Launch at UNESCO of the International Year for Water Cooperation 2013

11 February 2013, Paris • The International Year for Water Cooperation will be launched at UNESCO Headquarters on 11 February 2013. The importance of cooperation in managing water resources in a world where demand is rapidly growing cannot be underestimated: about 145 countries share a major river basin with at least one other nation. Contrary to widely held belief cooperation is more frequent than confrontation over water.

2013 paris 11 febWater cooperation takes many forms ranging from cooperation across boundaries to manage shared underground aquifers and river basins, to scientific data exchange, to cooperation in a rural village to build a water pump. One thing is sure – humanity will not survive without water cooperation. This is illustrated by programmes 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 programme, or the recent treaty between Moldova and Ukraine for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Dniester Basin. The launch event for the International Year for Water Cooperation 2013 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 intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, scientists and political decision makers from around the world. They will lead discussions on themes such as existing mechanisms for water cooperation, and regional, national and local cooperation around river basins.

Topics for the discussions by representatives of governments, local communities, specialized NGOs and UN organizations, joined by eminent specialists and youths will be:

  • How water cooperation can best contribute to the Global Agenda on Sustainable Development for the post-2015 era so as to effectively address the needs of all societies,
  • Harnessing cooperation at all levels to address water-related challenges, including:
    • Regional cooperative mechanisms,
    • Government action at the national level,
    • Action at the local level,
    • Cooperation at the basin level, and
    • Science, capacity building and partnerships.

Young people will play a significant part in the celebrations. Students from Fukushima (Japan) will travel to France to meet with their counterparts from schools in France and from the UNESCO-IHE 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 will 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, technique et industrielle de la region Centre. Presented first at UNESCO, it will be shown in the network of French cultural establishments around the world throughout 2013.

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). UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, and Mr Michel 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 World Water Week, in Stockholm (Sweden) from 1–6 September, a conference on water cooperation in Dushanbe (Tajikistan), also in September, and the Water Summit, which will take place in Budapest (Hungary) on 10 and 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).