The Holy See
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Mr Jacques Diouf,

On the occasion of today's celebration of World Water Day, His Holiness Benedict XVI charges me to convey to you, Mr Director General, and to all the participants at this meeting respectful and cordial greetings and encouragement for your action in favour of those in the world who are suffering from a shortage of water.

In the context of the Decade 2005/ 2015, which the General Assembly of the United Nations has declared "The International Decade of Action: Water for life", this year's theme: Coping with water scarcity, gives us an opportunity to think about the importance of water as a source of life whose availability is essential for the vital cycles of the earth and fundamental for a fully human existence.

We are all aware of the difficulty of achieving at a world level the goal fixed by the international community to halve the number of people who are without access to healthy water and basic hygiene services by 2015, through the development, among other things, of integrated management plans and an efficient use of water resources.

However, we are likewise all convinced of the importance of not falling short of these goals, given the centrality of water in any process destined to foster the promotion of an integral human development.

Furthermore, appropriate investments in the sector of water and hygiene services represent a significant mechanism for accelerating economic growth and sustainable development, for improving human health and hygiene, for uprooting poverty and for combating the degradation of the environment.

Water, a common good of the human family, constitutes an essential element for life; the management of this precious resource must enable all to have access to it, especially those who live in conditions of poverty, and must guarantee the liveability of the planet for both the present and future generations.

Access to water is in fact one of the inalienable rights of every human being, because it is a prerequisite for the realization of the majority of the other human rights, such as the rights to life, to food and to health.

For this reason, water "cannot be treated as just another commodity among many, and it must be used rationally and in solidarity with others.... The right to water... finds its basis in human dignity and not in any kind of merely quantitative assessment that considers water as a merely economic good. Without water, life is threatened. Therefore, the right to safe drinking water is a universal and inalienable right" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 485).

World Water Day is a precious opportunity to encourage the international community to identify effective ways to permit this basic human right to be promoted, protected and enjoyed.
In this regard, the sustainable management of water becomes a social, economic, environmental and ethical challenge that involves not only institutions but the whole of society.

It should be faced in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, that is, through the adoption of a participatory approach that involves both the private sector and above all the local communities; the principle of solidarity, a fundamental pillar of international cooperation, which requires a preferential attention to the poor; the principle of responsibility to the present generation and those to come, from which derives the consequent need to re-examine the models of consumption and production, often unsustainable with regard to the use of water resources.

It is in addition a responsibility that must be shared and that becomes a moral and political imperative in a world that has levels of know-how and technologies that are capable of putting an end to situations of water scarcity and to their dramatic consequences that affect in particular the regions with a lower income, in which access to water can often spark real conflicts, whereas it can become a motive for interregional cooperation wherever people appreciate a farsighted approach founded on hydrological interdependence that binds those who use the water resource in neighbouring countries in a joint agreement.

These are aspects, Mr Director General, that not only demand the responsibility of government leaders and politicians, but that challenge every individual. We are all called to renew our life-styles with an educational effort that can reassign to this common good of humanity the value and respect that it ought to have in our society.

Moreover, an educational effort of this kind could draw from many sacred texts of the traditional religions, such as the Bible, where water is symbolically a source and a sign of life and its presence is often associated with joy and fertility, assuming in addition a role of purification, renewal and rebirth.

On this World Water Day, the Holy Father invokes the Lord's Blessings on all those who are committed to reaching the goals concerning water that have been set by the international community. Mr Director General, I am honoured to convey to you this Message from His Holiness and ask you to accept the expression of my highest esteem.

From the Vatican, 22 March 2007

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State of His Holiness