Wednesday, January 02, 2008

State Department Seeks Applications for a New U.S.-UNESCO Center

People don't think much about hydrology until something goes wrong due to a failure of the science; dikes fail flooding a city or flooding out crops due to flood conditions greater than had been predicted, or ground water is polluted due to errors in understanding the flow of pollutants, or an aquifer runs dry, or civil engineering works such as roads or bridges are washed out.

As important as hydrology is now, it is going to be even more important in the future. Climate change is going to change the availability of water resources. Population growth and movement, together with economic growth are going to increase demands on water resources -- probably to a degree that there will be chronic water shortages for many regions and many people in this century.

UNESCO's Natural Science program is the lead program in the United Nations system for hydrology. Much of its efforts are conducted through a network of centers. Indeed, since most of these centers are Category II, not receiving resources from UNESCO directly, the International Hydrological Program is importantly a network of self-financed institutions located in countries around the world.

The network of Category II water science centers is continuing to grow. The recent General Conference endorsed the establishment of the following (category II water science centers under the auspices of UNESCO:
  • Regional Centrefor Shared Aquifer Resources Management (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya);
  • International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (Netherlands);
  • Regional Centre for Water Management Research in Arid Zones (Pakistan);
  • International Centre on Hydroinformaticsfor Integrated Water Resources Management (Itaip├║ Binaci├│nal: Brazil–Paraguay);
  • Institute on a Partnership for Environmental Development (Italy).
The establishment of an International Centre of Water for Food Security at Charles Sturt University (Australia) was approved in principle, the final decision on the terms of the agreement being delegated to the Executive Board.

There is no Category II center in the United States of any kind, in part because the United States was not a member of UNESCO for so many years. Now however, the State Department has announced that it will accept applications for a U.S. water center that would perform theoretical and experimental research and advanced training, contribute to the execution of UNESCO's program, and increase the participation of national and regional institutions in UNESCO's efforts.

Applications for IHP Category II centers are considered on a biennial basis. The deadline for applications is next week (January 8th). The applications will first be reviewed by the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. Those which are endorsed by the Commission and the Government will be passed to UNESCO, where they will be be the subject of feasibility studies, and ultimately considered by the next General Conference.

The U.S. National Committee for IHP has highlighted the following key aspects of the UNESCO IHP as priorities for U.S. collaboration:
  • Three focus areas: advocacy (of IHP programs and aims), research, and capacity-building
  • Three thematic areas: safe drinking water; global climate change; and water hazards
  • Support existing IHP programs: e.g. WWAP, PCCP, HELP, FRIEND, ISARM, IFI
  • Support UNESCO Category II Centers: Collaborate with existing Centers


A diagram of the hydrological cycle.

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