UNESCO Apia, October 2017 – On the 23 and 24 of October, UNESCO and Fiji’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Technology Transport will host a high level technical meeting in Nadi Fiji, bringing together more than 40 participants from 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories . [RESTRICT]

The UNESCO Conference on Water Security in the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (SIDS): Bringing UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) to the Pacific will provide a platform of exchange and discussions between UNESCO water experts and government water focal points and development partners in the Pacific.

The disucssions will focus on matching priorities, needs and implementation gaps in the Pacific with the opportunities offered by IHP and related water programmes.

The Conference is an opportunity for UNESCO to;
• raise awareness and build capacity on the International Hydrology Programme and its potential support to Pacific SIDS
• undergo a Pacific consultation within the framework of the “International Initiative on Water Quality”
• identify key water quality challenges in the Pacific SIDS, which initiatives are already working on these challenges and identify IHP’s potential role, with particular reference to climate change and disaster resilience and the SDGs;
• develop a work plan and resource mobilization opportunities for IHP activities in the Pacific

The UNESCO Conference on Water Security in the Pacific SIDS partly responds to the statement made by Pacific Ministers at the Second Pacific Ministerial Meeting on Meteorology calling for “WMO, UNESCO, SPREP and SPC to increase support for operational hydrology”. SPREP, SPC, WMO and other regional partners, including USP, the Pacific Water and Wastewater Association, Unicef and UNDP will also participate in the Conference, contributing to collective efforts to improve water security for sustainable development.

The UNESCO International Centre for Water Security and Sustainable Management, a research and education Institute based in Korea, will also be attending the Conference.

The UNESCO IHP has placed water security at the heart of its eighth phase (2014-2021) defining it as “the capacity of a population to safeguard access to adequate quantities of water of acceptable quality for sustaining human and ecosystem health on a watershed basis, and to ensure efficient protection of life and property against water related hazards — floods, landslides, land subsidence and droughts” (UNESCO, 2014).

Water and water security issues are strongly featured in the sustainable development goals with water security related targets in nine out of seventeen goals (1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 11, 14 and 15). Water also features prominently in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR, 2015) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 2015).

Water is a pressing issue for all Pacific SIDS, with countries and individual islands facing droughts, demographic pressures, and increasing demands related to economic development and urbanization.

On some islands, namely atolls, there is little or only non-potable groundwater, leaving them particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns and drought. Some Pacific SIDS have recently suffered a serious drought affecting crops and requiring emergency measures to ensure water supplies (Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Vanuatu). Other countries are working to assure water quality and to put in place integrated resource management strategies that will enable them to ensure the sustainability of their water supply in a context of climate change and economic development.

There are also many technical and logistical challenges related to their vulnerability to natural hazards, the extreme remoteness of the most vulnerable islands, as well as challenges related to economies of scale and governance. [/RESTRICT]