International UN-Water Conference. Water in the Green Economy in Practice: Towards Rio+20. 3-5 October 2011

Statements from UN Agencies

Ms Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Ms Gretchen Kalonji"From Green Economies to Green Societies. In less than 25 years, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in water-stressed countries. Securing water for all users and uses and wisely managing this scarce resource are therefore high priorities on the sustainable development agenda. Enhancing the knowledge base necessary for an informed decision-making process in relation to water management and consumption is pivotal, and education plays a crucial role in forming future decision makers. Water challenges are a global concern that knows no boundaries and therefore requires international action. UNESCO's response to global water challenges is built around its specialized areas of expertise providing policy advice on: water-related conflict prevention and resolution; water education; cooperation on transboundary groundwater and surface waters; emergency situations and risk management; water ethics and access/right to water.

Our common efforts should lead to building green societies based on a global culture of sustainability and the efficient management of our scarce water resources. Measuring our ecological footprint is an indispensable foundation of green societies, upon which the green economy must be based. Green societies cannot come into being without a real paradigm-shift in the way the food-energy-water nexus is addressed. The ultimate goal of green economies is to make a real change in the sustainability of our economic base and pave the way to reduce poverty. Access to water becomes then one of the crucial nodes to achieve such a goal, together with green investments and better education."

Mr. Joan Clos. Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

Mr. Joan Clos"The central tenet of the green economy is that environmental sustainability and economic growth can develop harmoniously. Cities are crucial to leveraging this mutually-supportive opportunity by reducing the spatial footprint of development and allowing for shared infrastructure which itself reduces emissions and resource use. By harnessing the advantages of concentrated populations in metro areas, cities give great economies of scale and opportunities for efficiency to infrastructure development, including water, sewerage and sanitation services".

Mr. Alexander Müller. Assistant Director-General Natural Resources Management and Environment Department. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Mr. Alexander Muller

"Irrigation has made a crucial contribution to feeding the world. Over the last 50 years, the Earth's population doubled and the global food system responded remarkably to the increase in food demand. This was achieved through a modest growth in total cropland - not more than 12 percent. What really made the difference was mainly the intensification of agricultural production, i.e. an increase in yield and cropping intensity, unimaginable without irrigation.

However, a lot needs to happen in terms of how we irrigate. Old, rigid systems of water distribution in large irrigation schemes will need to be replaced by much more flexible ones, offering more reliable water supply, and therefore allowing for progressive, higher value crops diversification. In such modernized systems, drip irrigation will play an important role in boosting water use efficiency and productivity. The focus must be on getting "more crop per drop," by adopting farming techniques that harvest more rainfall, conserve soil moisture, reduce waste in irrigation and -in some cases- by making changes in dietary choices to favor crops and foods that use less water. Finally, much more should be done to reduce waste. It is estimated that just about one third of the food produced is actually consumed, the rest being lost in storage, distribution and at consumer's level."

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP logo"Integrated approaches to water resources management are being implemented and are having impact on the ground. A recent global survey on water resources management shows that most governments have made progress with water sector reform to adopt principles of integrated management of water resources and are working through the process from policy to laws, strategies and plans. However progress with national implementation does take a long time and some countries have difficulty moving beyond the first political steps. Whether getting the enabling environment right or rolling out national systems to manage water resources on the ground, it is rare for there not to be problems slowing down or even stalling progress. Whether due to inadequate consultation, political priorities, resistance to change or fear of losing benefits these are natural obstacles that have to be overcome. Some countries are already demonstrating that better water management can be achieved while others may need more support and shared lessons to move forward at a faster pace. There is no alternate vision for better water management so national and international leaders have to demonstrate their commitment for the long haul."

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

UNIDO logo"The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations System that advocates and facilitates sustainable industrial development. Green Industry, as promoted by UNIDO, is a response to the interrelated challenges businesses and societies face globally, including: job creation; climate change; resource use; competitiveness and productivity; and pollution and waste. The ultimate aim is to de-link economic growth from increase in resource use and environmental impact, or, to put it simply: deliver more quality of life and better health with less resources and waste. Green Industry is a two-pronged agenda for achieving this. Firstly, it aims to reduce resource consumption and environmental impact of all industries (or greening of industry, in particular through Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production). Secondly, it sets out to develop a vibrant and innovative supply of environmental goods and services, from green industries, that deliver for example waste management and recycling services, develop and market clean technologies and renewable energy systems and safe chemicals.

As industry and sustainable development must go hand in hand, the influences of water on industry and industry on water are central to progress. While in the optimistic sense, the statistics show that industry, in the macro view, is neither the largest user of water nor the worst polluter in terms of loads, its effects can be and are very significant, particularly on regional and local scales. Industrial contamination tends to be more concentrated, more toxic, more persistent and harder to treat. The function of time is important in the sense of the persistence of contaminants and their degradation, and their rate of movement though the hydrological cycle.

Concern and awareness over climate change are now factoring into the considerations of water management. Globally, there will always be the same amount of water available but climate change may radically alter our plans for having the right quantity and quality of water available at the right place and time and at the right price.

Energy, water and raw materials are essential to industry. While water is sometimes considered as a renewable resource, its uniqueness must be highlighted. Water is essential to life. The challenges and issues related to water thus need a specific solution. The implementation of the Green Industry initiative with particular emphasis on water and energy in the next decades will remain in the heart of the UNIDO agenda."