More than two dozen leading United Nations water experts will convene in Hamilton, Ontario from February 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. (See the last report here.)
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.
“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 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.”
“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.”
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.