UNESCO designates Saudi Prince Talal as Special Envoy for WaterParis - On the eve of the International Year of Freshwater, (2003), the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Ko´chiro Matsuura, is appointing HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, of Saudi Arabia, as the Organization's Special Envoy for Water.
The official designation will take place at UNESCO Headquarters on December 18, during the award ceremony for this year's AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Development Projects. Prince Talal is president of AGFUND (Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations), which he helped found in 1980, with the support of the Gulf States.
The Prince's nomination comes in recognition of his contribution to sustainable development in his native country, regionally and on the international level, in addition to tackling the issue of water scarcity through AGFUND and its affiliated institutions and organizations. AGFUND has so far contributed to 27 water projects worth $US30 million.
HRH Prince Talal's commitment to humanitarian causes and development has won him international acclaim. He founded the first private girls' school in Riyadh as well as the city's first private (and mainly free) hospital and has been a relentless champion of democracy, human rights and particularly the rights of girls and women, while holding ministerial positions in the Saudi government.
Through AGFUND the Prince has taken the initiative in setting up several institutions in cooperation with regional and international partners, including the Arab Women's Centre for Training and Research in Tunisia, in 1993. In October last year, AGFUND and UNESCO signed an agreement to establish an Arab Open University using distance learning, a project masterminded by Prince Talal. Since it was founded, AGFUND has contributed more than $22 million to some 64 UNESCO projects and has supported more than 740 development and humanitarian projects with national, regional and international partners.
As UNESCO Special Envoy for Water, during 2003, International Year for Freshwater, HRH Prince Talal will work to draw the attention of heads of states, specialists, civil society and youth to the looming world water crisis and the need to act. Some 2.7 billion people will face serious water shortages by 2025 if consumption patterns and inefficient use go unchanged.
The winner of the first category of this year's AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Development Projects, worth US$150,000, is the Improved Manual Irrigation Component of the Private Irrigation Promotion Pilot Project in Niger, implemented by Enterprise Works Worldwide. One of the least developed countries in the world, Niger suffers from recurring droughts. The Improved Manual Irrigation Project is designed for small market gardens, using low-cost, locally-produced pumps.
The second category prize, worth US$ 100,000, has been awarded to the Cambodia Trust Rehabilitation Project. Emerging from 30 years of conflict, Cambodia has some 40,000 landmine amputees, and some 50,000 people disabled by polio and other diseases. The project aims to train people with a disability, usually excluded from Cambodian society, to take part in the normal life of the community. Adults are given vocational training, while children are enabled to attend school.
The third category of prize, worth US$50,000, has been awarded to the Men on the Side of the Road Project (MSR), in South Africa. This project gives training in small business skills, technical skills and entrepreneurship to men who stand by the roadside in the hope of being picked for casual work.
The AGFUND award ceremony will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on December 18, at 11.30 a.m. In previous years the ceremony was held at UN Headquarters in Geneva. This is the first time it is being held at UNESCO.
Following the ceremony, HRH Prince Talal and UNESCO Director-General Ko´chiro Matsuura will meet the press. Journalists wishing to attend must be accredited by the UNESCO Press Service.