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Analysis of Water Discourse in Four Decades of UN Declarations
Water is essential to life. The vocabulary of water percolates into daily conversations worldwide, whether in relation to personal or societal survival, the status and health of the global environment, or to water’s importance in other realms of sustainable development including food and energy security.
As a result, the words used to highlight important issues related to water also matter, particularly when used by experts or when they come with the endorsement of highly-regarded bodies like the United Nations, especially in the form of UN Declarations and Resolutions.
UNU-INWEH undertook an examination of the changing language of water in high-level declarations from eleven UN conferences on water and the environment over the past forty years. Both deepening and shallowing of key terms were evident throughout the documents and the report suggests effective strategies for highlighting and strengthening key concepts. The report is a contribution by the Institute to the Rio+20 process.
The themes covered include: Water Scarcity, Water Security, Desertification, Water Quality, Sanitation, Science and Technology, Poverty, Gender, Food, Climate Change, and Health. Moreover, there is a four page ‘Summary for Decision Makers’ which distills the lessons learned from a synthesis of water discourse over four decades of UN Declarations.
The study will facilitate the efforts of Ministers and Policy Makers to both build on and avoid unnecessary overlap with work done at previous meetings. The findings of the report should assist drafters of future UN Declarations to ensure their outputs are effective, robust and reflect mindful and cumulative deepening of work undertaken at previous high-level meetings.
The report was co-authored by UNU-INWEH Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker Dr. Alex Bielak, working with Dana Mount, a PhD student he is supervising as part of the joint McMaster University/UNU-INWEH graduate diploma program, Water Without Borders.
Download the pdf of the full report: Deep Words, Shallow Words: An Initial Analysis of Water Discourse in Four Decades of UN Declarations
UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata
UN Photo/Jeffery Foxx