United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


Address by Mr. Jacques Diouf,
Director-General of FAO
Towards the implementation of an integrated approach
for the management of water for food and ecosystems
CSD-13 Side Event: Towards more sustainable management
of water for food and ecosystems /Experiences in developing IWRM
and water efficiency plans
New York City, 21 April 2005
It is both an honour and a privilege for me to address this gathering
and I wish to thank the Global Water Partnership and the Government
of The Netherlands for organizing this side-event and for inviting
FAO. I welcome this opportunity to underline the very positive
outcome of the FAO/Netherlands Conference on Water for Food and
Ecosystems and to exchange views with leading policy-makers on the
implementation of an integrated approach to water for food and
Water, food and ecosystems are three critical aspects for human wellbeing
and they are inevitably linked. Food production and ecosystems
are based on the same biological processes and both depend on water
as a primary resource. Together, forest, rangeland and agriculture
account for 75 % of total use of precipitation on Earth. A challenge
facing many countries is how to harmonize a simultaneous need for
economic development with balanced and productive ecosystems.
This challenge is even more acute in developing countries that are
facing poverty and food insecurity, while being highly dependent on
the use of natural resources in their predominantly rural economies.
The 2004 FAO report on the State of Food Insecurity in the World
shows that more efforts must be made to reduce hunger and food
insecurity, as 852 million people worldwide are undernourished and
progress in reducing this number is lagging.
The competition for water by agriculture and ecosystems is often
stressed. We need however to underline the importance of their proper
interaction for achieving the objectives of the World Summit on
Sustainable Development, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Millennium Development
Goals of the General Assembly. Water plays a key role in addressing
the Millennium Development Goals, particularly objective number 1
("eradicate extreme poverty and hunger") and number 7 ("ensure
environmental sustainability"). There is a need to reconcile
agricultural water use and ecosystem requirement. This is necessary
not only to maintain the integrity and productivity of ecosystems, but
also to sustain the conditions under which agriculture can contribute
to food security, poverty alleviation and economic growth. A dual
strategy is required to this effect: adopting an ecosystems approach to
agricultural production and a productive services approach to
To promote the implementation of such an integrated approach
towards water for food and ecosystems, a Conference on Water for
Food and Ecosystems was organized jointly by the Government of
The Netherlands and FAO and was held in The Hague from 31
January to 4 February 2005. It focused on the identification of
appropriate management strategies and practical lessons learned for an
integrated approach to water for food and ecosystems. The Conference
was attended by 26 ministers and more than 600 participants from 140
countries, international organizations, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) and representatives of civil society. The Conference was
supported by an African pre-conference, held in November 2004 in
Addis Ababa, an open electronic forum in December 2004 and
regional workshops and side-events hosted by external partners. The
Conference resulted in the identification of challenges, good practices
and specific actions. The Conference recognizing the need of adequate
access to water for the poor, has also called upon countries to
harmonize legislation and policies in water for food and ecosystems.
Countries should bring together interest groups from different sectors
and develop a strategic water plan to place value on national water
resources and their uses before defining water allocations. These
planning and policy processes should be supported by reliable and
trustworthy information. An increase in sharing of knowledge and
information on the interrelations of water, food and ecosystems is
therefore necessary. This requires harmonized data collection and a
strong effort in development of local and international knowledge.
Exchanging information on good practices for use in policy-making
will be crucial. FAO is committed to use its international capacity to
contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge and
experience, with a view to supporting countries to develop and
implement policies in these areas.
Water is a very valuable resource, and yet its true value is often
invisible. We need to solve this paradox. First, water is vital to human
life, crop growing, livestock production and fish culture. The value of
water should be analyzed not only in term of economic efficiency but
also in relation to social equity and environmental values. Involving
stakeholders in this process will be a key factor for success. Each
country should decide on the policies, programmes and projects for
improving the efficient and productive use of water resources.
The European Union will be investing in water projects and
programmes in ACP countries through the one billion euro "Water
Facility". The Governments of ACP countries on their part made the
commitment at the Maputo Summit in June 2004 to accord highest
priority to agricultural productivity and effective water use.
FAO's Special Programme for Food Security operational in 102
countries uses water control and management as an entry point. In the
pilot phase, small-scale water harvesting, irrigation and drainage
systems at the village and rural community level, constitute an
essential component.
During the Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems,
participants also signalled that it is imperative to raise public
awareness on the value and scarcity of water to generate support for
any new approach towards more efficient water use. Farmers'
awareness of the scarcity of water in some regions of the world should
be matched by economic incentives to improve the income they derive
from food production. It is, however, important to note that the use of
water for agricultural purposes differs greatly from one region to the
other. Africa only uses 4 percent of the available water reserves for
irrigation, compared with Asia's 17 percent. For domestic and
industrial usage, Africa uses 5 percent of its total resources compared
to 20 percent in Asia.
Moreover, only 7 percent of all arable land is irrigated in Africa,
compared with around 3 8 percent in Asia and 12% in Latin America,
home to 30 % of the world's freshwater resources.
National and international partnerships among and between public and
private sector partners will be important for capacity building and
stimulating research and development for both high-tech and low-cost
technologies to improve overall agricultural water use efficiency.
With an overall agriculture share of 70% of all withdrawals,
improving water productivity in this sector holds the key to
successful implementation of the conclusions of the FAO/Netherlands
Conference. A key challenge is therefore to unlock the water potential
of agriculture and reduce stresses on environment.
The past shows reason for optimism, if we consider the significant
water productivity gain recorded in agriculture since the early 1960s.
One can estimate that the water needs for food per capita halved
between 1961 and 2001 from about 6 m3/d to less than 3 m 3/d. This
development has enabled the world to accommodate the food
demands of an almost doubled world population. The large potential
of the agricultural sector to contribute to sustainable management of
water for food and ecosystems, challenges the policies of declining
trend in investment in agricultural water use. The successful
implementation of the outcomes of the Conference largely depends on
the ability to generate high-quality, coherent investment programmes
at local, national and regional scales.
I hope that at this Side Event of CSD13, we can share ideas on how to
establish plans for water, food and ecosystem development and to
secure the financial resources for the implementation of the resulting
Thank you for your attention.
WHO Statement at CSD 13 by Dr. Kerstin Leitner, Assistant Director-General for
Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, WHO, Geneva
Having listened to the ministerial debate so far, I would like to make the following four
points on the relevance of turning commitments with regard to improving the water and
sanitation situation into action from the perspective of human health (a longer statement
is available and will be distributed separately):
1. Improving water and sanitation facilities, in particular in poor urban and in rural
areas, has proven time and again as one of the best investments into public health
and the avoidance of epidemics of water borne diseases. As Minister Brende said
yesterday, the return on such investments into water and sanitation facilities can
be as high as 200 percent.
2. Today we have collectively to address a dual challenge, namely to extend the
reach of improved facilities to those billions who are still excluded, and to do so
in a way that we do not exhaust and/or pollute eco-system services which sustain
us. The recently published Millennium Eco-system Assessment has shown that
over the last 50 years human intervention has succeeded in extracting ever more
resources from the world's natural resource base in order to feed, clothe and
house an ever growing population, but at the current rate of exploitation we are
threatening the sustainability of these resources, and implicitly not only the health
of eco-systems but ultimately human health as well.
3. Sustainable development of water and sanitation facilities is more than extending
existing facilities, controlling pollution and protecting scarce natural resources. It
is a matter of finding innovative solution through multi-sectorial and multistakeholder
engagement. We in WHO, as the current chair of UN Water, welcome
the renewed demands for this group to be the pivotal point within the UN system
to give concrete meaning to the policy decisions of CSD 13.
4. As we accept this challenge, we also hope and trust that similar multi-sectorial
and multi-stakeholder alliances will be formed at the national level. As we all
know, the water and sanitation goals and targets do not aim at having full global
coverage by the year 2015. WHO's best estimate at this point is that such
coverage will only be achieved by 2025 at the earliest. Hence we have no room
not to meet the established targets. We shall need strong community, national,
regional and global leadership, which will bring public and private parties
together which at this point are not always working in partnership. We were
pleased to participate in a WSSCC event which mobilized women leaders and
encourages them to take on a more prominent role.
If we pull together and pool resources, the goals will be achieved and possibly exceeded.
In the interest of human health we should not aim for less! Thank you.