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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Opening session of the 17th session of the Intergovernmental Council of IHP

On Monday 3 July, Mr Matsuura opened the 17th session of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO in presence of the thirty-six Member States of the Council, several observer States, and representatives of sister organizations of the United Nations system and other governmental and non-governmental bodies.

In his opening address, the Director-General expressed satisfaction at the large gathering stating that it “…underscores the growing importance of freshwater issues – and of IHP itself – to the international sustainable development agenda”. He went on to recall that since the time that water was elevated to the status of a principal priority of UNESCO in the Organization’s Medium Term Strategy document six years ago, the Organization has developed a “substantial institutional framework and capacity base for executing its mandate in this area; [with] around 200 water professionals and nearly 90 million dollars in regular and extrabudgetary funds per biennium, UNESCO now boasts the strongest human and financial resource base in the field of water in the UN system”, he precised.

Moving on to one of the main issues for discussion during this session of the Council – that is, the modernisation of its governance, Mr Matsuura assured the Member States that the aim of the proposed reforms is not to weaken the governance structure of the Council but to empower National Committees and regions, and to turn the Council into an even more effective decision-making body. “This means,” he said, “a body that adopts a bottom-up and fully transparent approach, and helps to close the gap between developed and developing countries. In my understanding, the approach proposed by your Bureau recognizes water to be – in essence – a regional issue of global importance. The document in front of you on IHP governance proposes a mechanism for reinforcing the regional aspects of the Programme, while maintaining strong global coordination”.

Concerning the 12 Category II Centres, devoted to various global or regional aspects of water, the Director-General noted with satisfaction that the Council will devote a considerable part of their discussions to identifying the best mechanisms for achieving synergy between the Centres, as well as between them and the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, which is foreseen as the hub of the network.

He went on to stress the necessity for IHP to continue broadening its approach to water management, and to developing a more human, holistic and policy orientation. “As UNESCO has long argued, and as the second World Water Development Report explicitly demonstrates: water management is not just a scientific and technological problem, it also has important social, political, environmental and cultural dimensions. It is essential that these concerns are adequately addressed in your seventh phase strategy, and that sufficient importance is given to such cross-cutting issues as cultural diversity and sustainable development”, he reminded.

Mr Matsuura invited IHP to feed its works and meanings by the outcomes of the World Water Development Report, produced by the World Water Assessment Programme: “Their role in monitoring changes in freshwater management will become increasingly crucial as we move towards the target dates set for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Report is also expected to provide the principal UN reporting mechanism for the International Decade for Action: ‘Water for Life’ (2005-2015). It is essential that UNESCO continues to retain its vital and leading role in these activities”, he added.

In concluding his remarks, the Director-General once again highlighted the many challenges that faced by the Council, especially those related to the strategic decisions about how to keep IHP at the forefront of international water programmes. “You are called upon to provide guidance on how IHP can enhance its reputation for solid scientific research, and strengthen its relevance to scholars, managers and policy makers. I am confident”, he said, “that, as in the past, the Council will rise to these important challenges”.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash info n°108-2006
  • 04-07-2006
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