Some 200 representatives from national, regional and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), met in Yamassoukro (Cote d’Ivoire) from 30 to 31 July to debate the theme “Access to water for all in Africa”.
This is the second International Forum of UNESCO’s official NGO partners. It was organized by the UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee in cooperation with UNESCO’s Secretariat, and supported by the Cote d’Ivoire government.
In a video message to the Forum, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova thanked Ms Kandia Camara, the Minister of Education, for her personal involvement in the success of the event, and stressed the importance of sharing the planet’s water resources for achieving sustainable human development and a culture of peace.
“There is enough water on this Earth,” said the Director-General. “What’s lacking is governance and better management of resources. This can only be achieved if all of the actors concerned work together. NGOs and civil society have a key role to play in this.”
In his address to the meeting, Eric Falt, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information, who attended the Forum with UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Africa, Ms Lalla Aicha Ben Barka, said : “This Forum marks an important step in the history of our cooperation with NGOs, and is the outcome of a long journey of opening and change. Indeed this is the first NGO Forum to be held outside of Paris. We are delighted that it is taking place in Africa.”
Patrick Gallaud, Chairperson of the UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee added: “Our intention is not only to organize another meeting on water, but rather to confront – in a positive way – the points of view of the academic and non-governmental worlds, to come up with some concrete answers and innovative projects.”
Billions of people face major challenges to get the fresh water they need, caused by water shortages, poor water quality, lack of infrastructure or natural disasters such as floods or drought.
An estimated 80 percent of women and men live in zones where water security is considered to be at high risk. Six hundred million people do not have access to clean drinking water. Forty percent of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
UNESCO is strongly committed to water issues and has been working for many years to help countries manage their water resources in a sustainable way.
There are over 20 research centres on water affiliated to UNESCO around the world and a series of water-related Chairs and Networks.
UNESCO also boasts the IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft in the Netherlands, and leads the preparation of the UN-wide World Water Development Report, as well as the International Hydrological Programme.
The rallying cry of the Yamoussoukro Forum - “one for all, all for water” - chosen by a group of young people from Cote d’Ivoire, rang out loud and clear at the start of the meeting, held in the conference room of the Houphouet-Boigny Foundation.