The United Nations University (UNU) announced today it has created a "virtual academy" to teach the fundamentals of water management through the Internet in a bid to improve the availability of safe water around the world.
The course, which will offer successful graduates an academic diploma from the UN - the first of its kind - comprises 10 subjects and 250 hours of instruction.
The course has been developed by a group of water experts over three years, with financial support from the UN Development Account, as a method of marking the conclusion of 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater.
UNU, which is based in Tokyo, said the curriculum has been designed as an undergraduate course for adult professionals. It is expected that engineers, district managers, government administrators and others responsible for water management will take the course.
UNU Rector Prof. Hans van Ginkel said this kind of educational programming is unique.
"I can think of no more international issue more fundamentally important than water management to serve as the subject for the first-ever UN University Diploma Program," he said.
Initially the course, which has drawn on materials from more than 60 international sources, will be offered through affiliated institutions in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, with plans for a subsequent worldwide expansion.
Students will access course material by CD-ROM, the Internet or mailed printouts, and will have to successfully complete independent work assignments and examinations. By the end of the course, the students should have completed their own integrated water resource management plan.