Building the Scientific Knowledge Base to Support Countries to Better Manage Their Water Resources

By Schlegel, Flavia | UN Chronicle, March 2018 | Go to article overview

Building the Scientific Knowledge Base to Support Countries to Better Manage Their Water Resources


Schlegel, Flavia, UN Chronicle


INTRODUCTION

Fresh water is a key resource for human health, prosperity and security. It is essential for poverty eradication, gender equality, food security and the preservation of ecosystems. Yet water resources are under increasingly severe pressure from global drivers such as population growth, climate variability and global change. Although constituting a finite resource, water is being stretched to serve more and more people and usages.

The International Organization for Migration recognizes climate change and migration as the most pressing policy issues of our time. Indeed, the international community recognizes the interrelation between increased climatic variability and water resources availability, which negatively impacts food security and social stability, and triggers or intensifies migration patterns throughout the world. In this context, it is vital for the global community to build sound scientific knowledge in order to support countries to better manage their water resources and respond to water-related challenges. The overall aim is to achieve water security by implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been working towards this end for more than 40 years through its Division of Water Sciences, and, more precisely, the Member States of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the only intergovernmental programme of the United Nations system devoted to water research, and water resources management, education and capacity-building. Originally an internationally coordinated hydrological research programme, it now constitutes an encompassing, holistic approach to facilitate education, and enhance water resources management and governance. The UNESCO Division of Water Sciences provides a platform to bring together the scientific research community and policymakers, benefiting from the extended network of the UNESCO Water Family, which comprises IHP, the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), and UNESCO water-related Centres and Chairs.

The aim of UNESCO to create knowledge societies is based on the premise that universal access to information and knowledge is key to building peace, promoting sustainable economic development and providing culturally sensitive and gender-responsive approaches to water-related challenges.

PART 1: RESPONDING TO THE NEEDS OF MEMBER STATES

Water education at all levels needs to be improved if the global water challenges are to be met. Water education can start early in school, in order to forge a societal mindset that recognizes the importance of this vital resource. At the local level, education strategies have the ability to promote community-wide water conservation, as well as enhance skills in local co-management of water resources. The involvement of youth can trickle down towards other members of the community. Objectives also comprise enhancing tertiary water education capacities, particularly in developing countries. However, water education extends beyond the teaching of hydrological sciences. UNESCO also reaches out to media professionals to develop accurate and effective communication on water issues. Collaboration between different educational areas is key to developing tools, guidelines, briefing papers, professional development programmes and case studies connected with water education.

Water education also includes the need to advance scientific knowledge through the training of scientists. Continuous professional development of stakeholders, for example through the UNESCO category 2 Institute for Water Education (IHE Delft), the Netherlands, increases the knowledge on water resources and water-related issues, and ensures the implementation of projects and policies that embrace scientific concepts of sustainable water management.

In this endeavour, cooperation between international organizations, professionals and researchers play a crucial role in sustainably developing and building water-related scientific knowledge. …

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