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The Water Community

UNESCO-IHE is part of the UNESCO Water Family. The Institute is established as a UNESCO 'category 1 Institute' jointly by UNESCO and the Government of the Netherlands. UNESCO-IHE cooperates with a wide range of partners in the water sector.

UNESCO, UN & water

UNESCO-IHE operates in a variety of policy contexts. As part of the UNESCO Water Family, there is the international policy context, the Sustainable Development Goals and the RIO+20 outcomes. Moreover, UNESCO-IHE is based in the Netherlands and therefore also operates and works in the context of the European and Dutch policy.

The incorporation of IHE into UNESCO in 2003 demonstrates the importance the Organization attaches to water issues. UNESCO Member States decided to make water and associated ecosystems one of its ‘principal priorities’. Since then UNESCO has moved rapidly to build up its programme and to increase funding in this area, focusing on sustainable development, sound decision making based on scientific knowledge, education and capacity building. UNESCO is committed to implementing the international water agenda, consisting primarily of promoting integrated water resources management, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the targets laid out in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (Agenda 21). UNESCO also serves as lead agency for the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014).

UNESCO’s work in the water sector is built on the following pillars:

At its heart is the long-standing International Hydrological Programme (IHP) , now carried out in collaboration with academic and professional institutions, the IHP National Committees, and the governments of UNESCO’s member states.

UNESCO Water-related Chairs are joint undertakings between UNESCO and interested parties. They can be established as teaching or research facilities at a university or other higher education or research institute.

The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education , as well as some 25 associated regional and international centres around the world.

The World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) is a joint initiative of 24 bodies of the United Nations system. The UN WWAP, hosted by UNESCO, issued the first World Water Development Report in 2003 and the latest in 2015: Water for a Sustainable World.

Water-related centres under the auspices of UNESCO
The water-related centres under the auspices of UNESCO (category 2) work on relevant thematic and geographic priorities in their areas of expertise. Since Member States have realized the potential of these centres, the network has been rapidly expanding.

Hydrology National Committees
National Committees form the backbone of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and are fundamental to ensuring the widest possible participation of Member States in the international programme.  These Committees are constituted and run under the authority of national governments and play a critical role in the implementation of the IHP.There are at present 168 IHP National Committees and focal points among UNESCO’s 195 Member States.

UNESCO publications highlighted

2016 UN World Water Development Report, Water and Jobs

50 years anniversary publication Water, People and Cooperation

UNESCO-IHP: Transboundary Water Cooperation and the Sustainable Development Goals

UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030

Groundwater and climate change: mitigating the global groundwater crisis and adapting to climate change

Groundwater and climate change in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

UNESCO Publishing

Find books, publications, periodicals and multimedia in the six official UNESCO languages here: http://publishing.unesco.org


The mandate given by UNESCO to IHE is to:

  • strengthen and mobilise the global educational and knowledge base for integrated water resources management; and
  • contribute to meeting the water-related capacity building needs of developing countries and countries in transition.


UNESCO-IHE has signed a number of long-term international cooperation agreements with various partners, comprising a wide range of fields and technical cooperation in human and institutional capacity building. Find out more on the partner page, visit the networks & partnerships page or see the sub websites list.

Delft & water

Delft is a world renowned knowledge centre on water infrastructure, technology and sciences, and attracts high-level students and scientists from around the globe. UNESCO-IHE cooperates with Delft, the water knowledge city, and water related institutes based in Delft.