Water Cooperation now an imperative according to world leaders
A side event organized by UNESCO and UN Water called the attention of World Leaders on the topic of Water Cooperation during the Rio+20 conference on 19 June 2012. UNESCO is the lead agency of the upcoming UN International Year and World Water Day on Water Cooperation (2013).
Water cooperation is multi-dimensional in nature and encapsulates cultural, educational and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal, institutional and economic aspects. A multidisciplinary approach is essential in order to grasp the many facets implied by the concept and blend them into one holistic vision. Moreover, for water cooperation to be successful and sustainable, it requires a common understanding of the needs and challenges surrounding the issue of water. Under UNESCO’s leadership, the 2013 International Year and World Water Day will focus predominantly on building a consensus on adequate responses to these issues.
The session was chaired by Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences, who confirmed the commitment of the Organization as the lead agency of the upcoming UN International Year and World Water Day on Water Cooperation (2013), as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2010 (A/RES/65/154).
Ms Kalonji called the attention of Member States and other actors on the need to make water an instrument of peace, making use of this International Year to promote actions on Water Cooperation at all levels. She also recalled that Tajikistan played a pivotal role in this initiative. UNESCO will lead this Year with its unique multi-disciplinary approach, combining natural and social sciences, education, culture and communication. Given the intrinsic nature of water as a transversal and universal element, the UN International Year of Water Cooperation will naturally embrace and touch upon each of the areas included in UNESCO’s mandate.
H.E. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan congratulated UNESCO for its commitment and expressed his conviction that managing water resources peacefully is vital for sustainable development. He emphasised that sharing water resources means sharing responsibilities. The goal must be to prevent and resolve potential conflicts arising from the management of shared water resources and to promote cooperation at all levels. This calls for platforms of research and exchange, for new capacities and sharing expertise. He also raised the issue of the competition over water, which is increasing worldwide and will deepen with population growth, urbanization and the impacts of climate change.
The event was an opportunity for eminent experts to contribute key messages to the Rio+ 20 dialogues. Regarding cooperation in international river basins, both Le Duc Trung (Mekong River Commission Secretariat) and Jean-Francois Donzier (International Network of Basin Organizations - INBO) stressed the importance of securing national and international political will for the sustainable management of transboundary river basins and transboundary aquifer systems.
Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, informed that the EC convention on Transboundary Waters –also known as the 92 Water Convention– will be open to non European countries very soon.
Johan Kuylenstierna, Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute, observed multiple facets must be taken into consideration in order to achieve water cooperation.
An example of participatory process in a rural area of Brazil was illustrated by Nelton Miguel Friedrich, Director of Coordination and Environment, AguaBoa, Brazil. The Agua Boa programme is based on local community participation and fosters cooperation at all levels.
Adequate technical, scientific and institutional capacity were considered crucial by several experts such as Karin Lexén, Director of the Swedish Water House initiative at SIWI and Chair of the Swedish IHP Committee, Ivan Zavadsky, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director, WWF International.
All recommendations revolved around the need for water cooperation at all level as crucial means to overcome water-related challenges. Water cooperation is essential to guarantee a decent daily life and basic well-being to all by providing water security .
In a closing statement, all panellists agreed that Cooperation is not a matter of choice – it is an imperative.