Water Conference 2018



PROGRAMME [download PDF]







In 2015, Pope Francis’s encyclical letter Laudato si’ reviewed many of the challenges related to water and reaffirmed that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right”. A few months later, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were adopted by the UN; the first target of SDG 6 reads as follows: “By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”.

Indeed, in the last two decades, an increasingly strong emphasis on the access to water has marked the declarations and the activities of the international community, of many UN and governmental agencies, as well as of the civil society and of the Catholic Church.

Recent international summits and flagship publications have wisely underscored that drinkable water needs to be addressed in an interconnected and interdisciplinary approach. The following issues have been increasingly and justly encompassed in the discussions about water: culture, religions and spirituality; responsibility, governance, and due diligence at all levels; education and awareness raising; sustainability; role of local communities; data collection and sharing; quality and affordability. Indeed, too often in the past, the issue of water has been addressed excessively only through the lenses of infrastructure, investments, state-level policies, quantity, and peace and conflicts.

However, despite numerous proclamations and the related efforts, even though water policies are now much more articulated and holistic, the issue of drinkable water remains a top priority. This is because, flagrantly, it has still not been addressed with the sufficient ambition, consistency, determination and universality.

Some societies – because they live in areas where water availability and supply are obvious and taken for granted – demonstrate insufficient awareness and thus compassion about the lack of water experienced in other areas. Truly, lack of adequate access to drinkable water is a daily and terrifying reality for millions of people. At the planetary level, there are big gaps and inequalities in access to drinkable water and related services, such as sanitation and water related data. The World Health Organization observes: “Of the 2.1 billion people who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not have even a basic drinking water service. This includes 263 million people who have to spend over 30 minutes per trip collecting water from sources outside the home, and 159 million who still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes”. Moreover, at the national and international levels, water-action often echoes with fragmentation.

This said, beyond statistics and major international commitments, the simple fact that water is, and will remain always, an essential element for life deserves to be once more firmly affirmed. Access to water implies clear distinctions: between death and survival, and between survival and various levels of wellbeing.

The purpose of the Conference is threefold:

1. To review the global situation and assess the progress as well as the impasses and the failures in the fundamental task of supplying water to the thirsty.

2. To reiterate, once more, the vision of water as a common good, essential for life, and meant for the whole human family, and underscoring the necessity of an approach rooted in responsibility, without neglecting the contributions of spirituality and culture since the spiritual and cultural dimensions of water are key factors of the social fabric and of the community’s protagonism and therefore these dimensions have to be considered also in the pastoral commitment of the Church.

3. To provide a useful and inspiring contribution to the coming international gatherings and commitments about water.

The Conference will build on previous contributions from the Catholic Church to the international and interdisciplinary discussion and efforts in the field of universal access to drinkable water; it will also benefit from the accurate and up-to-date vision of many experts gathered from different countries, as well as from some diplomats. Special attention will be given to the most relevant factors positively influencing the universal access to water and to the deepest causes, which contribute to the persistency of many problems in this field and the reluctance or difficulty in tackling these causes.

The issues related to pollution and potabilization, health, withdrawals and infrastructure, participation in the decision processes, hierarchization among competing uses of freshwater, investments and cost recovery, and education and culture – among others – deserve great attention and urgent commitment. We need a multi-level and integral vision and action about the challenges related to the universal access to drinkable water. The challenge, in the end, is the governance of a common good.



The Conference takes place in the Auditorium Giovanni Paolo II of the Urbaniana University
Via Urbano VIII, 16 - 00165 Roma - www.urbaniana.edu

Bring your identity document, in case of control, and also if you plan to borrow headset (the following languages will be used: English, French, Italian). Only diplomatic vehicles are allowed to enter the campus. A standing lunch will be offered to participants.

Students, researchers and professionals working in the field of water are encourage to participate. Participation is free of charge but a pre-registration email is mandatory (participants will be accepted only within the limits of available places).

For pre-registration, send a message with name, family name, affiliation, title to the following email: water@humandevelopment.va ; you will receive an answer as soon as possible, confirming if you are accepted as a participant or if the venue is already fully booked.

Simultaneous translation (Italian-English-French-Portuguese) will be provided. The participation will be free of charge but the pre-registration is mandatory (participants will be accepted within the limits of available places).

For inquiries and for pre-registration: water@humandevelopment.va



Accreditation is mandatory for camera operators, journalists, and other media representatives.

Accreditation has to be required to the Press Office of the Holy See.