Iran proposes Regional Centre on Urban Water Management

15 March 2001 - A Regional Centre on Urban Water Management in Teheran (Iran), which would operate under the auspices of UNESCO, has come a step closer to realization with the signing of an Aide-Memoire between the Senior Vice-Minister of Energy of Iran and UNESCO’s Deputy Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences.

The Aide-Mémoire was signed on 4 December 2000 during a UNESCO mission to Iran in response to the request by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) that the IHP Secretariat lend assistance to preparation of the proposal. Organized by the Ministry of Energy, the programme included interviews with the authorities, academic institutions and private sector concerns, as well as appointments with the Ministers of Energy and of Science, Research and Technology, and with the Head of Parliament’s Civil Works Committee.

It emerged from the mission that the Government of Iran is clearly strongly committed to hosting a Regional Center on Urban Water Management. The Government has created a Task Force of top government officials and IHP National Committee representatives headed by the Senior Vice-Minister of Energy, gathered a large segment of the governmental, scientific, academic and professional water community of Iran behind the project and already invested close to $300,000 in preliminary activities and in acquiring and equipping the initial venue. In addition, the Government has initiated a number of contacts conducive to gathering regional and international support for the Centre, including that of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a subregional intergovernmental body, and of the IHP National Committee of the Russian Federation.

At the time the National Commission of Iran to UNESCO first raised the idea in 1999, the initiative was welcomed by the Director-General of UNESCO, who invited Iran to submit a detailed proposal. The Intergovernmental Council of the IHP at its 14th session (Paris, June 2000) also welcomed the Iranian proposal to establish the centre, considering that it would strengthen the region’s research, education and professional capacities and enhance public awareness of urban water management. The next step will be for the proposal to gain approval at the spring 2001 session of the Executive Board before it is submitted to the General Conference at its 31st sesssion in October this year for final adoption.

Although the Government of Iran will provide for the running of the centre, assistance has been requested from UNESCO, particularly during the start-up period. The Government of Iran perceives UNESCO’s role in this endeavour as one of helping to establish a centre of excellence with a regional character, which would serve primarily Central Asian countries, and of helping to gain access to international technical assistance and funding sources.

Freshwater and the hydrological cycle was one of the priorities of the World Conference on Science in the environmental sciences. The Science Agenda calls for a strengthening of regional cooperation, particularly that between between neighbouring countries or among countries having similar ecological conditions (para.29).

The initiative also follows up the recommendation that ‘each country assess and so identify the health improvement priorities that are best suited to their own circumstances. National and regional research programmes aimed at reducing variations in health among communities ... should be introduced (para.26).’