Water experts of 26 UN agencies to meet in Canada, plan coordinated response to looming crisis

January 03, 2010

More than two dozen leading United Nations water experts will convene in Hamilton, Canada Feb. 2-4 to plan fresh strategy for a coordinated approach to the global water crisis that increasingly threatens both human health and international security.

At its first-ever meeting in Canada, the group known as UN-Water will also formalize international ceremonies to mark the World Water Day 2010 (March 22) and help set both direction and UN agency contributions for the next triennial World Water Development Report in 2012.

The meeting is being convened by UN-Water's new Chair, Zafar Adeel, Director of the United Nations University's Hamilton-based Institute for Water, Environment & Health.

Elected at a UN-Water meeting last August in Stockholm, Dr. Adeel formally assumed the two-year post in 2010, taking over from Pasquale Steduto of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

UN-Water was created in 2003 to coordinate global water-related work of 26 relevant UN agencies, and to interact with 17 major partners such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The full list of UN-Water members and partners is appended below (and online at www.unwater.org).

"This meeting of UN agencies comes at a crucial time, just two months after the UN's historic Copenhagen conference on climate change and four months before leaders of the G8 and G20 nations meet in Ontario," says Dr. Adeel.

"The global importance of water issues cannot be overstated," he adds. "Virtually all climate change impacts are expressed through water in one form or another, including more severe storms and extreme floods, and rapidly disappearing glaciers, often called 'Earth's water towers'."

"Meanwhile, nearly 3.5 million people die each year due to water-related diseases like cholera and diarrhea. Likewise, water scarcity and drought in many parts of the world is directly linked to poverty and high public health costs. And the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts worsening impacts in immediate decades to come."

"My goal as the UN-Water Chair is to demonstrate the significance of water issues in global policy debates, including the ongoing financial crisis as well as food security, climate change, international peace and stability. Water is central to each of those debates but typically isn't seen as such."

"UN-Water members and partners help assure better, more cohesive delivery of water services in several countries. It does this though guidance to world policy makers and the collection of case studies of best practices for mitigating water problems that can be prevented and adaptation to those that can't. UN-Water also helps establish strategic priorities and eliminate overlap and duplication in order to make fullest possible use of scarce international resources."

Anticipating local impacts of a global problem

Dr. Adeel notes that, while science can predict the average impact of climate change with relative confidence, its implications are far less clear at the level of countries or even world regions, especially with respect to future precipitation patterns.

He predicts that helping policy makers navigate questions surrounding local and regional water-related impacts of climate change will assume growing importance for UN-Water members and partners in years to come.


UN-Water (www.unwater.org/discover.html) is an inter-agency mechanism established by the United Nations High Level Committee on Programmes to foster synergies and information-sharing between UN agencies and outside partners.

UN-Water focuses on: Providing policy briefs and other information or communication materials for the public, as well as policy and other decision-makers with an influence on how water is used;

Building the knowledge base on water issues through efficient monitoring and reporting systems and facilitating easy access to this knowledge through regular reports and the Internet.

Providing a platform for system-wide discussions to identify challenges in global water management, analyze options for meeting these challenges and ensuring that reliable information and sound analysis informs the global policy debate on water.

Flagship Reports

UN-Water Members:

UN-Water Partners:

United Nations University

Established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973, United Nations University is an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training and the dissemination of knowledge related to pressing global problems. Activities focus mainly on peace and conflict resolution, sustainable development and the use of science and technology to advance human welfare. The University operates a worldwide network of research and post-graduate training centres, with headquarters in Tokyo.

UNU-INWEH was established in 1996 to strengthen water management capacity, particularly of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support. With core funding from the Government of Canada through CIDA, it is hosted by McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.

United Nations University

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