The Director-General addresses Heads of State Summit at the Fifth World Water Forum and launches United Nations World Water Development Report

The Director-General addresses Heads of State Summit at the Fifth World Water Forum and launches United Nations World Water Development Report
  • © UNESCO/A. Otte

On 16 March 2009, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, participated in the 5th World Water Forum, organized in Istanbul, Turkey, from 16 to 22 March 2009.

UNESCO, through its International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, played an active role in the preparation and organization of the Forum.

On the opening day of the Forum, Mr Matsuura participated in the Heads of State Summit, the political high-level segment of the Forum, whose overarching theme was “bridging water divides”. The Summit was placed under the chairmanship of Mr Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey.

“None of the global challenges we face today can be tackled without taking into account water. Poverty, population growth, climate and environmental change, surging food and energy demands and the global economic crisis: all have an impact on water. We must make sure that water is part of the solution. Access to safe water is a basic human need and right, which is indispensable to the realization of other fundamental rights and freedoms”, stated the Director-General in his remarks.

Emphasizing the crucial role of water for poverty eradication and economic growth, Mr Matsuura called for rapid changes in water resources management. “We have to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources by developing integrated water management strategies which promote equitable access and distribution. We need to learn to conserve water and reuse it rather than waste it, contaminate it and deplete it. We need to understand that if water is to be distributed equitably, it can never be appropriated for profit. We also need to understand that water management decisions must involve local communities”, he advocated. In this context, Mr Matsuura called for increased international cooperation and solidarity through aid to the water sector, and technical assistance, human and institutional capacity-building, in particular for the poorest countries.

“Water cuts across all spheres of human life. It is only through an integrated approach, involving all stakeholders across all sectors and disciplines – not just science, but also, as UNESCO’s own work shows, education, culture and communication – that we will find the solutions to the many water problems we face. The increasing world-wide pressures on water in this time of unprecedented change demands a global response”, concluded the Director-General.

The same day, the Director-General presented on behalf of the United Nations system the 3rd World Water Development Report - Water in a Changing World. Also taking the floor during the official launch ceremony were, among others, Mr Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Mr Hasan Zuhuri Sarikaya, Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry of Turkey, representing the Government of Turkey, Mr Ali Bakoglu, Deputy Governor of Istanbul and Mr Alexander Muller, Assistant Director-General of FAO, as Chair of UN-Water.

The Report, which offers a comprehensive assessment of the planet’s freshwater resources, was coordinated by the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), hosted and led by UNESCO, with the financial support of the Italian Government and the Regional Government of Umbria.

“Water is essential to life and to livelihoods. It is a source of dignity, security and equality of opportunity”, stated the Director-General during the launching ceremony, noting however that it was suffering from chronic underinvestment and poor governance in many parts of the world.

“Water must be given higher priority on the development agenda”, said Mr Matsuura, adding that the international community as well as the developing countries would need to increase investment in water, and systematically integrate water in poverty reduction strategies. If not, he continued, global dynamics – such as population growth, increasing consumption and climate change- may threaten to exacerbate these problems, with potential devastating implications for human development.

“Through better planning, water-related disasters can be mitigated and the stresses global dynamics place on water resources can be avoided or eased. This Report showcases many examples of good practice. It reveals that top-level political commitment, backed by adequate financing, robust national strategies and strong legal frameworks can make a difference », Mr Matsuura underlined. “I urge leaders in all sectors to use this Report as a guide and impetus for bold and sustained action to meet the world’s water needs”, he concluded.

Prior to the launch of the third World Water Development Report, the Director-General also participated in the launch of the “Integrated Water Resources Management Guidelines at River Basin Level” (IWRM) with His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan, Honorary President of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

These Guidelines showcase, through case studies, good examples of IWRM at river basin level across the world, with particular emphasis on flood management and irrigation planning. “UNESCO and its partners have produced these Guidelines as an instruction manual that translates IWRM principles into practical applications at the river basin level. Our hope is that they will help water practitioners find better and more efficient solutions to day-to-day problems, and also play a catalytic role in promoting more broadly a culture of integrated water management”, stated Mr Matsuura. “We believe this is vital to achieving more sustainable water management, and through this healthier, more secure and prosperous societies”, he concluded.

During his visit, Mr Matsuura had bilateral meetings with His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan and Mr Emonali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan. He also met with H.S.M Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander Van Oranje-Nassau, the Prime Minister of Korea, Seung-Soo, the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Igor Chudinov, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco, Abbas El Fassi, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Apisai Ielemia, the Secretary-General of OECD, Angel Gurria.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 041- 2009
  • 20-03-2009
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