Annan, Jay-Z announce UN-MTV global campaign on world’s water crisis

9 August 2006
Annan & Jay-Z at press conference

Educating young people on the devastating impact of the world’s water crisis got a boost today as Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined Def Jam President and CEO Jay-Z and MTV President Christina Norman, along with representatives of key UN agencies, at United Nations Headquarters in New York to launch a joint initiative aimed at spotlighting the issue.

Next month during his international concert tour, Jay-Z will travel to Turkey and South Africa, and several other areas affected by water crisis, while being documented for the MTV special, Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life. The series is part of MTV’s ongoing initiatives to educate, empower and involve young people regarding global issues. The network's first-person biographical series will air on November 24, reaching 179 counties on 50 of MTV locally programmed channels.

“Most of us take water for granted,” the Secretary-General told reporters at a press conference in New York held to launch the initiative, “but, for more than a billion people who lack access to safe drinking water, this is an inconceivable dream.”

He pointed out that some 2.6 billion people have no access to proper sanitation, with “devastating” consequences. “The water crisis - like many issues confronting our world - can only be fully addressed with the active participation of young people everywhere.”

“Working with MTV and Jay-Z, all of us at the UN hope this campaign will motivate youth to take action both in their own lives, and in support of broad eco-friendly initiatives,” Mr. Annan said.

The internationally renowned recording artist said at times he uses his voice to entertain, and at other times to raise awareness.

“Partnering with someone with a huge voice such as MTV, people that knew what they was doing, who know their way around countries, like the UN; it was a smart partnership for myself,” Jay-Z told the UN News Service of his collaboration with the UN and MTV for the special documentary series about his learning process. “They have a track record of getting the message out to young people, so they can become involved.”

“How could I be out there and not do anything?” said the CEO of the influential record company, adding that “most young people are unaware” but if they knew about the “staggering numbers” of people affected by water issues, they would be moved to act.

Voicing his conviction that the problem can be solved, Jay-Z said his involvement with MTV and the UN could contribute to positive change. “After hearing and reading some of the startling statistics about the lack of clean water, I realized that I needed to bring attention to this issue. I know through joining with experts through the UN and partnering with MTV to bring the word to our communities, we can make a difference.”

“MTV has a long history of partnering with artists and experts to raise awareness and educate our audience,” said Christina Norman, President of MTV, of the obvious partnership with the UN, MTV and Jay-Z. “By allowing MTV to document his journey, Jay-Z will be mobilizing a whole new generation of young people who may not be familiar with the water crisis to learn about and take action to help those suffering.”

“We have had an incredible experience with the UN,” she said when interviewed by the UN News Service. “The UN has the expertise, they’re the authority, and there is no one better.”

The special documentary series will follow Jay’s learning process as he meets people who are among the 1 billion worldwide without access to safe drinking water. It will also follow the artist as he visits places where sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions are working to bring fresh water to devastated communities.

MTV has previously partnered with the UN on initiatives such as the Millennium Project, with economist Jeffery Sachs and screen actress Angelina Jolie, which documented a village in Kenya, and more recently sent Gideon Yago to Pakistan to document the earthquake in that country.

All over the world, pollution, over-consumption and poor water management are decreasing the quality and quantity of water. Nearly 2 million children die every year because of unclean water and poor sanitation - far more than the casualties from violent conflicts, the UN says.

Competition among nations for fresh water is already a factor in many conflicts, and has the potential to become much, much worse in the future. The peacebuilding potential of shared water resources was one of the 10 Stories the World Should Hear More About compiled earlier this year by the UN Department of Public Information.

Jay-Z’s documentary, through his enormous influence, coupled with the scope of the UN agencies involved and MTV, aims to inspire and motivate young people everywhere to care, conserve, and join in the search for solutions to our water crisis, and to take action both in their own lives, and in support of broad eco-friendly initiatives.


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