Water, an essential element for life

2012-03-14 Vatican Radio

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is reminding delegates at the World Water Forum to keep in mind that the right to water is the basis for the respect of many other fundamental human rights.

Leading the Vatican delegation to the 6th World Water Forum taking place in Marseille until 16th March, Flaminia Giovanelli, Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, says her concern is environmental and social as well as ethical and religious as water is a good that serves for the development of the whole person and of every person.

The main focus of the Water Forum is how to provide billions of poor people with clean water and decent sanitation as well as address the spiralling demands of the future.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is a regular participant at the World Water Forum which is organized every three years by the World Water Council. It brings together private and public representatives and relevant organizations around various issues related to water, and solutions to unmet challenges regarding water.

Giovanelli explained that the presence of the Vatican’s delegation at the Forum is rooted in its stance regarding the defence of the human being and of life, because - she says “without water there is no life”.

One of the aims of the forum, she explains, is to create a sensibility and to raise awareness regarding the issues of water.

She says that in previous forums the Council has especially been pushing for the recognition of the right to water as a fundamental human right, and she expresses satisfaction that this right has been fully recognised.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is currently preparing a document entitled “Water, an Essential Element for Life” which addresses key problems which governments and the international community have to face today at the social, political, economic and environmental level.

Giovanelli says the document aims to review and synthesize the three previous documents issued in similar occasions, and also to see “where we are with the question of water” and to stress “that there is a lot left to do even though there has been improvement especially in the sector of drinkable water”. She says there is still much to be tackled, especially as regards sanitation and health problems.

Giovanelli says she participated in a high level round table water for development in Africa meeting, which highlighted the work of a new organisation, the Council of Ministers of Water, which seems to be proving effective in Africa.

It is made up of all the African Ministers of Water and tackles a wide range of issues that are connected to water management.

She adds that another focus of the meeting was the link between the problem of water and energy. This she says is in preparation for the United Nations Earth Summit to be held in Rio De Janeiro next June.

Giovanelli says that during her own intervention at the Forum was well accepted. During the intervention she says she was also able to talk about the activity of the John Paul Foundation for the Sahel, an interesting initiative taken by Pope JPII in 1984 to aid a project to fight desertification in nine countries of the Sahel in Africa.

A strong message coming out of this meeting, Giovanelli says, is the urgency of the water question. “We have to act fast and help people especially on the health questions, but” - she continues – “it is also necessary to change a consumerist mentality and understand that it is also a question of justice not to exceed in the consumption of water”.

Giovanelli says other delegates are sometimes surprised to see it is a layperson and a woman who is representing the Holy See, but she says her intervention was well received.

She says she also received expressions of gratefulness from various African Ministers regarding the work done by missionaries in Africa to help with the question of water.

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