The RNLI helps make history with first-ever UN resolution on drowning prevention

The first-ever UN resolution on global drowning prevention has been agreed. 

Children take part in survival swimming lessons in a portable pool in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: Nihab Rahman

Children take part in survival swimming lessons in a portable pool in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

The RNLI has joined forces with Ireland, Bangladesh and organisations across the United Nations to help secure global recognition for drowning prevention, with the first official World Drowning Prevention Day making its way on to the United Nation’s (UN’s) annual calendar.  

The United Nations General Assembly yesterday adopted a historic resolution on global drowning prevention, acknowledging it for the first time in the UN’s 75-year history.  

The resolution establishes drowning prevention as an important international issue, recognised by all 193 Member States (countries) of the United Nations. It sets out the actions that every country should take to prevent drowning. A global day of recognition for drowning prevention will now take place annually on 25 July, creating a moment to commemorate the lives of more than 235,000 people that are lost to drowning across the world each year.  

What does this mean for the RNLI? 

For the RNLI, the new World Drowning Prevention Day will provide an opportunity to encourage organisations and countries to share best practice in water safety and solutions to save even more lives. It is an opportunity for everyone associated with the RNLI and those around the world who share in our vision to save every one, to celebrate our lifesaving achievements to date. It aims to unite and inspire people worldwide to commit to further action to promote water safety as part of our overall lifesaving effect and to prevent drowning.  

The adoption of the first-ever UN resolution on global drowning prevention is a significant milestone towards the International Team’s aim to make drowning prevention a higher priority worldwide.  

The new resolution has been championed and proposed by the governments of Ireland and Bangladesh and co-sponsored by 79 other countries, with support from the RNLI, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. 

Recognising that drowning is preventable and that scalable, low-cost interventions exist, the resolution encourages Member States on a voluntary basis to undertake a range of coordinated interventions to prevent drowning that are most relevant to their national circumstances. 

Abdul (15) and Shaiful (14) fish with a homemade net on monsoon floodwaters submerging the village of Kolapra in Barishal, Bangladesh.

Photo: GMB Akash

Abdul (15) and Shaiful (14) fish with a homemade net on monsoon floodwaters submerging the village of Kolapra in Barishal, Bangladesh.

The work we have been supporting at the UN forms a core part of the RNLI’s international drowning prevention work which sees the world’s oldest lifesaving charity following its founder’s aim to provide a 24/7 search and rescue lifeboat service run, where possible, by volunteers and funded by voluntary donations. Although our service was established as a national service to protect the coasts of the UK and Ireland, our founder Sir William Hillary’s vision was to ‘extend its beneficial effects to the most distant shores, and to generations yet unborn.’ 

Chief Executive, Mark Dowie is proud that the RNLI has made a significant contribution to this milestone. Mark is keen to recognise and celebrate the hard work and commitment of everybody in the International Team who has been working towards this. Recognising what a UN resolution means for our water safety work at a global level and that collective efforts like this with several governments, partners and organisations is no mean feat, Mark said: 

‘As an organisation dedicated to saving lives on and around the water, we are thrilled to have supported Member States in efforts to secure a UN Global Drowning Prevention resolution. A new international day for drowning prevention offers a global opportunity every year for governments, water safety organisations and the public to come together to recognise the preventability of drowning, and the positive, practical actions that all of us can take to keep individuals, families and communities safe.’  

What is next? 

We are looking forward to working with new and existing partners to ensure that the recommendations for action within the resolution are translated from words into real tangible actions that ultimately save lives from preventable drowning around the world.   

The RNLI will be welcoming and celebrating the UN resolution on drowning prevention through social media and through all RNLI online channels. And between now and July, we will be planning how we can mark the first World Drowning Prevention Day on 25 July 2021 in the best way we can. We will be looking for ways to involve all RNLI volunteers, staff, supporters and partners in this exciting and important moment in history.  

Watch out for more information coming in May!