Experts rally for water sustainability at UN World Water Assessment Programme

On 15 February, on the occasion of her visit to Italy, the Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the High-Level Panel Debate on “The road towards achieving Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development through water Sustainability”, held at the premises of the UN World Water Assessment Programme, hosted by UNESCO, at its premises at Villa Colombella near the city of Perugia.

Following a general introduction on the pioneering role of the WWAP Programme within the UN System to assess, monitor and report on the status of freshwater resources worldwide for policy-makers, researchers and other stakeholders, panel members discussed the central role of water resources in connecting all segments and sectors of society.

‎"Water is fundamental for a sustainable world, from improving health conditions to fighting extreme poverty" declared Irina Bokova. 

‎‎International experts among which Ms. Barbara Degani, Undersecretary, Minister of the Environment, the Protection of Land and Sea of the Government of Italy; Professor Fernando Nardi, Director if the Water Research and Documentation Centre (WARREDOC) of the University of Perugia; Professor Huub Savenija, President of the International association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS); Professor Stefan Uhlenbrook, Coordinator and Director of the World Water Assessment Programme; and Deputy Director of WWAP, Professor Michela Miletto  analyzed challenges and opportunities faced in order to achieve sustainable development through enhanced water management globally. 

In the debate, the Director-General also exchanged views with Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Mario Giro on the ways UNESCO and Italy cooperate to achieve the goals as set out by the 2030 Development agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Panelists addressed obstacles to water availability, access and management and their respective impact on communities and individuals, and ultimately on fostering development and peaceful cohexistence. In this respect, conflicts around water scarcity were highlighted as a major threat to lasting peace and development, as well as to gender equality. 

Equally, participants stressed the role of education research and science as instrumental to build healthy societies, fighting extreme poverty ‎and developing economic opportunities. 

The Director-General thanked the Italian government and the Umbria Region for their longstanding support in science cooperation and water management. 

"Italy and UNESCO share the same vision that water is not only about science, it is about human dignity, it is about gender equality, it is about peace and science diplomacy." 

Irina Bokova underlined the importance of a proper assessment of the figures: “Since 2010, the universal human right to clean drinking water and sanitation has been explicitly recognized by the General Assembly of the UN. Unfortunately, to date more than 700 million people do not have access to a sufficient amount of clean and safe water, 2 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation and the first victims are girls and women”, she said. 

Vice Minister Giro stressed the need for greater scientific cooperation, emphasizing that each and every one of us has a role to play in making our planet more sustainable. Building on his personal experience with development cooperation in several countries in the African continent, Vice Minister Giro called for a "greater cooperation of all stakeholders, including the private sector, NGOs and civil society at large. ‎" 

Undersecretary for the Environment, Barbara Degani referred to the legacy of EXPO2015 in Milan for mobilizing the civil society and promoting a new awareness. 

Quality university education is not enough, we will need as much non-formal education to change behaviours and create new sustainable models of consumption” she said.   

Director-General Bokova ended by stating that the challenges are huge and the answers are complex, but as long as we can establish solid partnerships with the public and private sectors, there will be hope that we will live up to the standards that we have set, for ourselves, and for the generations to come.  

WWAP was founded in 2000 with the objective of producing the World Water Development Report on the status of Global freshwater resources and has been benefiting from the generous support of Italy and the Umbria Region since 2007. 

The WWAP publishes annually on behalf of the UN Water, the United Nations World Water‎ Development Report considered the most authoritiative thematic review of freshwatter resources in the Unites Nations System. The next Report focusing on "Water and Jobs"  is due to be launched on 22 March in Geneva.