2005-2015 is the International Decade For Action 'Water for Life'
UNESCO Holds Workshop on Transboundary Aquifers
UNESCO-IHP, with partners the Académie de l’Eau (Water Academy) and the Bureau de Recherche Géologique et Minière (BRGM) (French Geological Survey), organized a workshop on 29-30 May on transboundary aquifers with the goal of affirming the interdisciplinary nature of water management as well as the necessity to create a common language between different disciplines.
The workshop was an opportunity to present the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers that were adopted by the UN International Law Commission (UNILC) in June 2006. The articles have been sent to governments for comment by January 2008. Ambassador Chuseï Yamada, Special Rapporteur of the UNILC on the topic, attended the workshop and informed the participants on the work of the Commission and the future steps in the process of adoption of the draft articles.
IHP has been associated with the work of the UNILC since 2003 and has made scientific contributions in the field of hydrogeology to the Commission during the process of drafting these articles. During these years IHP has invited and coordinated the contributions of international experts, international and national institutions, and centres on groundwater resources.
The participants of the workshop were legal advisors from Ministries of Foreign Affairs, water experts (including lawyers) from Ministries of Environment of several countries (France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Saudi Arabia) and groundwater experts.
This workshop was an opportunity to emphasize the importance of transboundary aquifers across the world and the stakes involved in the adoption of the draft articles during the first reading by the UNILC. It was also a further opportunity to affirm the interdisciplinary nature of water management.
For more information, contact Ms. Raya Marina Stephan at email@example.com
|Snæfellsjökull in Iceland
© Teitur Torkelsson
Melting Ice: UNESCO’s Director-General Matsuura Honours World Environment Day
In a statement issued 5 June, Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura spoke about concerns related to the phenomena of ”Melting Ice”, the topic of this year’s World Environment Day. Citing the rise in sea level of 4 to 6 meters that occurred when the temperature was 3-5 degrees higher 125,000 years ago, he encourages the global community to fill the existing gaps in understanding the Polar Regions of the world. This falls in line with the International Polar Year, which was launched in March 2007 and is devoted to the monitoring of Polar Regions.
Find out more about World Environment Day
Read Director-General Matsuura’s entire statement [PDF format – 52 KB]
17 June: World Day to Combat Desertification: Desertification and Climate Change – One Global Challenge
June 17, 2007 marks the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which occurred in 1994. The day is meant to highlight the need to slow down the processes of desertification that are taking place around the world and raise awareness of the world’s population of this important issue. This year’s UNCCD celebration will focus on the topic of climate change and what its impacts are on desertification.
Find out more information about the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
UNESCO Water Family
3-6 September 2007: Brisbane, Australia
This Riversymposium will focus on the emerging field of river management and Environmental Flows. The program will feature presentations on innovative practices and case studies from all over the world and a wide range of perspectives on managing river flows for people and ecosystem health.
Featured International Events
27-31 May 2008: Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia
ECWATECH - 2008 - The 8th International Trade Fair and Congress “Water: Ecology and Technology”
3-6 June 2008: Moscow, Russia
Whose water? - NZWWA's 49th Annual Conference & Expo
19-21 September 2007: Rotorua, New Zealand
Legal Framework of Water Resources Management - Asia Regional Course
22 October-2 November 2007: Sydney, Australia
Caves of Sky: A journey in the heart of glaciers.
La Venta/ UNESCO, 2007.
With the theme of World Environment Day being “Melting Ice”, Caves of Sky: A journey in the heart of glaciers presents a joint effort between UNESCO and La Venta to show not only the beauty of glaciers and ice caps, but their importance to the world and its inhabitants.
More information on Caves of Sky: A journey in the heart of glaciers
GETTING TO KNOW UNESCO’S WATER FAMILY
An interview with... Thomas Schaaf, Programme Specialist, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences
How does your work at UNESCO relate to desertification?
For some twenty years, I have been working at UNESCO's Division of Ecological Sciences and its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme on the interface of scientific studies related to land degradation in the dry areas, environmental conservation and sustainable development. I have conducted several large-scale research projects on desertification and drylands such as in northwestern Kenya and in the drylands of Lesotho. Currently, I am implementing the inter-regional project "Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands” (SUMAMAD) which promotes on-site field studies in biosphere reserves and in other research areas, as well as co-operation among scientific institutions in Belgium, China, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia and Uzbekistan. On the institutional level, UNESCO works closely with the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) thanks to a joint Memorandum of Understanding.
What is a little-known fact about desertification that you think everyone should know?
Desertification has been defined as land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities. Unlike many other natural disasters (earthquakes, land slides, tsunamis etc.), which occur within seconds or hours with devastating effects, desertification is a relatively slow process whose negative consequences are not immediately visible. In essence, desertification reduces the biological and economic productivity of drylands and thus minimizes the resource base of croplands, pastoral areas and forests leading to increased poverty of dryland people.
What drew you to study/work on the topic of desertification?
For my doctorate degree in geography, I did my field studies in Africa (Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire) on savanna and forest ecosystems. I was fascinated by the serenity and beauty of drylands but also saw the widespread poverty in the dry areas because of desertification. I felt that we all have a dual challenge: we need to conserve dryland ecosystems and the species they contain (some of which have developed remarkable adaptation strategies to cope with harsh climatic conditions) and we need to assist dryland people to improve their livelihoods based on their needs. I think the biosphere reserve concept that was developed by UNESCO-MAB is a very important step in that direction as these sites are good "learning laboratories for sustainable development" that promote environmental conservation and development bolstered by research and involve local people in decision-making on environmental management.
June 17 is the World Day to Combat Desertification. How have you celebrated this in previous years?
One year ago – within the framework of the 2006 International Year of Deserts and Desertification – I organized the UNESCO international scientific conference on "The Future of Drylands" which was held in Tunis under the high patronage of the President of the Tunisian Republic and co-sponsored by about 20 UN bodies, international organizations and foundations. Over 400 conference participants adopted the "Tunis Declaration" which identifies 12 priority themes for scientific studies to help combat desertification. We are currently editing the scientific papers to be published soon by UNESCO and Springer Publishing as conference proceedings. The proceedings will be a landmark publication on the current state of knowledge related to desertification studies.
Activities related to Desertification
UNESCO has supported the establishment of a global network on water resources management in arid and semi-arid zones by bringing together an international group of experts to develop the concept, objectives, and an outline of the network into what is called G-WADI. G-WADI’s primary aim is to build an effective global community through the integration of selected existing material from networks, centres, organizations, and individuals who would become members of G-WADI. The network will promote international and regional cooperation in the arid and semi-arid areas. The activities initiated within the network will expand in a dynamic way to meet emerging needs along the lines of these objectives.
The Water Centre for Arid and Semi-arid Zones of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAZALAC), based in Chile, a center under the auspices of UNESCO, concentrates its activities on strengthening the technical, social and education development in arid and semi-arid zones. As 4.5 million km² of Latin America, spanning over 22 countries, falls under these types of zones, a large proportion of the population lives in arid or semi-arid areas. Much of these populations are poor and easily affected by processes of desertification. CAZALAC works to promote and disseminate research on water resources and helps establish pilot projects of sustainable water management in these regions.
|Desertification in Senegal
© Dominique Roger, UNESCO
DID YOU KNOW...? FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT DESERTIFICATION
- Contrary to popular belief, desertification is not the expansion of deserts. It is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas caused mostly by human activities and climactic variations.
- One third of the world’s land surface is covered by dryland ecosystems. These areas are very fragile and react strongly to inappropriate land use.
- More than 250 million people worldwide are affected by desertification. The real cause for alarm is that another one billion people are at risk, residing in over 100 countries.
- Over 70% of the world’s drylands (excluding hyper-arid deserts) are degraded.
- Not all consequences of the degradation of drylands are felt by those inhabiting the drylands themselves. Dust storms and air pollution are often a result of degraded drylands and negative impacts were felt at long distances in cases such as the Dust Bowl years in the United States, the Virgin Land scheme area of the former Soviet Union in the 1950s and in the African Sahel in the 1970s and 1980s.
- It is estimated that the negative impact to annual incomes in areas directly affected by desertification is approximately USD$42 billion per year. And this number only takes into account the “direct” costs.
The section “Did You Know...?” is taken from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification website
UNESCO’s Water Family consists of the following:
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