RLSS welcomes UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention
The RLSS welcomes and excited by the adoption of the UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention (A/75/L.76), which was approved during the seventy-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, 62nd plenary meeting on Wednesday 28th April 2021.
At the World Conference on Drowning Prevention (WCDP) in Danang, Vietnam in May 2011, a global coalition for drowning prevention was initiated through by a community engaged process. One of the aspirational goals from that effort was to achieve a UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention.
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of WCDP 2011. RLSS Australia hosted that first event, bringing the lifesaving and drowning prevention community closer to the global drowning issue. This was a significant and catalytic steppingstone on this journey to illuminate and intervene drowning and its prevention. That focus on understanding and action on geographies with the greatest burden of drowning (low and middle-income nations), continued in 2015 in Malaysia, 2017 in Canada and 2019 in South Africa. RLSS Members are significant leaders and contributors to understanding and action on drowning prevention, and in the WCDP events.
For the first-time in the UN’s 75 history, it recognises the scale, impact and preventability of drowning. Its inequity, and its relevance to advancing Member State progress on agreed international agendas including: the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Climate Agreement Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Universal Health Coverage.
It invites countries to take voluntary action on drowning prevention appropriate to national contexts (in line with World Health Organisation recommendations), and encourages collaboration amongst key UN Agencies, to advance awareness and actions to reduce drowning.
This first-ever UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention was proposed by the Governments of Bangladesh and Ireland. More than 50 nations (represented by the Government Missions to the UN in New York) participated in the negotiations of this document, including from nations where there an RLSS member. It is a significant milestone in a long journey in which RLSS Members have played a key role.
- Recognises drowning has been the cause of over 2.5 million preventable deaths in the past decade but has been largely unrecognised relative to its impact.
- Recognises drowning is inequitable, with over 90 per cent of deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, with Asia carrying the highest burden of drowning deaths by number.
- Notes drowning disproportionately affects children and young people, especially in rural areas, with many countries reporting drowning as the leading cause of childhood mortality.
- Clarifies the official global estimate of 235,000 deaths per annum (WHO Global Health Estimates, 2020) and excludes drownings attributable to flood-related climatic events and water transport incidents, resulting in the underrepresentation of drowning deaths by up to 50 per cent in some countries
- Sets out a range of voluntary actions countries can take on drowning prevention, relevant to their national context and inline with WHO recommendations
- Establishes a UN day on international drowning prevention, to be observed annually on 25th July.
We are pleased to see the establishment of a UN World Drowning Prevention Day. This will provide an opportunity for the drowning prevention community to come together and take action. We will provide further details on this when they become available – in the coming months – and encourage all RLSS Members to engage with this initiative.
The RLSS is well-placed to support international cooperation by sharing lessons learned, and best practices, within and among regions. RLSS already contributed to such work through collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Life Saving Federation (ILS), via drowning prevention and resuscitation projects in many Commonwealth countries, and publications.
Finally, drowning prevention and lifesaving is the principal focus of the RLSS. The RLSS fully supports the UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention. This Resolution is a sentinel step forward to bring attention and action to this highly preventable public health challenge.
We owe great thanks to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) for their highly skilled and effective leadership to bring this UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention to reality.