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World Water Day

21-03-2002 - - The looming water crisis is one of the most critical challenges facing the world today. Global demand for this precious resource has increased more than sixfold over the past century compared with a threefold increase in world population. Without better management of water resources and related ecosystems, two-thirds of humanity will suffer from severe or moderate shortages by the year 2025.


UNESCO has been a leading force in promoting "Water for Development", the theme of this year's World Water Day. By creating the International Hydrological Programme in 1975, UNESCO pioneered efforts to provide a scientific basis for evaluating global water resources and to elaborate ethical and socio-economic principles for guiding water management and development practices, especially in arid zones.

UNESCO works closely with other organizations within the United Nations system. For example, UNESCO is hosting the Secretariat of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). Through a concerted effort involving 23 UN agencies, the Programme will produce the World Water Development Report, whose first edition will be released at the 3rd World Water Forumat Kyoto, Japan, in March 2003. For the first time, national decision-makers, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens will have access to a regular assessment of the global and regional water situation.

UNESCO has also joined forces withGreen Cross International, headed by Mikhail Gorbachev, through a major new project focusing on "Water for Peace". The aim is to provide decision-makers as well as hydrological experts and students with the negotiating skills required to prevent the eruption of international water conflicts. Together, we must do all we can to make the 21st century one of "water peace" rather than one of "water wars".

By developing principles and methods to efficiently and ethically manage this resource while respecting related ecosystems, we move a step closer to the goal of sustainable development. To highlight this potential, UNESCO is now launching a major project for the Volga/Caspian Basin. Representatives of 39 Russian Federation provinces and republics will beworking with all five of UNESCO's programme areas to develop an inter-disciplinary development plan to balance the hydrological, ecological and socio-economic needs of the basin. This holistic approach will be presented as a unique example at the World Summit for Sustainable Development to be held at Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002. Underpinning this approach is the conviction that only by integrating scientific and ethical principles with socially sound practices can we secure a sustainable "water world" for generations to come.

Water is probably the only natural resource to touch all aspects of human civilization - from agricultural and industrial development to the cultural and religious values embedded in society. Life on Earth began inwater and the connection between life and water remains unbroken. The need and demand for water, in fact, have been a driving force of social, economic and cultural development throughout human history. It is no exaggeration to say that, if water is in crisis, development is in crisis too. The theme of "Water for Development" for this year's World Water Day is, therefore, well-chosen.


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