Darfur water conference will help build peace in troubled region, says UN Tue, May 31, 2011

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will be part of a major conference on water and peace in Sudan's Darfur region to be held in June.

Geneva, 31 May 2011 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will be part of a major international conference on the critical issue of water and sustainable peace in Sudan's Darfur region, announced today.

The Darfur International Conference on Water for Sustainable Peace, to be held in Khartoum on 27 and 28 June, will seek to raise support for a six-year series of projects desperately needed to develop a sustainable and equitable water service system for Darfur.

In the process it will tackle one of the elemental roots of the conflict in recent years - competition over dwindling natural resources.

"While water has become ever more scarce in Darfur, the population has grown dramatically," said Mohamed Yonis, Deputy Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), briefing reporters in Geneva today.

"This is a pivotal moment in efforts to achieve the optimal use of water because for the first time the will is there from government and the international community to work together on joint solutions.

"We in the UN and AU are determined to address this fundamental issue which has driven conflict in Darfur.

"At the same time, we are also on the ground working to protect civilians while our mediators are pressing for a peace agreement in Doha. No matter the outcome, achieving the wise use of water will remain a major issue to be resolved for a sustainable peace in Darfur."

More than 250 international and Sudanese water experts, economists, development specialists and donors are expected to participate in the two-day gathering in June.

The conference will launch an appeal for US$1.5 billion in water sector projects, from rebuilding the water infrastructure devastated by conflict and neglect to introducing innovative technologies and systems, to creating policy for drought preparedness.

Mr Yonis briefed donors and the media in Geneva today on the conference and appeal, accompanied by UNEP's Sudan Programme Manager, Robin Bovey, and the UNICEF Representative for Sudan, Nils Kastberg.

Mr Bovey said the water conference preparations have been a fine model of consultation which will be the basis for a cooperative approach to address the urgent water issues facing communities across Darfur.

"UN agencies, some international non-governmental organizations and various government departments have been involved in the planning, and the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources then took the project portfolio to all three Darfur states to seek input from community representatives and state ministries," Mr Bovey said.

The Sudan Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources is sponsoring the conference, along with United Nations agencies, including UNEP, UNICEF, WHO, UNESCO, FAO and UNOPS.

"What we're aiming to do is to transform water from being a trigger for conflict into a peace-building instrument," said UNICEF Representative Nils Kastberg. "It's an approach that recognizes the unique importance of a resource which is fundamental to all of us, and which is a human right as much as a humanitarian and developmental necessity."

An appeal document is to be released at the Conference, seeking funds for 56 projects in all. The document calls for a major initiative that "fully integrates water resource management and WASH services for the affected population to meet their survival, livelihood and environmental protection needs, (and) which would advance the cause of peace in the region."

For more information on the Darfur International Conference on Water for Sustainable Peace, visit the conference website at: www.darfurwaterforpeace.org

UNEP's work in Sudan is supported by UKAid from the Department for International Development. UNEP is part of the united call for greater donor support for new water projects in Darfur given the urgent need to expand work in this area.

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