a milestone in international efforts reflecting this realization. Ten years ago, the UN General Assembly affirmed access to safe water and sanitation as a “human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life.” To mark this anniversary, the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation has launched a campaign to share challenges and achievements, but also to offer avenues of action for those who want to help promote the right to water.
On World Water Day 2020, the fulfillment of the right to water remains a distant reality for many, as over 2 billion people worldwide still rely on polluted sources. With the climate crisis taking its toll, half of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions in just five years. In the spirit of Francis as the patron saint of ecology and his deep concern for the marginalized in society, promoting water as not merely a natural resource or commodity but as a fundamental human right to which all people are entitled without discrimination has been a core element of Franciscans International’s advocacy work for decades.

When the United Nations set out to formulate the Sustainable Development Goals, FI was one of the leading civil society voices promoting the inclusion of a specific goal on water. Since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, we have continued to connect the dots between human rights and sustainable development, and we have urged States to address inequality and discrimination when developing water policies.

On this issue, FI has also served as a bridge between experiences and challenges at the grassroots and international efforts at the United Nations. For example, elaborating on the General Assembly’s declaration, we published a practical guide in 2011 that helps Franciscans and others working at the grassroots to address the challenges of poverty and access to water. 

Similarly, FI has worked closely with the Special Rapporteur on water since the mandate was established, capitalizing on its deep roots in local communities. Throughout the years, FI has made sure that grassroot voices are heard by facilitating access, meetings, and sharing first-hand information of those whose right to water are being infringed. Together, we have also brought experts and activists to UN forums in Geneva and New York to speak on specific regional challenges and propose sustainable strategies to realize the right to water. 

On World Water Day, FI reiterates its call to realize access to safe water for everyone. We look forward to continuing to support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on water as we work to ensure that nobody is left behind in these efforts.