Rio +20: Irina Bokova opens the high-level panel discussion on sustainable development and water
On 21 June, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova took part in the opening session of a high-level panel discussion on “Sustainable Development and Water: Global Goal, Targets, Partnerships,” organized by the Government of Finland. Highlighting the critical importance of freshwater, the Director-General underlined the need to reach decision-makers outside the standard water community and to build a stronger knowledge base and better monitoring tools for freshwater.
The Director-General presented UNESCO’s contribution to water security at the global, regional and national levels and called for further assistance to hotspots and areas affected by water-related disasters, citing the examples of the floods in Namibia and Pakistan, the drought of Horn of Africa and the deteriorating situation of Lake Chad Basin.
Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, highlighted that water is precious for life on Earth and is becoming a security issue, recalling the importance of water cooperation for peace and sustainability. Mr Ville Niinistö, Minister of the Environment of Finland underlined the importance of water and the need to strongly position it in Rio+20 outcome document. Mr Jari Kosinen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, emphasized the central role of water in a green economy and the strong need to enhance water efficiency.
A lively discussion followed with participants stressing the need for a strong text on freshwater in the Rio+20 outcome document, and especially the need for well-prepared Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on freshwater. This was seen to call for deep cooperation from all relevant stakeholders to articulate goals that take on board the complexity of water issues. At the same time, the discussions highlighted the need for these goals to be expressed clearly and simply, with clear indicators and benchmarks.
On that same day, the Director-General also attended the “Women Leaders Summit on the Future Women Want”, hosted by UN Women, in collaboration with the government of Brazil. During this high-level event, women heads of state and government signed a Call to Action, including concrete policy recommendations to integrate gender equality and women's empowerment in all sustainable development frameworks.