BEIJING, CHINA - May 19, 2016. IWR and ICIWaRM Director Bob Pietrowsky represented USACE and the USG at the inaugural global meeting of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) Category I and II Water and Science Centers, held in Beijing, China, 15-18 May 2016.
The event marked the first time UNESCO’s Category I & II Water and Science Centers came together to coordinate their programs and work together towards increasing their collaboration in support of UNESCO’s efforts to address the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals focusing on the dual objectives of Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development. Category II Centers, which function under the auspices of UNESCO but are not legally part of the Organization, are entirely staffed and funded by each host nation. They are playing an increasingly important role in carrying our UNESCO’s programs, particularly in science and water resources, currently with 65 Category II Centers, of which over half are focused on freshwater as part of UNESCO’s “Water Family” in support of the International Hydrological Program (IHP).
Role of the International Center for Integrated Water Resources Management (ICIWaRM)
USACE IWR’s ICIWaRM, which was approved by the U.S. Government and UNESCO in 2009, was the first Category II Center in the U.S., and remains as the only such center affiliated with the International Hydrological Program (IHP). ICIWaRM is hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Institute for Water Resources (IWR) in Alexandria, Virginia, but represents a “whole-of-government” approach which functions as an intergovernmental entity, not only with other offices throughout USACE, but also in collaboration with a consortium of core partners at other Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); with Universities, including Colorado State University, Oregon State University, the University of Arizona, Florida International University, the University of California at Irvine, and Princeton University; along with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Water Resources Association (AWRA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Global Water Partnership.
The overall mission of ICIWaRM is the advancement of the science and practice of integrated water resources management (IWRM) to address water security and other water-related challenges by regional and global action, through new knowledge, innovative technologies, collaborative interdisciplinary scientific research, networking, training and capacity development. It focuses on readily transferable, practical science and technology. ICIWaRM’s program supports of the strategic objectives of UNESCO’s IHP Phase VIII Strategy, and functions, working closely with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, the U.S. National Committee for IHP and the U.S. State Department, including the U.S. Mission to UNESCO.
Objectives of the UNESCO Science Center Meeting
In her opening remarks, Dr. Schlegel emphasized “…the link between science, technology and innovation and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which are more than a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals, as they are aimed to be inspirational for all countries of the world to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and challenged the attendees to “…. reflect on how we can collectively through synergy, knowledge sharing and networking increase our contributions to the 2030 Agenda so that we can best help all countries achieve sustainable development.” The objectives of the meeting were:
- To discuss and identify contributions of the Centers to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through both independent and also joint projects.
- To identify how the various centers can increase their contribution to the implementation of UNESCO’s Science Strategy program for the current biennium (2016-2017) and beyond.
- To define mechanisms to increase the cooperation between regional and/or similarly themed Centers under the auspices of UNESCO.
During the week, Dr. Jimenez-Cisneros facilitated discussions on engagements focusing on collaborative opportunities involving the UNESCO water family of centers, chairs and IHP National Committees around the globe. IWR / ICIWaRM Director, Bob Pietrowsky helped lead breakout group discussions on (a) the contributions of Category II Centers to the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and (b) on ways to further enhance collaboration between similarly themed centers. Mr. Pietrowsky served as the rapporteur for these discussions and in each case represented the centers in reporting back to participants during the meeting’s plenary sessions.
Following up on Dr. Schlegel’s presentation linking the programs of the UNESCO Category II Science and Water Centers with the 17 Post-2015 Sustainable Development goals, the various breakout groups developed ideas on the draft protocols and the framework for policy and technical linkages of interest in setting the terms of reference which can guide center collaborations.
In particular, Bob Pietrowsky pointed out that the various IHP programs, such as G-WADI, HELP, FRIEND, PCCP, WHYMAP, etc. and initiatives, including the International Flood Initiative (IFI), the International Drought Initiative (IDI), the International Sedimentation Initiative (ISI), etc., are the means by which UNESCO executes its IHP Phase VIII Strategy on “Water Security - Responses to Local, Regional & Global Challenges”. IHP Phase VIII is founded on six themes based on the priorities and needs expressed by IHP Members to assist States in their endeavor to manage and secure water, and to ensure the necessary human and institutional capacities. These are:
Theme 1: Water-related Disasters and Hydrological Changes
Theme 2: Groundwater in a Changing Environment
Theme 3: Addressing Water Scarcity and Quality
Theme 4: Water and Human Settlements of the Future
Theme 5: Ecohydrology, Engineering Harmony for a Sustainable World
Theme 6: Water Education, Key to Water Security
It was further suggested that these areas align nicely with the UN’s three pillars of Sustainable Development: (1) the Environment; (2) Social Goals of Civil Society; and (3) Economic Development, and that the broader linkages for cooperation on joint projects within the full range of UNESCO Science and Water Centers, could be facilitated by a framework based on the “Mega-Nexus” concept put forward by the World Water Council, i.e., the “Water-Energy-Food-Transportation-Health and Environment Nexus”.
Within this context both bi-lateral and multilateral collaborations were encouraged. In fact, during the meeting itself, three bi-lateral agreements were finalized – including one between ICIWaRM and the European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology (ERCE), and it was also announced that Mr. Pietrowsky has been invited to serve on the Editorial Board for the scientific publication “Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology”.
The meeting concluded with another significant outcome, finalizing the consensus statement of meeting – UNESCO’s “Beijing Declaration”, for which Mr. Pietrowsky served on the drafting committee. The statement encourages collaboration among the Science and Water Category II Centers, and elaborates on the collaboration framework as an organizing concept for the centers working more closely together on local, regional, continental, and global levels.