public diplomacy

Going to the Well: Public Diplomacy and H2O

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“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water,” said Benjamin Franklin more than two centuries ago.

Every day we read more stories about the lack of water around the world and the relationship between water, climate change, food, and energy. Already today 1/3 of the world population is affected by water scarcity.

The alarm bells around freshwater scarcity have been ringing loudly for years. The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment—the first major comprehensive environmental audit of the planet, warned that nations must begin consciously allocating enough water to sustain the planet’s ecosystem.

The projections today are that 3.5 billion people will live in communities that will not be able to feed themselves by 2025 if we don’t address water shortages. Water scarcity presents us with an array of challenges from environmental to political.

One of the great challenges of 2014 will be how governments and citizens manage a resource vital to every aspect of life. To produce a calorie of food, it takes a liter of water and today about 1/3 of the world population is affected by water scarcity. Humanitarian and health crises spring from lack of adequate sanitation and shortages of clean, safe, accessible water. Future energy needs depend on an active water cycle.

We need a public diplomacy campaign about water that is consistent, and reliable. It is why projects like Planet Forward which networks young people in an active, engaged way, to tackle sustainability issues are so critical. NOW is the time to rise to the challenge and meet the world’s needs for water.

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About Tara Sonenshine

Tara Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Previously, she served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, as well as Executive Vice President of the U.S. Institute for Peace.

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