IGU Commission for Water Sustainability

Evaluation of phase VII (2008-2013) of the IHP

UNESCO commissioned Past IGU Commission Chairman Emeritus Professor Tony Jones (UK) and Steering Committee member Professor Frank Winde (South Africa) to undertake an evaluation of the seventh phase of the IHP, which ran from 2008 to the end of 2013.

The IHP has become a major force in improving water resources management globally, especially by advising UNESCO Member States in developing countries, which lack technical resources and expertise. The IHP began life in 1975 at the end of the International Hydrological Decade. The IHD was set in motion in the mid-1960s as a response to the International Geophysical Year (IGY; 1957-8), the first major worldwide collaboration in the geosciences. The only water science in the IGY was glaciology, but the need for international scientific collaboration in the whole field of water resources was soon apparent. The IHP was set up as a series of 6-yearly programmes, aimed initially at furthering the scientific understanding of the water cycle and its global distribution. Over the years it has gradually taken on a more practical role, progressing from the pure science into water management, especially in vulnerable environments, and socio-economic aspects. IHP-V focussed on “Hydrology and Water Resources Development in a Vulnerable Environment”. IHP-VI (2002-7) progressed into disasters and societal values with “Water Interactions: Systems at Risk and Societal Challenges”, and IHP-VII, which draws to a close at the end of 2013, has focussed on “Water Dependencies: Systems under Stress and Societal Responses”. The latest and somewhat longer phase of IHP (2013-2021) takes the aims into an even broader field, covering disasters and hydrological change, changes in groundwater resources, issues of water scarcity and quality, interrelationships between water and human settlements in the future, ecohydrology, engineering harmony for a sustainable world, and water education as a key to water security for all; IHP-VIII’s title, “Water Security – Responses to Local, Regional and Global Challenges”.

The evaluation had two primary aims: to assess the progress made during IHP VII and to make recommendations for improving efficiency and focus during the upcoming eighth phase. Jones and Winde undertook this task in a highly concentrated period between December 2013 and March 2014, which included a week at the IHP Secretariat in Paris conferring with the Director of the Division of Water Sciences and UNESCO’s Internal Oversight Service and interviewing staff. The evaluation was unique in three respects: first, all previous assessments had been undertaken by a committee comprising up to half a dozen members; secondly, they were given a much longer period in which to deliberate, typically 6 months or so; and thirdly, it was undertaken earlier than recent evaluations, at the very end of IHP VII, which was intended to allow its recommendations to be incorporated into the early delivery of the next phase, whereas recent evaluations have not been completed until well into the next phase.

In addition to the over 200 documents (containing nearly 10,000 pages) presented by UNESCO’s Internal Oversight Service, Jones and Winde made extensive use of Skype and telephone interviews, which included the Directors of the Category I Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE) in Delft and the Category II UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science in Dundee, as well as initiating their own internet search of the activities of rival “Global Water Initiatives”, like FAO, and interviewed representatives of the OECD and International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) in Paris. Two email questionnaire shoots were also made – one to collaborators in the IHP programme recommended by UNESCO, including Field Officers and Regional Hydrologists, the other an independent survey which was not part of the UNESCO Terms of Reference in which over 400 water scientists known to the evaluators were contacted. More than 400 organisations and practitioners were contacted within the “UNESCO Water Family” and the wider UN network. The group contacted in the independent survey was largely, but not exclusively, made up of corresponding members of the IGU Commission for Water Sustainability comprising a total of 396 recipients. This was aimed at testing opinion amongst the wider community as to the efficacy of the IHP and its associated programmes. The questionnaire included a request for suggestions for improving the design and execution of the programme.

Professor Jones presented the report at the IHP Intergovernmental Council meeting at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in June 2014 before a group of the major countries or “Member States” involved in IHP. There was widespread support for our recommendations and concern over the deficiencies uncovered. The Japanese delegation was particularly concerned about deficiencies in communication within the IHP network. The Chinese delegation were concerned about the problems uncovered within the International Sediment Initiative (ISI) and keen to indicate that activities were resuming after more money had been made available by the Chinese government. The Netherlands supported our idea that transboundary collaboration in water resource management should be viewed more highly as an area where UNESCO should be uniquely placed – the “Potential Conflict to Collaboration Potential” (PCCP) programme initiated by former IHP Secretary Andras Szollosi-Nagy, but apparently given less attention in recent years is a prime example. In the limited time available for comment, Switzerland, Dominica and the UK also offered their support, the latter noting that a number of our recommendations had been made by previous Assessors, but not acted upon and that time was running out for corrective action. Only the representative sitting in the chair for Uruguay was critical, but IOS suggested they should read the full 137-page report.

We attach the Powerpoint presentation given at the Paris meeting and the full Report is available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002280/228062E.pdf .

Note that online our Evaluation report (labeled Part I of the overall assessment) is preceded by a summary produced by the UNESCO Internal Oversight Service and a summary of responses from the IHP Secretariat after they received our final report in March 2014 (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002280/228059E.pdf). More importantly, our Evaluation is followed by a short report from Abel Mejia, formerly of the World Bank, who undertook Part II of the evaluation concerned with financial aspects. His report largely vindicates our own and suggests some valuable financial instruments for implementing our recommendations and addressing the funding shortage that is having a noticeable effect on the operation.

The IOS expressed its gratitude to both assessors by sending letters of appreciation to the Vice Chancellors of their respective universities stressing its satisfaction with the thorough and useful analysis provided under conditions of limited time and resources.

Meanwhile, a management response tracking system has been set up to monitor the implementation of our recommendations. Being a first in the history of IHP reviews this indicates that the report is being taken seriously and steps are underway to improve what is arguably the most important inter-governmental science programme on global water issues.

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