UNESCO and the Federal Republic of Germany signed an agreement on 9 July 2014 in Berlin to establish an International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change under the auspices of UNESCO (Category 2 centre) in Koblenz, Germany. The new Centre will assist Member States and collaborate with other water centers and chairs to facilitate and support research and capacity to help understand the scope of global change impacts on water resources in order to manage the water resources in a sustainable and adaptive way.
Water resource challenges to attain water security are increasingly taking on a global dimension among governments due to increasing water scarcity, water pollution and uncertainty with the associated effects on water for people, energy, food and ecosystems. When inadequate in quantity and quality, water can serve as a limiting factor in poverty alleviation and economic recovery, resulting in poor health and low productivity, and constrained economic development.
Even though the total amount of global water is sufficient to cover average global and annual water needs for all, regional and temporal variations in the availability of water are causing serious challenges with over two billion people living in severely water-stressed areas. Alongside the natural factors affecting water resources, human activities have become the primary ‘drivers’ of the pressures on our planet’s water resources systems. In addition to urbanization, expansion of infrastructure, migration, land conversion and pollution, other global change drivers such as climate change are aggravating the situation and are altering our planet in dramatic way.
No institution or country can face the challenges they pose alone. UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), which is the only global intergovernmental scientific programme on water freshwater resources of the UN system, fosters the cooperation needed to bring all players together, whether they are Member States, research institutions, universities, UN Agencies, NGOs, national or international organizations. Created following a proposal by the Federal Republic of Germany, the new German Centre will join UNESCO’s broad water family, which comprises more than 30 water-related centers. They all contribute to the implementation of IHP at the international and regional level. Challenges caused by the impact of global changes on water are among the priorities of the current phase of IHP, entitled: “Water Security: Responses to Local, Regional and Global Challenges” (IHP-VIII, 2014-2021).
The International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change will focus its activities on sustainable development and integrated water resources management by supporting hydrological research, education, training and raising awareness at all levels; the development of tools for operational purposes; international experts networking and the transfer of information and knowledge are key areas of the centers operation. It will assist Member States and collaborate with other water centers and chairs in finding better and more efficient solutions to day-to-day problems, as well as play a catalytic role in promoting holistic integrated actions amongst all water practitioners, ultimately leading to more sustainable societies.