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What is Sustainable Development?

Background & Preparations
UNESCO at Johannesburg
Alliances & Partnerships

UNESCO's Priorities
Educating for Sustainability
Scientific Dimensions
Ethical Principles
Cultural Dimensions
Media and ICTs

Some Action Themes
Biological Diversity
Fresh Water
Local and indigenous knowledge



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Home > Fresh water (continued) - Updated: 09-01-2003 3:54 pm
The World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) is a wide-ranging assessment of the world’s freshwater resources, being undertaken as a co-operative United Nations-wide initiative of UNESCO and 22 other UN institutions. The overall aim is to develop the tools and skills needed to achieve a better understanding of the basic processes, management practices and policies that will help improve the supply and quality of global freshwater resources. The assessment will culminate in the publication of the first World Water Development Report in March 2003. Eleven major challenges are being addressed: Meeting basic needs; Securing the food supply; Protecting the environment; Sharing water resources; Managing risks; Valuing water; Governing water wisely; Water and industry; Water and energy; Ensuring the knowledge base; Water for cities.

Within the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, many of the sites comprising the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (currently, 408 reserves in 94 countries) feature interactions between freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems and issues related to the rational use of water resources. Examples of topics addressed include conflicts in water use (e.g. between agriculture, tourism and biodiversity conservation), water resources management at the regional scale, optimizing water use in rehabilitating degraded ecological systems, role of forested watersheds as a source of water supplies for large urban conglomerations

Among the world’s international conservation conventions is the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat. More popularly known as the Ramsar Convention, after the name of the town in Iran where it was adopted in 1971, it is the only existing international convention focusing on a habitat type. UNESCO is the depository organization for this convention. The Convention for the Protection of the World’s Natural and Cultural Heritage also provides an instrument for promoting the conservation of freshwater and wetland areas, with a focus on unique sites of outstanding interest and universal value.

The ethics of freshwater use is among the topics assessed by a sub-commission of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). Ethical considerations in the use of freshwater resource reflect the concepts of sustainable development and environmental justice which are underpinned by equity and by such issues as the role of different stakeholders in promoting ‘good practices’ that foster sustainable use.


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