UNESCO International Water Conference
Date: 13–14 May 2019
Venue: UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
“Leveraging the trans-sectoral management of water resources for sustainable water security and peace” was the title of the first UNESCO International Water Conference opened by UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, and mainly prepared by the IHP department. It was attended by 34 ministers and 1,200 experts from 126 countries to mobilize the expertise and foster the cooperation needed to meet this challenge. It is worth mentioning that hardly any high-ranking European politicians were present. As part of the German contribution to the Conference, Mr. Harald Köthe, the ICWRGC’s Director, presented the Centre during the “UNESCO Water Family” side event.Although satellite imagery shows the abundant masses of water characterizing the Earth, less than 1% account for usable freshwater. The Conference offered a multitude of sessions reflecting the significance of freshwater for mankind in a wide variety of sectors (i.a. energy, education, security, diplomacy, data for decision-making, global change, climate change, disasters) while underscoring the need for action. In view of the ongoing alarming developments, Africa has been placed centre stage as a regional focal point. The scarcity of potable freshwater resources is further aggravated due to widespread poor water quality and climate change. Therefore, the upcoming IHP IX is to be aligned accordingly. The recently founded “Megacities Alliance for Water and Climate” was presented, including the prevailing problems in such cities, i.a. water scarcity, rising sea levels, and lowering due to excessive groundwater extraction. This alliance requires improved networking.
In his closing speech, the Deputy Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Xing Qu, gave an excellent account of the overall situation. The Conference referred to the next World Water Forum in 2021, to be held for the first time in Africa, or more precisely in Dakar, Senegal. The Senegalese Minister of Water gave a speech on this subject and invited for participation.