The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will award the 14th edition of the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture to an Egyptian artist, Bahia Shehab, the first woman from the Arab region to receive this award, and French artist eL Seed.
The award ceremony of the Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture will take place on 18 April at UNESCO’s Headquarters (Room IV, 4.15 pm).
An international jury recommended the two laureates to the Director-General for their innovative use of Arabic calligraphy in street art.
Bahia Shehab (b. 1977) is an Egyptian artist, designer and art historian, whose work has been displayed in exhibitions, galleries and on the streets of cities in many parts of the world. As an engaged and committed calligraffiti artist, Bahia’s project, No, A Thousand Times No, is a series of graffiti images centered on the one thousand ways of writing “no” in Arabic. Her artistic work in graffiti brings to the forefront issues pertaining to political and economic injustices, as well as personal issues and gender-based violations, reflecting her conviction that art is a tool for change that can provoke people to leave their comfort zone and engage in action for justice.
eL Seed, was born in Paris to Tunisian parents in 1981 and learned to read and write Arabic in his late teens. He developed his unique pictorial style in calligraffiti that mixes poetry, calligraphy and graffiti and disseminates messages of peace and beauty perceptible even to those unable to decipher Arabic writing. eL Seed says that the beauty of calligraffiti is like music that can be appreciated independently of intellectual analysis. As an artist of Maghrebin background, he uses his artwork in public spaces to engage viewers in a dialogue that questions stereotypical narratives around Arab and Islamic culture in Europe.
Created in 1998 at the initiative of the United Arab Emirates, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture rewards the efforts of two personalities or organizations, one from an Arab country and one from any other country, who have made a significant contribution to the development, dissemination and promotion of Arab culture in the world. The Prize carries a monetary value of $60,000, equally divided between the two laureates.
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The Colloquium Journalism under fire: challenges of our time, featured lively debates from leading social scientists, journalists, and representatives of social media companies and media development organizations through four roundtable discussions.
Topics ranged from rise of identity politics, to threats to business models, responses to the spread of “fake news”, the role of social media platforms, and the importance of journalism training and media and information literacy.
In her opening remarks, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova explained that the event comes within the spirit of the Organization’s mandates to promote freedom of expression and to “act as a laboratory of ideas”, providing “a forum for debate on difficult questions of the day.”
“Combined with the concept of ‘fake news’, we see the rise of new forms of manipulation, propaganda, disinformation, raising questions that go to the heart of free, independent and professional journalism today,” observed Director-General Bokova.
These issues were the subject of a recent Joint Declaration on ‘Fake News’, Disinformation and Propaganda issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and his counter-parts at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
In the colloquium’s opening, the President of the World Editors Forum, Marcelo Rech, identified additional challenges to journalism, namely the lack of public trust in the institution of journalism, the development of echo chambers on social media, and challenges to economic models.
“In opposition to fake news and echo chambers, professional journalists have to become 24/7 certifiers of the reality around us,” Rech stated. “Truth is the scarcest good in this new and scary world. But truth is exactly the product good newsrooms manufacture.”
The complex relationship between traditional media and social platforms appeared throughout the day’s discussions.
In light of Facebook’s major role as a platform for content distribution, Norwegian newspaper editor Espen Egil Hansen called Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg “the world’s most powerful editor”, noting that the company had moved beyond a tech company to being a media company.
Yet Facebook “really [doesn’t] want to be the world editors,” responded the company’s Director of Policy for Europe, Richard Allan, adding that as a social media company, Facebook does not fit perfectly into traditional regulatory frameworks developed for telecommunications companies or the media industry.
Maria Ressa, editor-in-chief and CEO of the Filipino online news site Rappler, urged more cooperation between traditional media and social media companies, stating, “We must work more closely with the tech platforms.”
The day ended with a reminder of the importance of quality journalism and media and information literacy for preserving truth, authenticity and critical thinking.
“Truth is not the result of an algorithm,” said UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Frank La Rue, in reference to the automated procedures that determine the rank order of social media newsfeeds and search engine results. “Truth is something we build together through honest dialogue.”
The role of journalism in facilitating this space for dialogue will be at the heart of this year’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day, under the theme Critical Times for Critical Minds: Media’s Role in Advancing Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies.
Today’s colloquium on “Journalism under Fire” was organized by UNESCO’s Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development with the support of the International Programme for the Development of Communication, the World Associations of Newspapers and News Editors (WAN-IFRA), and the Governments of Finland, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands.
It took place during La Presse en Liberté week, which includes an exhibition of first-edition newspapers and debates on press freedom organized at UNESCO by the Delegations of France and Switzerland to UNESCO.
A summary of the highlights of the colloquium will be published on the conference website in the coming weeks. This will in turn provide input to the 2017 edition of the UNESCO flagship series World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, to be published in November 2017.
UNESCO invites Members States, in consultation with their National Commissions, and non-governmental organizations maintaining formal consultative relations with UNESCO and active in a field covered by the Prize to propose candidates for the UNESCO-Juan Bosch Prize for the Promotion of Social Science Research in Latin America and the Caribbean 2017. Deadline for the submission of candidates: 30 May 2017 at midnight.
The Executive Board of UNESCO instituted the UNESCO/Juan Bosch Prize for the Promotion of Social Science Research in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2009 at the initiative of the Government of the Dominican Republic. In creating this Prize, the Executive Board recognized the remarkable contribution of Professor Juan Bosch to the study of social and political processes in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region. An author, politician, social analyst and fervent advocate of democratic values and a culture of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean, he made a particular impact in the Dominican Republic and the entire region.
The purpose of the Prize is to reward, every two years, the best social science thesis, written by young researchers in the Latin American and Caribbean region, which has made a significant contribution to the promotion of research in the social sciences that endeavours to improve social development.
In accordance with its Statutes, the Prize consists of a diploma and of a monetary award of ten thousand US dollars for the successful candidate.
How to submit your nomination
Nominations for the Prize should be submitted no later than 30 May 2017, by filling out the nomination form in either English or Spanish.
Members States may not submit more than three candidates for any one edition of the Prize. No individual submissions will be allowed.
Download the Nomination Form
Send it, duly signed and stamped, together with supporting documentation on the work carried out by the candidate, to:
Mr Pedro Manuel Monreal Gonzalez
Executive Secretary of the UNESCO/Juan Bosch Prize
UNESCO - Social and Human Sciences Sector
7 place de Fontenoy 75352 Paris 07 SP FRANCE
Tel.: +33 1 45 68 38 62
Tonight, the international scientific community gathered to honour and celebrate five exceptional women scientists and their accomplishments in the physical sciences during the 19th edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Ceremony at the Maison de la Mutualité. The event was opened by a message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and by Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and CEO of L’Oréal and Chairman of the L’Oréal Foundation.
“Each and every UNESCO L’Oréal Laureate is an inspiration to me and to girls and to women across the world to work harder to promote and recognize the contribution of women to science” said Irina Bokova in her message. “Each shows us that humanity as a whole cannot prosper with only 50% of its creative genius – this is not right, and it’s not smart either (…) This is really a call to action, for every girl and every woman to be empowered at every level – in learning, in research, in administration and in teaching, across all scientific fields.”
Jean-Paul Agon highlighted the power of these women scientists, as well as all of the women scientists who have been celebrated this year, in his opening speech: “Only a shared, controlled science, at the service of the world’s population, is able to meet the major challenges of the twenty-first century, and our researchers are the proof. They are the ones that give science all its greatness”.
The 2017 Edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Ceremony celebrated 5 eminent women scientists and their excellence, creativity and intelligence. Each woman received an Award of 100,000 € to commend their scientific contributions in the fields of quantum physics, physical sciences and astrophysics. The Awards are presented every year to five women, one from each world region (Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America). Each scientist has had a unique career path combining exceptional talent, a deep commitment to her profession and remarkable courage in a field still largely dominated by men.
These 5 exceptional women are each contributing in their own way to change the world for the better.
Professor Niveen KHASHAB
Associate Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia
“For designing novel nanoparticles that could improve early detection of disease.”
Professor Michelle SIMMONS
Professor, Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology - University of New South Wales, Australia
“For pioneering ultra-fast quantum computers.”
Professor Nicola SPALDIN
Professor and Chair of Materials Theory, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Solid state physics
“For reinventing magnetic materials for next-generation electronic devices.”
Professor Maria Teresa RUIZ
Professor, Department of Astronomy, Dept. / Universidad de Chile, Chile
“For discovering a new type of celestial body, halfway between a star and a planet, hidden in the darkness of the universe.”
Professor Zhenan BAO
Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, USA
“For inventing skin-inspired electronic materials.”
The 2017 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards
Since 1998, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have been committed to increase the number of women working in scientific research. 150 years after Marie Curie’s birth, only 28%* of researchers are women and only 3% of Scientific Nobel Prizes are awarded to them. That is why, for the past 19 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme has worked to honour and accompany women researchers at key moments in their careers. Since the programme began, it has supported more than 2,700 young women from 115 countries and celebrated 97 Laureates, at the peak of their careers, including professors Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Ada Yonath, who went on to win a Nobel Prize.
About the L’Oréal Foundation
Accompany. Value. Communicate. Support. Move boundaries. The convictions, the core values which drive the L’Oréal Foundation’s commitment to women everyday. A commitment divided into two main areas - science and beauty.
Through its’ For Women in Science programme, a worldwide partnership with UNESCO, the L’Oréal Foundation motivates girls in High School to pursue scientific careers, supports women researchers and rewards excellence in a field where women remain underrepresented.
Through its beauty programmes, the Foundation assists women affected by illness, who are economically disadvantaged or isolated, to recover their sense of self-esteem and femininity in order to feel better and to fare better. Its’ actions also include providing training programs for beauty industry professions.
Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization has been supporting international scientific cooperation as a catalyst for sustainable development and peace. UNESCO assists countries in the development of public policies and in building capabilities in the fields of science, technology, innovation and scientific education. In addition, UNESCO leads several intergovernmental programmes for the sustainable management of freshwater, ocean and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity and the promotion of the role of science in combating climate change and handling natural disasters. To meet these goals, UNESCO is committed to ending discrimination and promoting equality between women and men.
UNESCO’s MAB Programme and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) have launched a research project on the Economic valuation of ecosystem services in African Man and the Biosphere reserves (EVAMAB). A first meeting with representatives of the Belgian government, the MAB Secretariat and the EVAMAB research team was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 9 March 2017.
EVAMAB was selected following a call for proposals launched in 2016 by BELSPO and the MAB Secretariat, in response to issues identified by AfriMAB (the MAB regional network for Africa), in particular the lack of ecosystem services data and the need for easy-to-use and hands-on methodologies.
The general objective of this 30-month project (March 2017 – mid-2019) is to assess the economic value of ecosystem services and, more specifically, to test and adapt rapid assessment tools, and formulate pertinent stakeholder engagement and policy advice for biosphere reserve managers and decision-makers. The project will be implemented in four African biosphere reserves: Pendjari in Benin, Lake Tana in Ethiopia, Mount Elgon in Uganda and Lake Manyara in Tanzania.
This project is financed within the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding between BELSPO and UNESCO to support implementation of the MAB Programme in Africa, including research activities in biosphere reserves
London found itself in the midst of a terror attack in the afternoon of 22 March 2017, close to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. And the media is once again grappling with the challenges of covering terrorism without contributing to raising tensions, fear and intolerance.
It is in this context that UNESCO recently published “Terrorism and the Media: A Handbook for Journalists”. The booklet lays out a framework for media coverage on terror attacks, urging reportage that is fact based, independent and free from sensationalism and fear-mongering.
“The key challenge for journalists is to inform with rigor and responsibility in the middle of chaos and urgency,” said Jean-Paul Marthoz, the publication’s author. “In such dramatic circumstances, journalists should be seen as trusted sources of information, able to separate facts from rumors and opinions from incendiary speech. The independent search for truth as well as the ethics of respect for the victims are crucial.”
Jean-Paul Marthoz, specified that the handbook is not designed to be a “sacred text.” “The goal is to draw lessons about coverage of terrorism to date; to provoke a conversation between journalists.” The booklet could also be a resource in dialogue with security forces about media issues.
The publication provides a step-by-step guide for both journalists who routinely cover terror attacks and for those who do not, but find themselves suddenly in the midst of one. “There were music journalists covering the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan and sports journalists covering the football game at Stade de France on 13 November 2015 during the terror attacks in Paris (France) – the one at the scene, the first to respond, may not be a specialist in terrorism,” explained Mirta Lourenço, Chief for Media Development and Society at UNESCO.
Developed specifically for reporters, media professionals and journalism students, the “Terrorism and the Media” handbook covers topics such as the journalistic “framing” of terrorism; the balance between freedom, security and responsibility; the handling of figures, images and words; the security of journalists; and relations with victims, authorities and terrorist groups.
Ricardo Gutierrez, the Secretary-General of the European Federation of Journalists, commended the booklet and its value to all journalists globally, who should not wait until a crisis hits in order to know how they should respond.
An electronic version of the handbook is available online here.
UNESCO's work on Media in Crisis and Disaster Situations.
Dans son rôle de Président du Groupe régional de coordination sur l’ODD4-Éducation 2030 pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre (GRC4-AOC), l’UNESCO a organisé un panel de discussion en marge de la Triennale de l’ADEA. Consacré au thème « Partenariat régional en soutien à l’Education 2030 et la CESA 16-25 », l’événement a réuni une soixantaine de participants représentant notamment des institutions partenaires au niveau régional/continental, y compris d’Afrique de l’Est et australe.
Les efforts collectifs régionaux et sous régionaux sont reconnus comme essentiels dans la mise en œuvre, le suivi et la révision des agendas mondiaux et régionaux/continentaux d’éducation. Le Cadre d’Action Éducation 2030 souligne la nécessité de s’appuyer sur les partenariats, cadres et mécanismes déjà existants ou nouvellement créés. L’Union africaine, pour sa part, dans son Agenda 2063 et sa Stratégie Continentale pour l’Education en Afrique 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25), appelle la communauté internationale à soutenir la vision et les aspirations de l’Afrique.
En marge de la Triennale de l’ADEA 2017, un panel de discussion organisé par le GRC4-AOC le 14 mars 2017, à Diamniadio, au Sénégal, a rassemblé des représentants de haut niveau de l’Union africaine et de son organe technique l’Association pour le Développement de l’Education en Afrique (ADEA), du Partenariat Mondial pour l’Education (PME), du Réseau Ouest et Centre Africain de Recherche en Education (ROCARE) et du GRC4-AOC. Les panélistes ont échangé leurs perspectives sur la mise en place de partenariats efficaces pour un soutien collectif et cohérent à l’ODD4-Éducation 2030 et à la CESA 16-25.
Ce panel a permis de souligner la convergence et les liens forts existants entre les deux agendas. Des échanges, il est ressorti que la coordination régionale est essentielle pour appuyer le développement des systèmes éducatifs nationaux autour de la nouvelle vision centrée sur l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, tout en assurant la cohérence avec le dialogue au niveau continental et mondial.
Les défis restent cependant nombreux, en particulier, ceux relatifs à la gouvernance du système et à l’implication des différents acteurs. Les organisations régionales, y compris de recherche, ne sont pas suffisamment consultées malgré leur rôle essentiel d’information pour la prise de décision ; inversement, les décisions de haut niveau ne filtrent pas toujours jusqu’aux niveaux inférieurs. Le manque de prise en compte de la société civile, des enseignants et des syndicats d’enseignants, ainsi que la dispersion et la duplication des efforts des partenaires au développement ont également été évoqués. Enfin, l’instabilité et la censure politique ont été relevées comme des entraves majeures à une coordination efficace.
Plusieurs recommandations ont été émises pour surmonter ces difficultés. Les structures et organisations africaines existantes (Commission de l’Union africaine, Nouveau partenariat pour le développement de l’Afrique-NEPAD, Banque Africaine de Développement, ADEA) doivent être considérées comme points d’entrée et cadres de coordination à l’échelle du continent. En outre, la prise en compte intégrée de l’ODD4-Education 2030 et de la CESA 16-25, l’implication active du secteur privé, de la société civile et autres parties prenantes, la participation des Communautés économiques régionales et l’harmonisation des méthodes et approches des différents acteurs sont essentielles. Enfin, la nécessité de mettre en commun les efforts des organisations et institutions, en tant que communauté unique, en faveur des peuples et des pays, indépendamment de l’appartenance institutionnelle a été jugée cruciale pour la transformation de l’Afrique en un continent prospère, intégré, pacifique et sécurisé comme l’ambitionne l’Union africaine dans son Agenda 2063.
Ce panel de discussion qui a remporté un vif succès a été l’occasion de lancer le dialogue autour d’une coordination efficace pour la mise en œuvre des deux agendas de l’éducation en Afrique. Les échanges seront approfondis et les recommandations discutées dans le cadre du GRC4-AOC et au-delà.
Dutch Ambassador to UNESCO, Lionel Veer, confirmed the transfer of a first tranche of 400 000 Euros in a signing ceremony with UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Communication-Information Frank La Rue on Wednesday 22 March.
"The Netherlands government wants to support the important work of UNESCO in the fight against impunity and strengthen the safety of journalists and in general the protection of freedom of speech and promotion of access to information,” said the Ambassador.
The signing took place during the 61st meeting of the Bureau of UNESCO’s specialized media development initiative, the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), and elicited strong applause from participants.
Welcoming the support, Mr La Rue underlined the value of the Dutch contribution in a global context “that is becoming increasingly difficult for freedom of expression and press freedom”.
For his part, Ambassador Veer noted that the allocation was almost ten times higher than what the Netherlands had been previously been contributing to IPDC annually, and expressed confidence that the money would be well spent.
He highlighted the value of IPDC projects to strengthen safety mechanisms for journalists in cooperation with UNESCO field offices in different countries, another to support Afghanistan’s right to information law, and several that promoted gender transformative journalism.
The Dutch funding will also help to support “IPDC Talks” events worldwide, in which dynamic speakers link the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to access to information and media development. They will also back meetings to strategize next steps for the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
‘Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs’ is the new booklet in the UNESCO series ‘Good Policy and Practice in Health Education’. It was presented last week during the 60th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) that took place in Vienna, Austria.
UNESCO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released last week the joint publication on Substance Use, Good Policy and Practice in Health Education: Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Christophe Cornu, Senior Programme Specialist and Team Leader in the Section of Health and Education at UNESCO, presented the new joint publication during a side event on “Schools as valuable social institutions for prevention and to build socio-emotional skills”.
Why the Education Sector should respond to Substance Use among children and young people
Use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs commonly begins in adolescence. It is associated with a wide range of negative impacts on young people’s mental and physical health as well as on their wellbeing over the short and long term. Linked with a number of negative education-related consequences, including poor school engagement and performance, and school dropout, it has a negative impact on education sector efforts to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and accomplish the new global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The education sector has therefore a fundamental responsibility to prevent and address substance use among children and young people.
“The value added of this new resource is that, for the very first time, a publication considers all components of a comprehensive education sector response to substance use, moving away from a focus on school-based interventions only.”
Key principles for education sector responses to substance use
Examples of good practice from various countries shared during the side event highlighted some of the key principles of effective substance use prevention education, also described in detail in the joint UNESCO-UNODC-WHO publication.
A key joint publication is the fruit of an extensive international consultation
The booklet is the result of an international consultation process involving extensive literature reviews and an international experts meeting.
Provides the context, rationale and a comprehensive conceptual framework for improved education sector responses to substance use;
Presents evidence-based and promising policies and practice, including practical examples from different regions that have been shown to be effective by scientific research;
Suggests issues to consider in scaling up and sustaining effective education sector approaches and programmes in responding to substance use.
Lors de la onzième Triennale de l’Association pour le Développement de l’Education en Afrique (ADEA) qui s’est tenue du 15 au 17 mars 2017 à Diamniadio, Sénégal, le ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche du Sénégal et le Bureau régional de l’UNESCO à Dakar ont signé le plan d’opération d’un projet d’appui à l’enseignement supérieur, notamment à l’Université Cheikh Anta Diop.
La Triennale est un événement phare de l’ADEA qui a regroupé les gouvernements, les partenaires techniques et financiers, les organisations de la Société Civile, le secteur privé afin de pouvoir échanger sur la revitalisation de l’éducation dans la perspective des Objectifs de Développement Durable 2030 et de l’agenda de l’Union Africaine 2063. Les deux principales recommandations fortes issues des trois jours de travaux sont la création d’un fonds africain pour l’éducation et la formation, d’une part, et, d’autre part, la transformation des systèmes éducatifs afin d’aider à la renaissance culturelle et au développement durable des pays africains.
En marge de cette triennale, le ministre de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche du Sénégal et le Directeur a.i. du Bureau régional de l’’UNESCO à Dakar ont signé le protocole d’accord sur l’opérationnalisation du projet d’appui à l’enseignement supérieur sur la valorisation du patrimoine culturel et de l’éducation à la citoyenneté au Sénégal. Sur financement du gouvernement de l’Italie à hauteur de 500.000 EUR, ce projet vise à soutenir l’amélioration de la qualité des formations aux métiers du patrimoine, à renforcer les activités de formation de citoyens sénégalais, dans un esprit de paix et de justice, à renforcer les capacités et pratiques pédagogiques des enseignants-chercheurs et à renforcer l’apprentissage de la langue italienne à l’Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar. L’UNESCO appuiera le ministère dans l’exécution des activités en fournissant ses experts et en contribuant à la visibilité.
Launch of the United Nations World Wa ter Development Report
Durban, South Africa, 22 March – What if we were to consider the vast quantities of domestic, agricultural and industrial wastewater discharged into the environment everyday as a valuable resource rather than costly problem? This is the paradigm shift advocated in the United Nations World Water Development Report, Wastewater: the Untapped Resource , launched today in Durban on the occasion of World Water Day.
The United Nations World Water Development Report is a UN-Water Report coordinated by the UN World Water Assessment Programme of UNESCO. It argues that once treated, wastewater could prove invaluable in meeting the growing demand for freshwater and other raw materials. “Wastewater is a valuable resource in a world where water is finite and demand is growing,” says Guy Ryder, Chair of UN-Water and Director-General of the International Labour Organization. “Everyone can do their bit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater a nd increase safe water reuse by 2030. It's all about carefully managing and recycling the water that runs through our homes, factories, farms and cities. Let's all reduce and safely reuse more wastewater so that this precious resource serves the needs of increasing populations and a fragile ecosystem.”
“The 2017 World Water Development Report shows that improved wastewater management is as much about reducing pollution at the source, as removing contaminants from wastewater flows, reusing reclaimed water and recovering useful by-products. [...] Raising social acceptance of the use of wastewater is essential to moving forward”, argues UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in her foreword to the Report.
A health and environmental concern
A large proportion of wastewater is still released into the environment without being either collected or treated. This is particular ly true in low-income countries, which on average only treat 8 % of domestic and industrial wastewater, compared to 70% in high-income countries. As a result, in many regions of the wo rld, water contaminated by bacteria, nitrates, phosphates and solvents is discharged into rivers and lakes ending up in the oceans, with negative consequences for the environment and public health.
The volume of wastewater to be treated will rise considerably in the near future especially in cities in developing countries with rapidly growing populations. “Wastewater generation is one of the biggest challenges associ ated with the growth of informal settlements (slums) in the developing world, ” say the repo rt’s authors. A city like Lagos (Nigeria) generates 1.5 million m3 of wastewater every day, most of which ends up untreated in the Lagos Lagoon. Unless action is taken now, this situation is likely to deteriorate further as the city’s population rises to over 23 million by 2020.
Pollution from pathogens from human and animal excreta affects almost one third of rivers in Latin America, Asia and Africa, endangering the lives of millions of people. In 2012, 842,000 deaths in low- and middle-income countries were linked to contaminated water and inadequate sanitation services. The lack of treatment also contributes to the spread of some tropical diseases such as dengue and cholera.
Solvents and hydrocarbons produced by industrial and mining activities, as well as the discharge of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus a nd potassium) from intens ive farming accelerate the eutrophication of freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems. An estimated 245,000 km2 of marine ecosystems—roughly the size of the United Kingdom—are currently affected by this phenomenon. The discharge of untreated wastewater also stimulates the proliferation of toxic algae blooms and contributes to the decline in biodiversity.
Growing awareness of the presence of pollutants such as hormones, antibiotics, steroids and endocrine disruptors in wastewater poses a new set of challenges as their impact on the environment and health have yet to be fully understood.
Pollution reduces the availability of freshwater supplies, which are already under stress not least because of climate change. Nevertheless, most governments and decision-makers have been primarily concerned by the challenges of water supply, notably when it is scarce, while overlooking the need to manage water after it has been used. Yet these two issues are intrinsically related. The collection, treatment and safe use of wastewater are at the very foundation of a circular economy, balancing economic development with the sustainable use of resources. Reclaimed water is a largely underexploited resource, which can be reused many times.
From sewer to tap
Wastewater is most commonly used for agricultural irrigation and at least 50 countries worldwide are known to use wastewater for this purpose, accounting for an estimated 10 % of all irrigated land. However, data remains incomplete for many regions, notably Africa.
But this practice raises health concerns when the water contains pathogens that can contaminate crops. The challenge, then, is to move from informal irrigation towards planned and safe use, as Jordan, where 90% of treated wastewater is used for irrigation, has been doing since 1977. In Israel, treated wastewater already accounts for nearly half of all water used for irrigation.
In industry, large quantities of water can be reused, for example for heating and cooling, instead of being discharged into the environment. By 2020, the market for industrial wastewater treatment is expected to increase by 50 %.
Treated wastewater can also serve to augm ent drinking water supplies, although this is still a marginal practice. Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, has been doing this since 1969. To counter recurrent freshwater shortages, the city has installed infrastructure to treat up to 35% of wastewater, which is then used to supplement drinking water reserves. Residents of Singapore and San Diego (USA) also safely drink water that has been recycled.
This practice can meet with resistance from the public, who may be uncomfortable with the idea of drinking or using water they consider to have once been dirty. Lack of public support led to the failure of a project to reuse water for irrigation and fish farming in Egypt in the 1990s. Awareness-raising campaigns can help gain public acceptance for this type of practice by referring to successful examples, such as that of the astronauts on the International Space Station who have been reusing the same recycled water for over 16 years.
Wastewater and sludge as a source of raw materials
As well as providing a safe alternative source for freshwater, wastewater can also be seen as a potential source of raw materials. Thanks to developments in treatment techniques, certain nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrates , can now be recovered from sewage and sludge and turned into fertilizer. An estimated 22% of global demand for phosphorus, a finite and depleting mineral resource, could be met by treating human urine and excrement. Some countries, like Switzerland, have already passed legislation calling for the mandatory recovery of certain nutrients such as phosphorus.
The organic substances contained in wastew ater could be used to produce biogas, which could help power wastewater treatment facilities, helping them transition from major consumers to becoming energy neutral or even net energy producers. In Japan, the government has set itself the target of recovering 30% of the biomass energy in wastewater by 2020. Every year, the city of Osaka produces 6,500 tonnes of biosolid fuels from 43,000 tonnes of sewage sludge.
Such technologies need not be out of reach for developing countries as low-cost treatment solutions already allow for the extracti on of energy and nutrients. They may not yet allow for the direct recovery of potable water, but they can produce viable and safe water for other uses, such as irrigation. And sales of ra w materials derived from wastewater can provide additional revenue to help cover the investment and operational costs of wastewater treatment.
Today, 2.4 billion people still do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. Reducing this figure, in keeping with Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation of the UN 2030 Agenda, will mean discharging even more wastewater, which will then need to be treated affordably.
Some progress has already been made. In Latin America, for example, the treatment of wastewater has almost doubled since the late 1990s and covers between 20% and 30% of wastewater collected in urban sewer networks. But that also means that between 70% and 80% is released without treatment, so there is still a long way to go. An essential step on that road will have been taken with the widespread re cognition of the value of safely using treated wastewater and its valuable by-products as an alternative to raw freshwater.
Note to the editors
The United Nations World Water Development Report is a UN-Water Report produced by the UN World Water Assessment Programme of UNESCO. The Report is the result of the collaboration between the 31 entities of the United Nations System and the 38 international partners that comprise UN-Water. The Report presents an exhaustive review of the state of global water resources and, up until 2012, was published every three years. Since 2014, the WWDR is published annually, with each edition focused on a given theme. It is launched every year on World Water Day, 22 March, which shares the same theme as the report.