UN's latest crusade unlikely to hold water

The UN, known for taking controversial positions like "Human slavery should be avoided whenever possible" and "Perhaps we should have fewer wars," has put itself out on a limb again with its latest initiative: "Water for Life."

The UN, known for taking controversial positions like "Human slavery should be avoided whenever possible" and "Perhaps we should have fewer wars," has put itself out on a limb again with its latest initiative: "Water for Life."

That is the thought-provoking slogan attached to its latest tepid crusade, the International Decade for Water. For the next ten years, any nation taking a strong stand against water runs the risk of losing its allotment of diplomatic parking tags in Manhattan.

Can the Intergalactic Century for Kool-Aid be far behind?

The campaign began in Paris last week with an address by French president Jacques Chirac, who reminded the media that nearly half of the world's population lives without working toilets or sewers. Opposition French Green Party leaders protested Chirac's environmental policy by taking a swim in the polluted River Seine - presumably a more convenient place to relieve oneself than a French bistro.

"The decade seeks to lobby support for the UN's Millennium Goals," wrote an Agence France-Presse reporter. You'll recall how those goals have stayed right on schedule by successfully providing sanitation for 300,000 new people every day since their 2000 introduction, and stimulating the necessary hundreds of billions of dollars of investments in the program worldwide. Bravo!

We're kidding, of course. The Millennium Goals have mainly stimulated work for UN party planners and "World Summit" caterers. But a Paris conference addressing African water problems, held after Chirac's speech, did offer plenty of free Evian for delegates to smuggle back to their drought-infested homes.

The Decade for Water's greatest impact will likely be the development of new canapes - appetizers created by chefs at the exotic resorts where world leaders meet to talk about problems. Until Las Vegas is swallowed by the Mojave, Americans will be leaving their faucets dripping.

  • Hamilton Nolan wrote PR Play of the Week. He is a New York-based reporter for PRWeek.

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