Pope Francis this week stressed the importance of clean water in the lives of people, saying access to safe water is linked with the inalienable right to life.
“The right to drinking water and sanitation is closely linked to the right to life, which is rooted in the inalienable dignity of the human person and constitutes a condition for the exercise of other human rights,” said the pope in his message to the 9th World Water Forum in Senegal this week.
The international event carries the theme “Water security for peace and development” and aims to accelerate the effective implementation of the global water agenda, which is a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In his message, Pope Francis pointed out that “water security today is threatened by a variety of factors, including pollution, conflict, climate change and the abuse of natural resources.”
“Yet, water is a precious asset for peace,” he said. “As such, it cannot be considered simply as a private good, generating commercial profits and subject to the laws of the market.”
“Our world is thirsty for peace, for this indivisible good which requires the effort and constant contribution of everyone and which is based, in particular, on the fulfilment of the essential and vital needs of every human being,” said the pontiff.
He said access to water and sanitation is a “primary, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people.”
He said the world owes “a grave social debt to the poor who do not have access to safe drinking water.”
Pope Francis pointed out that the world also owes a debt to all those for whom traditional sources of drinking water have been polluted to the point of being unsafe, destroyed by weapons and rendered unusable, or dried up as a result of poor forest management.
He said the fact that more than two billion people are deprived of access to clean water and sanitation is an invitation to all to think of “all the concrete consequences this can have, especially for patients in health centers, for women in labor, for prisoners, refugees and displaced persons.”
The Church leader appealed to all political and economic leaders to direct research, financing, education and the exploitation of natural resources and water to serve the common good with dignity, determination, integrity and in a spirit of cooperation.
“Water is a gift from God and a common heritage that should be universally used for each generation,” said Pope Francis.
The pope said well-functioning mechanisms for cooperation on transboundary waters are an important element of peace and prevention of armed conflict.
Pope Francis assured the participants of this week’s gathering of his prayer that the meeting will be an opportunity to work together for the realization of the right to drinking water and sanitation for all.