03.04.2019 - UNESCO Office in Venice

Symposium on Water Equity in Venice. Towards achieving SDG 6 and all of Agenda 2030 in the region


The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe in cooperation with WWAP and other partners organised on 29 March 2019 a high-level regional symposium on water equity in South-East Europe and the Mediterranean following the launch of the 2019 World Water Development Report ‘Leaving No One Behind’. The symposium examined how UNESCO and its partners in the region can promote integrated water resources management that ensures access to safe water and sanitation for all and increases the resilience of the most vulnerable segments of the region’s populations to climate change and disasters.

Improved water resources management and access to safe, clean water for all is an essential step towards eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable human development under fair and equitable conditions in South-East Europe and the Mediterranean.

Millions in the region still lack access to safe water and sanitation, and these are the most excluded segments of the region’s populations. In addition, climate change and other global changes are increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters and extreme events, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable parts of the region’s population, and exacerbate inequalities.

UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN system devoted to science, education and capacity building on water. The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, based in Venice, is responsible for implementing IHP’s programme in the region, with the support of the UNESCO Water Family which includes 11 National Committees, 3 water-related category II centres and 5 UNESCO water related Chairs.

UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) coordinates the work of 31 UN-Water members (UN agencies) and 39 partners (international organisations, NGOs, etc.) in producing annually the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR), which is published by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water.

In attendance were over 40 experts and representatives from 13 countries in the region, including IHP National Committees, UNESCO Water Chairs, Water-related UNESCO Category II Centres, universities and research centres, students and youth representatives, UN agencies, national and local authorities, as well as other water organisations and stakeholders from South-East Europe and the Mediterranean.

The symposium was opened by Ana Luiza Massot Thompson Flores, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Stefan Uhlenbrook, UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (UNESCO WWAP) Coordinator, Enrico Padula, Embassy Counsellor, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Massimiliano de Martin, Councillor for Urban Planning and the Environment for the City of Venice.

Following Stefan Uhlenbrook’s introduction to the UN World Water Development Report, András Szöllösi-Nagy, former Secretary of UNESCO IHP, made a keynote address titled “Is the water crises inevitable or is it a matter of governance and equity? Expected changes of global and regional water resources”.

Key results of the symposium included: identifying approaches and tools to promote sustainable and equitable integrated water management at the country, basin and regional levels in South-East Europe and the Mediterranean; enhancing the understanding among participants of the region of WWDR 2019’s main messages; and, increasing synergies and strengthening UNESCO’s regional network of water stakeholders.

The World Water Development Report 2019 addresses a number of key issues, such as the effect of governance and equity on water resources in the future. These global issues also affect South-East Europe and the Mediterranean, where millions still lack access to basic drinking water service.

Representatives from countries of the region and the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC) contributed to the roundtable sessions. The first session addressed how different countries from the region found solutions to ensure equitable access to safe drinking water for the largest number. The second session looked at the relationship “inequality - climate change-disasters”, in particular water-related disasters.

Following an initial presentation by Carlo Giupponi, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, on “Going Beyond Averages”, roundtable representatives discussed how to improve water distribution in terms of space and time and water cooperation at river basin level. They similarly focused on a number of issues ranging from water supply, water pricing, the effect of population increase (including refugee settlements) on water access, the effective and economic usage of water, and other water management and cooperation issues in the river basin.

Water equity is both a global and local challenge. Erika Coppola from the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics opened the second session with a presentation on “Regional climate projection in the Mediterranean basin”. The session looked at how to improve the resilience of the most vulnerable communities to climate change and water-related disasters. Discussions among representatives focused on cooperation at the river basin level and between UNESCO water family members, the role of science in mitigating and adapting climate-related extreme events, the necessity to improve communication and cooperation in the region and specific measures to mitigate climate change.

Youth engagement is key to improving water equity and governance. Students from the University of Padua, the Ca' Foscari University of Venice, the Venice International University and the University of Bath in attendance expressed their motivation and willingness to take part in the water-related discussions.

Agenda 2030 calls for “Leaving no One behind”. This message was echoed by Ana Luiza Massot Thompson Flores who noted that: “The dignity of the human person is fundamental. SDGs must be met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society in South-East Europe and the Mediterranean.” She also highlighted the centrality of water in the SDGs and how water plays an important role in achieving sustainable and equitable development.

UNESCO and WWAP recognized this particular context and decided to focus this year’s World Water Development Report on “No One left Behind”. “Improved water resources management and access to safe water and sanitation for all is essential for eradicating poverty, building peaceful and prosperous societies, and ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’ on the path towards sustainable development.”, said Stefan Uhlenbrook.

World Water Development Report 2019 - Leaving No One Behind : Download the report

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