International Year of Freshwater launchedParis - The International Year of Freshwater, 2003, will receive its official launch at a ceremony at the United Nations in New York on December 12.
The aim of the year is to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and managing freshwater. The UN General Assembly resolution proclaiming the Year was initiated by the Government of Tajikistan and supported by 148 other countries.
In a message to be issued at the ceremony, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura says that "water can be an agent of peace, rather than conflicts, and UNESCO is looking at ways that will allow this century to be one of 'water peace' rather than 'water wars'. By developing principles and methods to manage this resource efficiently and ethically, while respecting related ecosystems, we move a step closer to the goal of sustainable development."
One of the main events of the International Year of Freshwater (IYFW) will be the 3rd World Water Forum, to take place in Kyoto (Japan), March 16-23. The Forum is timed to coincide with World Water Day, held on March 22 each year. At the Kyoto meeting, the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), a collaboration between 23 UN agencies involved in freshwater and hosted by UNESCO, will present its World Water Development Report. This is the first of a planned series of reports on the state of water stress in the world, due to be published every three years. The Report identifies critical issues and problems as illustrated by in-depth case studies of selected, representative river basins.
One of the aims of the Year is to reassert the UN's Millennium Declaration Goal on Water, which pledged "to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's people unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water" and "to stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources." The goal, endorsed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg (South Africa) in August this year, also set a new target of halving the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation by 2015. It also recognized the key role of water in agriculture, energy, health, biodiversity and ecosystems as well as in combating poverty.
"The Year offers a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about water issues and to motivate people of all ages to get involved. Schools, the private sector, youth and community associations - each has something to contribute," says Alberto Tejada-Guibert, the UNESCO Coordinator for IYFW.
Projections show that the combined effects of population increase, global warming and mismanagement of existing water resources are likely to increase the number of countries experiencing severe water stress during the next decades. To help offset conflict between nations over shared water resources and to promote peaceful negotiation, UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (IHP) has started a new project called From Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential. Another programme, also led by IHP and entitled Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP), is creating a new approach for the integrated management of catchments.
On the morning of the IYWF launch (December 12) Mr Matsuura will address UNESCO's permanent delegates at Paris Headquarters and will officially inaugurate the IYFW website. The main events will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, starting at 9.00 a.m. local time (2 p.m. UTC). A press conference with Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), is scheduled for 11.15 a.m. local time.
For more information on the US launch, contact Isolda S. Oca
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