On June 1, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the rollout of a new White House Action Plan on Global Water Security. Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Alice Albright, and Administrator of USAID Samantha Power joined the Vice President to speak on the critical importance of addressing water scarcity around the globe.
The InterAction community has long held that water security is a foundational aspect of national security and a key building block in global health and development. We are glad to see that this administration agrees.
The world already struggles to maintain global water security due to unsustainable practices. As demand for water rises, climate change is putting further stress on this precious resource. A changing climate means increasingly frequent and severe droughts and floods, rising sea levels, and a more uncertain water supply. These impacts can damage vital water and sanitation infrastructure and services in homes, communities, schools, and healthcare facilities, as well as impact food supplies. Water scarcity can also exacerbate existing humanitarian crises and both drive and negatively impact conflict and migration.
The new plan recognizes the interconnections between global water security and U.S. national security, gender equity, climate resilience, and global development. In the plan, water security is given a broad definition and includes access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services (WASH), as well as access to water for agriculture, energy, and ecosystem health. Using a whole-of-government approach, the plan will address global water issues and will be operationalized through the U.S. Global Water Strategy which is currently undergoing revision.
The action plan is structured around three primary pillars:
- Advancing U.S. leadership in the global effort to achieve universal and equitable access to sustainable, climate-resilient, safe, and effectively managed WASH services without increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Promoting sustainable management and protection of water resources and associated ecosystems to support economic growth, build resilience, mitigate the risk of instability or conflict, and increase cooperation.
- Ensuring that multilateral action mobilizes cooperation and promotes water security.
In developing this new action plan, the National Security Council (NSC) held a listening session with InterAction’s WASH Working Group to hear feedback and suggestions from the advocacy community. InterAction compiled these comments in a memo that was delivered to the NSC.
We are thrilled to see many themes from the listening session and memo reflected in the new plan—including the importance of engaging local and Indigenous communities, improving data-driven methods, and ensuring that intersectional issues of gender equity, climate resilience, and global health are not ignored.
The InterAction community welcomes this new action plan and its focus on the nexus of water security, national security, and global development. InterAction’s WASH Working Group will continue to provide feedback on the implementation of this plan and the refresh of the Global Water Strategy which will be submitted to Congress in early fall 2022.