"Water cooperation is about human dignity”

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© UNESCO

On 3 October, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, took part in the launch of the 2014 edition of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) at the Italian Parliament in Rome, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Gian Luca Galletti, Italian Minister of the Environment and Protection of the Land and Sea, a range of Parliamentarians as well as members of academia and the diplomatic corps in Italy.

The meeting was entitled "the United Nations and the management of the world water resources ‎- Cooperation between UNESCO and Italy" and it was opened by the Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, Marina Sereni, moderated by the Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mario Giro.

Challenges of water-related issues and energy in the context of water shortage, climate change, increasing natural disasters were emphasized throughout the discussion.

The Vice President of the ‎Chamber of Deputies declared that "culture and the protection of the environment are the focus of the Italian government's priorities for growth and sustainable development, also in the context of the Italian presidency of the European Union". She pursued by noting the interdependence of all countries across the world in terms of access to water resources and the long-term imperative to ensure equitable and sustainable development.

The Director-General commended Italy’s commitment to improve the management of world water resources through stronger international cooperation -- “this resonates strongly with the core message of UNESCO,” she said.

“Water cooperation is about human dignity as much as it is about development – the two cannot be separated,” she continued. “This is about fighting poverty and saving children from disease. It is about allowing girls to go to school instead of walking kilometres to fetch water.”

Minister Galletti emphasized Italy's active role, as host of the WWAP, and his country's strong commitment to foster international cooperation in the area of access to water and water reuse. "The resources that we have long considered as inexhaustable have become exhaustable'. He pursued by saying that "water has become an emergency issue which implies a cultural, economic and social change, and we need to foster and disseminate an environmental culture". He shared Italy's new programme "Environmental Natives", aimed at developing education for sustainable development and the protection of the environment in the school system. He also emphasised the importance of moving from a linear economic production model to a circular production cycle, which allows water reuse and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The Director-General called for action at several levels, including cross-sectoral decision making as choices in one sector have repercussion on others, a new paradigm of sustainable, integrated water resources management and identifying the tipping points for water sustainability and pinpointing specific water targets.

“The only way for the post-2015 development agenda to be sustainable, is by giving all countries equal opportunities and equal capacities to manage our most precious global public goods,” declared the Director-General.

At the end of the session, the Director-General held bilateral talks with Minister Galletti on joining forces with a view to strengthening cooperation in the context of the COP 21 conference, in particular mobilizing private sector partners worldwide that are engaged in the productive economic chain and to convey ‎a forceful message that a cultural, economic and social shift is an imperative that does not entail a long-term economic burden but rather a long-term social and moral engagement for sustainable development.