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World Water Day - 22 March 2005

River diversion (Ibnat - Ethiopia)

The European Union contribution to the global efforts for more knowledge intensive management of water resources

We are living in an era of ever increasing understanding of the interrelationship between global climatic and socio-economic changes on water resources management and their impact on our drinking water supply, sanitation and public health, food security and the sustainability of all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

During the last decades, research and technological development have contributed to our societies’ advancement in knowledge, awareness, ingenuity and policy insight of all above aspects which condition global welfare. The result is a more profound understanding of the need to promote a paradigm shift in the way we plan and use water in all aspects of our every day activities. It also became clear that the enormous knowledge investment needed for a harmonised change, which could also adapt well to local water conditions, had to be pursued through wider collaborations beyond national borders. This shared understanding underpins a common vision of societies around the world on the urgent need for mobilising existing knowledge and innovation in the framework of wider partnerships and adopting current approaches to new realities without delay.

Back in 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, Heads of State and Government adopted a Plan of Implementation which set time-bound targets on the Millennium Development Goals. With regard to environment and water resources, one of the most challenging targets set is to halve by 2015 the proportion of global population without access to safe water and basic sanitation, estimated at that time as 1.2 and 2.4 billion people respectively. In this milestone event, the European Union confirmed its commitment to the water-related objectives, by launching the EU Water Initiative (EUWI).

Pipes connecting the water reservoir to the villageThe EU Water Initiative is about enhancing partnership and coordinated action among all actors in EU Member States and developing countries. It is about raising the profile of water on the global policy agendas and improving the understanding of the impact of water resources management on poverty reduction and sustainable futures. It is also about recognizing the need to prioritise higher water in strategic development planning and directing more resources towards addressing water supply and sanitation needs on the basis of integrated approach to water resources management suitable to the specific socio-economic contexts. Last but not least, it is about mobilising all concerned actors being it public, private and civil society under a common vision. The initiative calls upon all those actors in an inclusive and open stakeholder dialogue with a view to translating political commitment into action and impact for the affected population. The creation of the EU Water Facility in 20041, supported by all ACP countries and EU Member States with a target of fielding an extra-500 million Euro is one of the resounding results and confirmation that such partnership approach can work.

The 5th Community Research Framework Programme (FP5, 1998-2002), with 250 million Euro invested in 186 water related projects, represented a turning point in European water research. Strategic emphasis was attached on integrated water resources management, through multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder problem solving approaches and support to relevant EU policies, especially the Water Framework and associated directives and in support of the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development. Moreover, a large number of international scientific cooperation projects addressed crucial issues associated with the functioning, planning and management of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems, food security, barriers and opportunities for private sector participation in the provision of essential water services and the relationship between public health and hygiene behaviours.

The on-going 6th Community Research Framework Programme (FP6, 2002-2006) builds on those accomplished results and new knowledge references, by seeking to integrate more knowledge on the mitigation of impact on water resources and practices due to global change effects in Europe and at international level and increase further the critical mass of knowledge towards the implementation of the strategic target of the European Research Area.

FP6 also fully integrates the EU’s commitment and solidarity towards the achievement of the environment and poverty related Millennium Development Goals, as expressed by the launching of the EU Water Initiative. The generation and better management of knowledge for the promotion of integrated water resources management and access to safe water and sustainable sanitation is the subject of various research projects in developing countries all around the world already under implementation with European Union funding, while many others are expected in the years to come. These projects seek to mobilise wider and lasting partnerships among European, developing countries and emerging economies’ knowledge communities and capitalise on existing foundations of years of European and international scientific cooperation in water research.

A good example is the river basin ‘twinning’ projects, aiming at promoting collaboration between research work on integrated water resources management undertaken within European river basins and river basins in various continents (Africa, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA), Latin America and the Mediterranean).

Also activities like the ASEM Waternet Multistakeholder Platform provide a dialogue space for knowledge-intensive coordination and cooperation on governance, water in agriculture, pollution and flood and drought issues which are at the core of many water-related problems in East and Southeast Asia.

Bringing research and development efforts by national and international aid programmes, both by governments and non-governmental actors, closer together is one of the lines of activity of the EU Water Initiative.

Water pumpThe central position of research in the Lisbon Agenda and emerging European strategic thinking as reflected on the Environmental Technologies Action Plan provides also a new dimension on the long-term promotion of European excellence in water and pollution prevention technologies through more comprehensive public-private collaboration. A concrete example is set by the establishment of the Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform2 which aims at defining a common vision, a Strategic Research Agenda and an implementation plan for the next decades with focus on both European and international issues.

All these activities provide continuous input and shape the strategic objectives of European water research within the 7th Community Research Framework Programme, with an aim to push knowledge frontiers even further and ensure a more knowledge-intensive planning and management of water resources in Europe, and provide relevant support to partners in developing countries based on a demand-driven partnership approach.



Download: World Water Day (22/03/2005) - The European Union contribution to the global efforts for more knowledge intensive management of water resources (includes Information Annex) (PDF 110 KB)

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Date: 18/03/2005
World Water Day, 22 March - Water is Life

For further information on the research component of the EU Water Initiative and associated activities, please contact:

Zissimos Vergos –
Cornelia Nauen -

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Photos: Zissimos Vergos, Research DG, European Commission, Brussels