Deep words, shallow words: An initial analysis of water discourse in 40 years of UN declarations

October 31, 2011

UN University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health today published a study of the changing language related to water in high-level declarations from eleven UN conferences on water and the environment over the past forty years. Both deepening and shallowing of key terms were evident throughout the documents and the report suggests effective strategies for highlighting and strengthening key concepts.

"The vocabulary of water percolates into daily conversations worldwide, whether in relation to personal or societal survival, the status and health of the , or to water's importance in other realms of sustainable development including food and ," says UNU-INWEH Senior Fellow Dr. Alex Bielak, who co-authored the study with PhD student Dana Mount of the joint McMaster University/UNU-INWEH graduate diploma program, Water Without Borders.

"As a result, the words used to highlight important issues related to water also matter, particularly when used by experts or when they come with the endorsement of highly-regarded bodies like the United Nations, especially in the form of UN Declarations and Resolutions."

Themes covered include: , , Desertification, Water Quality, Sanitation, Science and Technology, Poverty, Gender, Food, , and Health. Moreover, there is a four page 'Summary for Decision Makers' which distills the lessons learned from a synthesis of water discourse over four decades of UN Declarations.

The report is a contribution by the Institute to the process leading up to Rio+20 - a global meeting of leaders in Brazil next June on the 20th anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit of 1992.

"We hope this study will facilitate the efforts of Ministers and policy makers to both build on and avoid unnecessary overlap with work done at previous meetings," says Dr. Bielak. "The findings of the report should assist drafters of future UN Declarations to ensure their outputs are effective, robust and reflect mindful and cumulative deepening of work undertaken at previous high-level meetings."

Explore further: Biodiversity conservation may help reduce the impacts of natural disasters

More information: The study can be downloaded here: www.inweh.unu.edu/River/documents/DeepWords_ShallowWords%20_Mount&Bielak_FINAL_pdf_Oct_26_2011.pdf

and the Summary for Decision Makers here: www.inweh.unu.edu/River/documents/Summary_for_Decision_Makers_DeepWords_ShallowWords_Mount&Bielak_FINAL_pdf_Oct_28_2011.pdf

Related Stories

Greater access to cell phones than toilets in India: UN

April 14, 2010

Far more people in India have access to a cell phone than to a toilet and improved sanitation, according to UN experts who published today a 9-point prescription for achieving the world's Millennium Development Goal (MDG) ...

Energy, food security to dominate Rio+20: envoy

October 13, 2011

Boosting energy efficiency and renewables and providing food for a future world of eight billion will dominate next year's UN Rio+20 conference, the talks' co-coordinator said on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Global index proposed to avoid delays on climate policies

August 4, 2015

Professor David Frame, Director of Victoria's Climate Change Research Institute (CCRI), has co-authored a paper published today in the high profile international scientific journal Nature Climate Change. The paper argues ...

Researchers investigate increased ocean acidification

August 3, 2015

The primary cause of global ocean acidification is the oceanic absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere. Although this absorption helps to mitigate some of the effects of anthropogenic climate change, it has resulted in a reduction ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.