Responses to Local, Regional, and Global Challenges
The Context: Water, A Vital Source
Freshwater is a key resource for human health, prosperity and security. It is essential for poverty eradication, gender equality, food security, and the preservation of ecosystems.
Yet billions of people worldwide are confronted with serious freshwater challenges, from water scarcity, poor quality, lack of sanitation facilities, to water-related disasters such as floods and droughts. Some 80% of the world’s population lives in areas with high water security threats.
The UN General Assembly declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right in July 2010. But lack of access to drinking water of adequate quality and quantity remains one of the largest human health problems globally. Although the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on water supply was met in 2010, more than 600 million people still lack access to safe drinking water, with over 40% living in sub-Saharan Africa. The MDG target on sanitation is unlikely to be met; some 2.5 billion in developing countries have no access to improved sanitation facilities. Poor rural populations are most affected.
Water resources are under increasingly severe pressure from climate change and other global drivers. Climate change alters rainfall patterns, soil moisture, humidity, glacier-mass balance and river flow, and also causes changes to underground water sources. At the same time, floods or droughts are rising in frequency and intensity. Over the next 40 years, approximately 800,000 new residents will move to cities around the world every week. Population growth and rapid urbanization will create further pressures on water resources and will have a tremendous impact on the natural environment.
Given these challenges, the need to manage freshwater properly is essential. Sustainable water development is enshrined in the 2030 sustainable development agenda, with water-specific goals explicitly linked to other development targets.
Our own fate is intrinsically bound to the fate of our water resources. To build the future we want, we need to harness the contributions of science and innovation for water security. UNESCO is ready to support this process and undertake a major action to strengthen water security for sustainable development.
Based on the priorities and needs of Member States as identified at the Nairobi meeting of the Working Group, the eighth phase of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP-VIII) focuses on six thematic areas to assist Member States in their challenging endeavor to better manage and secure water and to ensure the necessary human and institutional capacities. These are:
- Theme 1: Water-related Disasters and Hydrological Changes
- Theme 2: Groundwater in a Changing Environment
- Theme 3: Addressing Water Scarcity and Quality
- Theme 4: Water and Human Settlements of the Future
- Theme 5: Ecohydrology, Engineering Harmony for a Sustainable World
- Theme 6: Water Education, Key to Water Security
In order to achieve this strategic plan, the focus will be on:
- mobilizing international cooperation to improve knowledge and innovation to address water security challenges,
- strengthening the science-policy interface to reach water security at local, national, regional, and global levels and
- on developing institutional and human capacities for water security and sustainability.
The role of human behavior, cultural beliefs and attitudes to water, and socio-economic research to better understand and develop tools to adapt to changing water availability are some of the issues to be addressed.
IHP-VIII will bring multidisciplinary, environmentally sound and innovative methods, tools and approaches into play by capitalizing on advances in water sciences, as well as building competences to meet the challenges of today’s global water challenges. National Committees, UNESCO centres and chairs will play an important role in this process.