Making a water secure world a reality for all through the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme
Representatives UNESCO Member States met on the occasion of the 25th session of the Intergovernmental Council of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO, in Paris, France on 26-29 April 2022 to discuss the implementation plan of the programme's ninth phase (IHP-IX, 2022-2029).
The recent United Nations World Water Development Report 2022, entitled 'Groundwater: making the invisible visible' states that an estimated four billion people live in areas that suffer from severe physical water scarcity for at least one month per year. The 2021 edition of the report reveals that over 2 billion people already live in areas subject to water stress. Some 3.4 billion people, 45% of the global population, lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities. According to independent assessments, the world will face a global water deficit of 40% by 2030. This situation will be worsened by global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change.
The 36 members of the Council decided that the Operational Implementation Plan of IHP-IX shall be put in practice through an inclusive process of thematic working groups and cross-sectoral groups composed by representatives of the UNESCO Water Family, comprising IHP National Committees and water-related Centres under the auspices of UNESCO as well as UNESCO Chairs and partners.
The Strategic Plan for the Programme’s ninth phase comprises five interrelated Priority Areas: Scientific Research and Innovation; Water Education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution including Sustainability; Bridging the Data-Knowledge Gap; Integrated Water Resources Management under Conditions of Global Change; Water Governance Based on Science for Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience. They were designed in an inclusive, consultative process with UNESCO’s Member States.
The Council adopted four resolutions to ensure IHP-IX and the programme's evolving system of Flagship Initiatives work in synergy towards global water and development goals, in this era of the anthropocene, where global water needs are rising while global water supply is dwindling, and climate change impacts are increasingly being felt through water.
Leaving no one behind in the global access to water
During the opening of the Council, Ms Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences of UNESCO, made an urgent call for more support from Member States for the work of IHP, stating that the success of the programme is even more crucial now than ever before, given the growing global water crisis. Ms Nair-Bedouelle also stressed that supporting IHP and its 9th phase will be an excellent means to accelerating the achievement of the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6), which is currently off track. Underscoring the SDG 6 Accelerator framework’s Capacity Development Initiative, co-led by UNESCO, she also explained that more work is needed in the areas of water and gender, as well as water and climate change; both of which are included in the ambitious IHP-IX Strategic Plan.
The new and ambitious 9th phase of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), which will run for 7 years (2022-2029), sets out a brand new approach for the programme, with activities that do not target sectors but rather focus on the transversal nature of water. In other words, since water affects every aspect of life, actions to ensure water security must take this into consideration in their design. Water education initiatives are among the many activities planned to raise awareness on the transversal nature of water, and to educate all stakeholders on the ever-growing need to make global water security a reality. The planned water education activities will target experts, non-experts and the media.
In addition, the IHP-IX will offer a platform to extend cooperation within the international scientific community, and thus contribute to addressing many unsolved problems in hydrology. New issues are emerging due to the ever-increasing pace of environmental changes combined with human activities, and a better understanding of hydrology is essential to allow us to take these interactions between human activities and water systems into consideration to develop scenarios for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and allow water contribute to global development and peace.
Water security, which is the main focus of the 9th phase of IHP, is ever more important now as the global water demand is growing at a fast pace while facing ever increasing water shortages and water pollution. Intensifying climate change is also playing into this disturbing pattern with an increase in water-related climate disasters destroying lives and infrastructure, to such an extent that experts now agree that the climate crisis is a water crisis. The IHP's 9th phase is therefore coming at an appropriate time and is expected to provide UNESCO Member States with solutions for all of these issues with the help of science.
A scientific side event, held at UNESCO headquarters on the eve of the 25th Council session, provided an opportunity to discuss and shape the scientific contribution of IHP-IX to the agenda of the United Nations 2023 Water Conference.