Why does water cooperation matter?

Freshwater is a vital element for human existence and all ecosystems on Earth. This finite resource is an essential ingredient for life and socio-economic development: we need it for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. It faces severe pressure from increasing demands to satisfy the needs of a growing population, rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change.

  Cooperation must be our byword. This is essential to preserve our ecosystems, to eradicate poverty and to advance social equity, including gender equality.     

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Water Day 2013 (pdf)

Cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share this precious resource equitably. Since water cuts across all sectors, stakeholders that are not traditionally considered to be water managers must participate. Water cooperation between different social groups, economic sectors, regional governments, countries, and present and future generations, is crucial not only to ensure the sustainable and equitable use of water but also to create and maintain peaceful relations between people.

In 2013, in celebration of the International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.

Official event

China, May 2011: A teacher introduces ways to save water in daily life to children in a kindergarten in Yinchuan (northern China). A theme activity featuring water-saving was held here to mark the national urban water conservation week.

© Xinhua. A teacher introduces ways to save water in daily life to children in a kindergarten in Yinchuan (northern China).


The official celebrations of World Water Day will be hosted by the Kingdom of The Netherlands in The Hague. Within the limit of capacity constraints, as wide a variety of key stakeholders as possible, from inside and outside the ‘water box’, have been invited.

The celebrations will include a multi-stakeholder dialogue on 21 March, a High Level Forum on 22 March, and several public events focusing on water cooperation as a foundation for peace and sustainable development.

The objectives of the High Level Forum are:

  • to raise the profile of “water cooperation” on the agendas of policy and decision makers, water professionals and the wider public, and
  • to transmit the main messages of the thematic consultation on water for the post-2015 development agenda to the UN High-level Panel, with recomendations on how water cooperation can contribute to the agenda's sucess.

UNESCO's role

UN-Water —the United Nation's inter-agency coordination mechanism for all freshwater and sanitation-related issues— has called upon UNESCO to lead the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013, in view of the Organization’s mandate to pursue the goals of peace and sustainable development and its multi-dimensional mandate in the natural and social sciences, culture, education and communication and its significant and longstanding programmes contributing to the management of the world’s freshwater resources.


UNESCO is orchestrating the activities, with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), in coordination with the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) and the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC).

What can you do?

  • Find out more about water cooperation!
  • Organize events that help to communicate the key messages of the campaign (e.g. a conference, an exhibition or a workshop on water cooperation in your community) using our advocacy guide (pdf).
  • Promote the International Year of Water Cooperation and World Water Day: use the logo and other campaign materials.
  • Organize an activity that contributes to achieving the objectives of the campaign (e.g. training, development of research material, production of research work).
  • Share your success stories or case studies on water cooperation on the Year’s official website.
  • And above all, be innovative and share your own ideas!

Live webcast of the official World Water Day event in The Hague.