YEAR OF FRESHWATER TO BE FOCUS OF 2003 WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY OBSERVANCE AT UN HEADQUARTERS

5 June 2003
Note No. 5795

YEAR OF FRESHWATER TO BE FOCUS OF 2003 WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY OBSERVANCE AT UN HEADQUARTERS

05/06/2003
Press ReleaseNote No. 5795

Note to Correspondents

YEAR OF FRESHWATER TO BE FOCUS OF 2003 WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

OBSERVANCE AT UN HEADQUARTERS

On Friday, 6 June, World Environment Day (5 June) will be observed at United Nations Headquarters with a student-focused webcast event highlighting the International Year of Freshwater (2003) from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium.

Students in New York will be linked via videoconference with groups in Beirut, Lebanon; Nairobi, Kenya; and with a remote village in Peru.  The multimedia event will also feature a presentation by Nane Annan and musical numbers by singer-songwriter Bob Reid.  The observance is being organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the Economic and Social Council non-governmental organization Education Committee Task Force on Sustainable Development and Peace.

The theme of World Environment Day 2003 -– “Water:  Two Billion People Are Dying for It!” -– highlights the centrality of water to human survival and sustainable development.  In too many places, water is wasted, tainted and taken for granted.  All over the world, pollution, over-consumption and poor water management are decreasing both the quantity and quality of available water.

If current trends continue, two out of every three people on earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in little more than two decades from now.  Globally, one in six people still have no regular access to safe drinking water, and more than twice that number (2.4 billion people) lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.

At the Millennium Summit in 2000 and at last year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development, the international community set measurable, time-bound commitments for the provision of safe water and sanitation.  As noted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his message for the Day, “these targets —- to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services, both by the year 2015 —- are vital in and of themselves, but are also crucial if we are to meet the other Millennium Development Goals, including reducing child mortality, combating malaria, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, empowering women, and improving the lives of slum dwellers”.

Each year, World Environment Day is commemorated on 5 June.  It is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.  The main international celebrations of the World Environment Day 2003 are being held throughout this week in Beirut, Lebanon, the first time in the Arab world.  (For more information on activities in Beirut and around the world, see www.unep.org/wed.)

As part of the programme at United Nations Headquarters on 6 June, students from Long Island’s Half Hollow Hills High School East will kick off the “Pumped Up for Peace” project.  A major part of that project engages students from all over the metropolitan New York City area in raising funds for communities in the developing world in need of access to safe drinking water.  The students will make their initial contribution in the form of a cheque to Peru’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Marco Balarezo for a small-scale water filtration system for the “Children’s House” -- an indigenous community in Cusco, Peru.

In addition to remarks by Mrs. Annan, the students will participate in a ceremony than involves adding water to a collective vessel symbolizing a celebration of each drop of water as a drop of life.  Each of the student groups will make a brief presentation on local water-related projects.  They will also take part in an interactive discussion on the issues raised in the DPI/DESA film, “Water – The Drop of Life”, produced for the International Year of Freshwater.  Staff from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and United Nations Environment Programme will also participate in the discussion.

In addition to webcasting the programme, the United Nations' CyberSchoolBus will also be devoting its Web site to this year's theme, with a multimedia page for kids that combines music, video, slide shows and other water-related information (see www.cyberschoolbus.un.org).

Members of delegations, media, accredited non-governmental organization representatives and Secretariat staff are invited to attend the event.  A live and on-demand webcast of the event can be accessed at www.un.org/webcast.

For more information on the event, please contact Dawn Johnston-Britton, tel.: 1-212-963-6984, fax: 1-212-963-0071, e-mail: johnston-britton@un.org; or Jim Sniffen, UNEP, tel.: +1-212-963-8094, e-mail: sniffenj@un.org.

For United Nations television coverage, please call tel.: (212) 963-7650, or fax: (212) 963-3860.  For media accreditation, please call tel.: (212) 963-6934, or fax: (212) 963-4642.

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For information media. Not an official record.