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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
Fresh water has always been a precious commodity in this part of the world, and that remains the case even though the UAE now has the resources to meet its demand for drinking water through desalination. As The National reported yesterday, scientists are warning that the country’s groundwater supplies are being unsustainably depleted.
Over-extraction has caused the water table to drop dramatically in recent years. Agriculture accounts for just over one-third of overall water use and two-thirds of the groundwater extracted. In Al Khazna, a traditional date-growing area between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi, groundwater dropped by around 40 per cent in the last 15 years and is now found at a depth of 96 metres, compared with 56m in 1999. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) report showed that trend is repeated to varying degrees across most areas of the UAE.
JEFFREY D. SACHS
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.
One year ago, I was in Brazil to launch the Brazilian chapter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), an initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The main message I heard that day was that São Paulo was suffering from a mega-drought, but that state and local politicians were keeping it quiet. This is a reality around the world: too many political leaders are ignoring a growing environmental crisis, imperiling their own countries and others.
In the case of Brazil, state and local officials had other things on their mind in 2014: hosting the World Cup soccer tournament in June and July and winning elections later in the year. So they relied on a time-tested political tactic: hide the bad news behind a “feel-good" message.
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the United Nations were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."
As water quality degrades or the quantity available has to meet rising demands over time, competition among water users intensifies. This is nowhere more destabilizing than in river basins that cross political boundaries. But experience shows that in many situations, rather than causing open conflict, the need for water sharing can generate unexpected cooperation.
Despite the complexity of the problems, records show that water disputes can be handled diplomatically. The last 50 years have seen only 37 acute disputes involving violence, compared to 150 treaties that have been signed. Nations value these agreements because they make international relations over water more stable and predictable. In fact, the history of international water treaties dates as far back as 2500 BC, when the two Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma crafted an agreement ending a water dispute along the Tigris River - often said to be the first treaty of any kind. Since then, a large body of water treaties has emerged. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, more than 3,600 treaties related to international water resources have been drawn up since 805 AD. The majority of these deal with navigation and boundary demarcation. The focus of negotiation and treaty-making in the last century has shifted away from navigation towards the use, development, protection and conservation of water resources.