Supply of clean fresh water, already threatened by soaring pollution levels, is depleting at such a rate in some regions that within 30 years two-thirds of humanity will suffer "moderate to severe water stress". This gloomy prediction has been made by a forthcoming UN report titled Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World. It is part of a series of UN studies reviewing the progress made by the Commission on Sustainable Development since the 1992 Earth Summit. Scarcity of clean water not only endangers human health and development but also the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems which support life on the planet, the report warned.

The gap between rich and poor nations continues to widen in terms of existing income levels and the opportunity to acquire wealth. The human development report of 1996, prepared by an expert panel set up by the UN Industrial Development Organization to Identify the current socio-economic trends, reveals that the ratio of the incomes of the richest and the poorest nations has increased from 30:1 to 61:1.