Rio+20 Opens; UN-Water Pushes Integrated Management
20 Jun 2012 - 11:12 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
Brazil, RIO DE JANIERO — The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, started this morning with the arrival of around 120 heads of state, and opening formalities.
Loïc Fauchon, president of the World Water Council, will participate in a formal plenary session this afternoon, where he is expected to speak about the importance of freshwater to sustainable development.
Arguing for the importance of water management to sustainable development, UN-Water declared June 19 -- the last day before the event formally began -- to be Water Day for the Rio+20 conference. The day was devoted to familiar water issues, with sessions on integrated water resource management, obtaining universal access to water and sanitation, pressing for water and sanitation access as a human right and making 2013 an international year of water cooperation.
UN-Water is an "interagency coordination mechanism" with participation from multiple UN entities with various interests in freshwater issues.
Speaking during the day’s panel discussions, Dr. Joakim Harlin, Senior Water Resource Adviser of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), said that without effective, efficient and sustainable management of water resources and water services we "cannot achieve sustainable development."
UN-Water also released the full version of its Status Report on the Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water Resources, which it produced for Rio+20.
The report is based on survey results from 130 countries on how they have addressed water management. Over 80 percent have made reforms to water laws in an effort to combat increasing pressures from climate change, growing populations and urbanization.
“In many cases, such water reforms have had positive impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access, human health and water efficiency in agriculture,” UN-Water said.
However, there is much room for progress in irrigation, rainwater harvesting and investment in freshwater ecosystems, the report adds.
The report focuses on internationally approved integrated water resource management (IWRM) techniques, originally developed as part of the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
“An integrated and adaptive approach is essential to ensure that the needs of different user groups, which sometimes compete, are equitably satisfied so that development and management of water resources benefits all,” said UN-Water Chair Michel Jarraud.
“Its success depends on a governance and institutional framework that facilitates dialogue and decisions on water resource management that is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable,” he added.
The survey showed 90 percent of countries have experienced positive impacts from applying IWRM. Other key findings from the survey: A majority of countries have seen increased awareness of water-related risks since the first Rio conference; the highest water priority for most nations is domestic supply; financing of water development has increased for most countries; and water efficiency has seen the least improvement of all water reforms, with less than 50 percent of nations properly addressing it.
“The sustainable management and use of water -- due to its vital role in food security, energy or supporting valuable ecosystems services -- underpins the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy,” UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner was quoted as saying.
“As well as highlighting challenges, this new survey also shows important successes regarding integrated water resources management, where a more sustainable approach to water has resulted in tangible benefits for poverty reduction, human health and the environment. At Rio+20, governments have the opportunity to build on these innovations and chart the way forward for sustainable development, where the water needs of a global population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050, can be met in an equitable way,” he added.
The survey report provides several recommendations for decision-makers at Rio+20, including requiring that by 2015 every country develop “specific targets and timeframes” for implementing and financing a IWRM strategy, that “a global reporting mechanism on national water resources management should be established” also by 2015, and that there should be an overall increase in financing and institutional capacity for water resource management.
Critics have said that the final document for the Rio+20 earth summit, which will be adopted by delegates on the final day of the conference, is unambitious and lacks concrete proposals, and pays insufficient attention to water issues.