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UNU/INWEH to set up three international collaborating offices
T"Red"he UNU's International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU/INWEH) is laying plans to establish international cooperating offices (ICOs) in three strategically located developing countries: Mexico, Jordan and Brazil.
Located in host institutions with broad national and regional interests in water-related issues, these offices will facilitate project development and serve as regional focal points for research, training and information dissemination. As such, they will be key to achieving UNU/INWEH's goals, including financial self-sufficiency.
ICO's will be small (one to three core staff), located within government, university or NGO institutions. The offices will be formal components of UNU/INWEH and will work closely with institutions, governments and organizations in the regions concerned. Training and technical support in the areas of integrated watershed management, water supply and wastewater systems, and laboratory operations will be initial priorities.
At the UNU Council meeting in December 1997, UNU/INWEH was authorized to establish ICOs in these three countries, which were chosen after exploratory missions and extensive consultations within the freshwater community. In each case, there is strong support from the national government, potential host institutions have been identified and project funds from international and national organizations are available for water-related activities.
The ICO in Mexico will ultimately serve the entire Caribbean Rim but its initial focus will be on needs in Mexico itself. Discussions are under way with Mexican authorities on a host country agreement and a proposed office location near Mexico City. Talks are well advanced with a key strategic ally in the region, the Environmental Education and Training Institute (EETINA), a tripartite NGO formed to support environmental capacity-building goals of the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement. EETINA has a unique agreement with the Mexican Environmental Secretariat to serve as an implementing agency for national water training programmes.
The feasibility study, host-country agreement with the Government of Mexico and other prerequisites are expected to be finalized early this year. The proposed location for the Middle East ICO is in Amman, hosted and co-funded by Jordan's Higher Council for Science and Technology. Draft agreements are currently under review by Jordanian authorities, and Walid Saleh has been selected as the Regional Coordinator for the ICO. Operations are expected to begin in March.
A feasibility study for the ICO has documented many opportunities for water-related capacity building in the Middle East. Examples include groundwater management, water harvesting in arid regions, coastal zone management and environmental information management systems.
The ICO in Brazil, to serve countries of southern South America, is at an early stage of development. Initial missions to Brazil have revealed an extensive range of needs and opportunities. These include reservoir management, agricultural use of wastewater biosolids, industrial pollution prevention and community-based water quality monitoring.
The Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) supports the concept, and Josť Tundisi, President of CNPq, is Vice-Chair of the UNU/INWEH Advisory Committee.
All aspects of establishing the ICO in Brazil are scheduled for completion before the end of the year.