Access to water is considered a basic human right, but is there - and will there be - enough water to go round in future? Can water be considered a free commodity which is available in unlimited quantities? The answer has to be no. Clearly, fresh water is - although renewable - a very limited and vulnerable resource. In my view water is going to be one of the major issues of the twenty-first century. We need to practice greater sharing of knowledge and resources in this field. My dream is to see the channelling of water from places where it is plentiful to others where it is scarce, together with the promotion through education of new attitudes to water, awareness of how precious a shared commodity it is.
While water is usually considered to be a symbol of purification and a source of life, the threats hanging over it could make it a source of conflict and death. There is an urgent need for two-pronged educational and political strategy to safeguard water. Both individuals and states should remember the ethical dimension here.
The legal issues arising from the growing shortage of usable water resources are one of the aspects of a general problem whose systematic study should lead to the practical solutions awaited by society. As all aspects cannot be studied at a congress, the legal component relating to international watercourses is the first theme proposed.
Without wishing to prejudge its results, the convening of this Congress clearly demonstrates a desire on the part of university experts to get away from an academic approach to the water crisis: 'Enough diagnosis ; now is the time for concrete action' (Federico Mayor, interview in the international journal HYDROPLUS). With this objective in mind, the Congress will propose as a matter of urgency a number of outlines of possible solutions, notably through the study of two vital and often neglected aspects: international law and education. "It may well be that we are doomed to see that we are heading towards a catastrophe, with no way of turning back (Kandal, Le devenir des climats)". But it may also be that we should overcome this 'inevitable catastrophe' syndrome by developing a strategy of education on the major issues facing humanity, with water security involving nearly all the other issues. In this sense, education for a culture of water sharing makes a real contribution to education for peace.