The importance of cooperation in managing limited water resources in a world where demand is rapidly growing, cannot be underestimated: some 145 countries share a major river basin with at least one other nation.
The good news is that contrary to widely held belief, cooperation is more frequent than confrontation over water. This is illustrated by programs such as the Nile Basin Initiative’s Socio-Economic Benefits Sharing Project, the agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay over the conservation and environmental protection of the Guarani Aquifer, the Mekong River Basin management program, or the recent treaty between Moldova and the Ukraine for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Dniester Basin.
The IYWC launch event will be an occasion to raise awareness on the multiple dimensions of water cooperation, such as sustainable and economic development, climate change, food security or gender.
Opened by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, the Chairperson of UN Water Michel Jarraud, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Tajikistan Hamrokhon Zartifi and the French Minister Delegate for Development Pascal Canfin, the event will gather representatives from Inter-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, scientists and political decision makers from around the world. They’ll lead discussions on themes such as existing mechanisms for water cooperation, and regional, national and local cooperation around river basins.
Young people will play a significant part in the celebrations. Students from Japan will travel to France to meet with their counterparts from schools in France and from UNESCO-IHE (UNESCO Institute for Water Education, The Netherlands), at the Pavillon de l’eau (Water Pavilion), which the Paris Town Hall has made available for the occasion. They’ll share their experiences related to water and prepare a youth declaration on water cooperation to be presented to the other participants.
An exhibition entitled “Water at the heart of science” will also be inaugurated on the occasion. Prepared for the Year, the exhibition was co-produced with the French Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and the Centre de Culture scientifique at technique de la region Centre. Presented first at UNESCO, it will be shown throughout 2013 in the network of French cultural establishments around the world.
Cooperation on water issues will also be the theme for World Water Day on 22 March. This year, UN Water has organized the main event in The Hague (Netherlands). The Director-General and Mr. Jarraud will open the day’s celebrations, which will showcase successful examples of shared water resource management and, building on these case studies, look for ways to improve political and governmental cooperation in this domain.
Other major events marking the Year include a conference on water cooperation to be held in August in Dushanbe (Tajikistan), World Water Week in Stockholm (Sweden) from 1-6 September, and the Water Summit, which will take place in Budapest (Hungary) on 8 to 11 October.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2013 International Year for Water Cooperation in 2010, following a proposal from Tajikistan. At the request of UN Water, UNESCO was given responsibility of leading the Year’s events, in cooperation with United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and with the support of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).
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