UNESCO Calls for Radical Reform of Water Education

DELFT, Netherlands, July 17, 2003 (ENS) - The leader of the top United Nations educational and scientific body is calling for a radical review and reform of water education programs and for a rapid doubling in the number of water professionals around the world.

Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told an international audience that the planet faces looming water shortages, which threaten to affect billions of the Earth’s inhabitants by mid-century.

Speaking today at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, Matsuura warned that between two and seven billion people will face water scarcity by 2050, depending on factors like population and policy choices.

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UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura of Japan (Photo by Viviane Froger courtesy UNESCO )
He addressed a symposium on water education and capacity building, attended by over 200 high level experts from water and education sectors around the world.

A state-of-the-issue document, "The World Water Development Report - Water for People, Water for Life" was published last March to mark 2003 as the UN International Year of Fresh Water by a coalition of 23 United Nations agencies and programs. It details the impending water shortages.

The report states that to ensure our basic needs, we all need 20 to 50 liters of water free from harmful contaminants every day. A child born in the developed world consumes 30 to 50 times as much water resources as one in the developing world.

These and many other facts about water shortages are documented, but trained professionals and competent policy makers aware of the linkages between water, poverty, health, development and, indeed, survival, are lacking, Matsuura said.

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Malaysian girl fills container with water. (Photo by R. Faidutti courtesy FAO)
Established as a institute for water education in 1957, the IHE took on an international status and mandate when it became part of UNESCO in March. It is expected to become the hub of a global network of UNESCO related regional centres, UNESCO Chairs, networks and partnerships in water education and capacity building.

"Water has reached the top of the international agenda, and I see it as our role to empower people, communities and institutions to achieve effective water management through education, training and research with the future water managers of the world," said the first director of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Dr. Richard Meganck.

Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, president of the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND) participated in the event in his capacity as UNESCO special envoy for water. He announced the establishment of a multi-million dollar AGFUND-UNESCO Fund to support projects for the preservation and development of fresh water resources.

The "World Water Development Report - Water for People, Water for Life" can be found at: http://www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/