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World Water Day Celebrates Water Cooperation

22 March 2013: This year's edition of World Water Day, celebrated on 22 March, was organized around the theme of water cooperation and within the framework of the International Year of Water Cooperation. The Day's celebrations were coordinated by UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), for UN-Water.

The official celebrations were hosted by the Netherlands in The Hague, in conjunction with the High-Level Meeting of the Global Consultation on Water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which took place from 21-22 March 2013.

The celebrations included opening keynote speeches by Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, the Netherlands, and Chair of the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB). Thematic breakout sessions then focused on: water cooperation is key to poverty reduction social equity and gender equity; water cooperation creates economic benefits; water cooperation helps preserve water resources and protect the environment; and water cooperation builds peace. In the afternoon, the High-Level Forum on the Global Thematic Consultation on Water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda convened to endorse the outcomes of the consultation.

Several other UN events also convened, including the High-Level Interactive Dialogue of the 67th UN General Assembly (UNGA), at UN Headquarters in New York, US, and the commemoration of World Water Day at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) headquarters, in Bangkok, Thailand.

A number of UN agencies also issued releases and statements in honor of World Water Day. UNECE highlighted the role of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) in international water cooperation, particularly in light of the entry to force of an amendment allowing all UN Member States to accede to the Convention.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched new public awareness “Pride Campaigns” for watershed and biodiversity protection in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. These campaigns aim to replicate successful pilot projects funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), in partnership with UNEP, which encourage downstream water users to contribute to conservation of highland forests. UN-Habitat highlighted successful water and sanitation projects, including sanitation interventions in schools, such as in Bondo Township, Kenya, and Zanzibar, Tanzania, and the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative (LVWATSAN).

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) outlined its technical cooperation project on water resources assessment and management in the Sahel region, which aims to build scientific capacity, provide regional-level analysis, close data gaps and raise public awareness in five transboundary water systems. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) called for addressing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) linked to child mortality.

The World Bank highlighted water-related climate change impacts such as flooding, droughts and other extreme events, underscoring the importance of cooperation. The GEF noted the US$1.2 billion in GEF grants had leveraged US$7.1 billion in co-financing for projects related to freshwater resources. The African Development Bank (AfDB) described the adoption, in 2000, of the Africa Water Vision 2020 as an example of water cooperation and outlined the affect of negative impact of lack of WASH on women in Africa.

In a number of statements, Heads of UN agencies and others addressed aspects of water cooperation. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed “water holds the key to sustainable development” and underscored investment in sanitation as a “down-payment on a sustainable future.” Michel Jarraud, Secretary General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and UN-Water Chair, emphasized cooperation in realizing the water outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) and in ensuring water's place in the post-2015 development agenda.

Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO, highlighted the slogan of the International Year of Water Cooperation, “water, water everywhere, only if we share,” calling for cooperation to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström underscored water management for disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Anada Tiéga, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, highlighted the importance of international cooperation on the protection of wetlands. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Días, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), called for cross-sectoral and systematic approaches to water management and biodiversity conservation, particularly regarding the use of natural infrastructure to increase water security.

In addition, the 3rd UN-Water “Water for Life” Best Practices Awards were presented by the UN Office to Support the International Decade for Action “Water for Life”/UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) and the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) to recipients from Japan and Moldova. The city of Kumamoto, Japan, received the award in the category “best water management practices” for a project managing groundwater recharge through watershed forest protection. The Safe Water and Sanitation for all in the Republic of Moldova won the award for “best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices” for fostering partnerships between stakeholders and local authorities for the implementation of the human right to water and sanitation. Furthermore, UNESCO designated Maestro Tan Dun as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, who performed “Music for Water,” at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.

World Water Day was established by the UNGA in 1993, following the recommendation for an international day to celebrate water by the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). World Water Day takes place annually on 22 March, on a theme selected by UN-Water. Previous World Water Day themes include: water and food security; water for cities; water quality; transboundary water; international year of sanitation; water scarcity; and water and culture. [World Water Day Website] [UN-Water Press Release] [UNESCO Press Release 20 March 2013] [UNESCO Press Release 22 March 2013] [UNECE Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [FAO Press Release] [UN-Habitat Press Release] [IAEA Press Release] [UNICEF Press Release, 21 March 2013] [UNICEF Press Release, 22 March 2013] [UNESCAP Press Release, 21 March 2013] [UNESCAP Press Release 22 March 2013] [Publication: UNW-DPC Capacity Pool Issue 16] [UNESCO Director-General Statement] [CBD Executive Secretary Statement] [UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Statement] [World Bank Press Release] [GEF Press Release on Water Security] [GEF Press Release on Watershed Protection] [AfDB President Statement] [AfDB Press Release on Water Cooperation] [AfDB Press Release on Gender Issues] [EU Press Release] [EU Statement on World Water Day] [AMCOW Press Release]  [Ramsar Press Release] [UN-Water Best Practices Award “Water For Life” Press Release] [UNESCO Press Release] [GWP Press Release 22 march 2013] [GWP Press Release on International Year of Water Cooperation] [GWP-CEE Press Release] [GWP-C Press Release] [WSSCC Press Release] [IUCN Press Release] [UPU Press Release]