Water is now high on the political agenda; it is increasingly acknowledged as being the basis for sustainable development. The leaders of the world recognize the role of water in basic survival, for the sustainability of supporting ecosystems and for socioeconomic development. They have all shown their concern over dwindling supplies and the deterioration of water quality. One of the key issues identified is the increasing competition between uses and users of water, which has made it more urgent than ever before to act in unison so that water resources can be managed as wisely as possible. The importance of water has been recognized at many world fora including the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto. In UNESCO, as in many other agencies within the UN system freshwater issues are clearly being given priority status.

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