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UNESCO Mobilises Global Partnership for Water Solution Ahead of World Water Forum

By Faridat Salifu

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will spearhead international collaboration and innovative solutions to address urgent global water challenges at the 10th World Water Forum, scheduled from May 18 to 24, 2024.

The event, themed “Water for Shared Prosperity,” will convene policymakers, scientists, and stakeholders worldwide to forge a collective commitment to water availability and cooperation.

This year’s forum, co-led by UNESCO, aims to underscore the vital connections between water management and climate disruption. It will emphasize how improved cooperation and data collection can lead to global water security and resilience.

UNESCO is championing three core objectives: enhancing cooperation on water, improving knowledge and data collection, and increasing education and awareness on water-related issues.

“In the face of increasing water scarcity and climate variability, it’s crucial that we enhance international cooperation to sustainably measure and manage water resources, and train a new generation of water professionals,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

Enhancing Transboundary Water Cooperation

Effective management of shared water resources, from rivers and lakes to transboundary aquifers, requires urgent collaboration among nations.

UNESCO has been instrumental in identifying transboundary systems across 153 countries, mapping 468 aquifers and 286 rivers and lakes.

Through the decade-long Governance of Groundwater Resources in Transboundary Aquifers (GGRETA) project, UNESCO has provided assessments and governance frameworks for aquifers across three continents, alongside localized programs in West Africa, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and South America.

A notable example is the Senegal River Basin, where the Manantali Dam, located in Mali but managed collectively by the Senegal River Basin Development Authority, supports the energy needs of Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal.

Advancing Knowledge and Data Collection since the 1980s, data collection on water has declined, necessitating the use of technological advances to improve it. UNESCO’s Water Information Network System harmonizes global and local water data, enabling informed decision-making.

Complementing this, the Open Learning Platform equips users with skills to convert raw data into actionable insights.

Given the intrinsic link between water and climate, UNESCO’s Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA) methodology helps manage water resources in stressed areas by identifying hydro-climatic vulnerabilities.

Additionally, Flood and Drought Early Warning Systems have been deployed in Africa.

UNESCO advocates for governments to invest in training local communities to provide ground-truth data to validate and enhance satellite surveillance measurements.

Addressing systemic inefficiencies, such as leaky pipes, which result in significant water loss, is also crucial to reducing water scarcity globally.

Raising Awareness and Understanding training the next generation of water professionals to advise on comprehensive water policies that consider economic, social, political, health, and agricultural impacts is essential to combat future water scarcity.

Each year, UNESCO and its partners train around 20,000 individuals through a network of 29 Category-2 research centres, 84 UNESCO university chairs, and national committees, fostering international knowledge exchange and providing specialized training on water issues.

UNESCO also focuses on educating the general public, particularly children and youth, through awareness campaigns and the Global Network of Water Museums, which reaches 10 million visitors annually.

These efforts aim to increase understanding of water science and daily water usage.

UNESCO calls for a more inclusive approach to water management, emphasizing the value of ancestral knowledge and practices. The LINKS program supports indigenous peoples in sharing their water management methods, governance approaches, and rights issues, contributing to sustainable water resource management.

As the 10th World Water Forum approaches, UNESCO’s leadership in fostering global cooperation and innovative solutions is crucial to addressing the pressing challenges of water scarcity and climate change.


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