UNESCO commemorates 50 Years of Water Programmes

As part of the activities to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its water programmes, UNESCO organized a celebratory event on 9 November 2015 at UNESCO Headquarters during the 38th General Conference. A high level panel shared perspectives on the past and future of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP).

The event was hosted by Ms Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros, the Secretary of the IHP and Director of the Division of Water Sciences of UNESCO, and Mr Jean Patrice Jourda, IHP Vice-Chairperson for Africa. Delegates from UNESCO's electoral groups discussed the impact of UNESCO’s water programmes in their regions over the past fifty years, as well as their vision for the future of their collaboration with UNESCO. In 1965, UNESCO and WMO began the first worldwide programme of studies of the hydrological cycle – the International Hydrological Decade (IHD) – complemented by a major effort in the field of hydrological education and training. Conscious of the need to expand upon the efforts of the IHD, UNESCO launched the IHP in 1975 to follow the Decade.

Among the achievements of IHP, the panellists praised UNESCO’s role as a catalyser, its capacity to connect people to solve water issues and its ability to connect decision-makers with scientists. The Delegates also recognized IHP’s contribution in paving the way for cooperation among countries. They furthermore highlighted the impact of the UNESCO Water Family, recognizing that the network of Water-related Chairs, the 169 IHP National Committees, Category 2 Centres such as IGRAC, ICIWaRM, IRTCUD, ICHARM and RCTWS, and Category 1 Centres such as UNESCO-IHE are important instruments to improve sustainable water management and to generate and share knowledge at all levels. 

Looking towards the future, the panellists identified some pressing issues in their regions such as pollution reduction, water shortages and use of groundwater resources. UNESCO’s constructive and continuous ability to strengthen the international water network and to promote collaboration between experts and policy-makers is considered vital to future IHP initiatives. Panellists also noted that UNESCO should support regional and transregional cooperation, such as South-South cooperation. Panellists expressed their need for UNESCO to continue using innovative ways to foster collaboration through the UNESCO Water Family, including the promotion of innovative practices. In addition, UNESCO should continue to contribute to water education to strengthen the capacity of Member States. Finally, the importance of UNESCO’s role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was highlighted. According to H. E. Mr Lionel Strenghart Veer, Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to UNESCO, “UNESCO should be the compass for Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) to be put in practice and implemented.” 

Involved in the inception of the dedicated goal on freshwater and sanitation (SDG 6), IHP is well designed to contribute to its implementation. The IDH/IHP 50th anniversary campaign also serves to involve stakeholder countries and help IHP strengthen its role for Member States in addressing water-related challenges and implementing the 2030 Agenda. 

Other celebratory activities organized by IHP this year include the launch of the publication Water, People and Cooperation: 50 Years of Water Programmes for Sustainable Development at UNESCO during the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) on 2 December 2015, a series of film screenings entitled “50 Years, 50 Movies on Water”, the event Celebrating 50 years of Water Leadership in Asia and the Pacific on 19 October 2015.  The list of the various celebratory activities held worldwide is accessible on the dedicated webpage.

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