On World Water Day, March 22nd, the United States and the World Bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes closer cooperation between two of the largest institutions that deal with improving the management of freshwater resources worldwide. The memorandum also unifies the work of almost 20 U.S. government agencies that work on water-related issues.
"This is a critical issue that cuts across every single part of development that one can imagine. ... Water is one of [our world’s] most important issues", said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
"Why? Because the water crisis is a health crisis, it’s a farming crisis, it’s an economic crisis, it’s a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis. And therefore, we must have an equally comprehensive response."
"The Memorandum of Understanding is really an effort to do three things," said Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero. One is to exchange knowledge of best practices with the World Bank. The second is to collaborate with the World Bank in all water-related areas, on both development and diplomatic levels. The third is to create a unified response on a regional basis. Under Secretary Otero explained:
"What this agreement underlines is the importance of water as it plays itself out through every other area that we work in. If we're talking about agriculture, water is directly related. . . . If we're talking about health, water is front and center in improving the health, especially of young children."
The availability of water is a critical economic issue, as well as a security issue, since water usage can be a source of tension within countries and between neighboring countries.
The new Memorandum of Understanding is "a unique agreement, because it really does influence and cut across all of those areas," said Under Secretary Otero.
"We know that for hundreds of millions of people today, water represents a deadly threat," said Secretary of State Clinton. "There is nothing more urgent and important than that. So let’s get about the business of working together . . . .to make a difference, to make our contribution to solving the water crisis and to bring greater health and stability to more of the world’s people."