UNESCO will seek concrete action from the upcoming World Water Forum in western Japan following years of failure to seriously address global water goals, the director of the body’s World Water Assessment Program said Wednesday.

“We would hope to see a very sound portfolio for actions,” said Gordon Young, adding that priority should be given to the most effective plans.

Young told a lunch gathering at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan that he wants to see a wish list as well as concrete commitments emerge from the meeting, the third of its kind.

As part of UNESCO’s contribution to the March 16-23 World Water Forum, Young’s team compiled the first comprehensive U.N. report on world water development, with contributions from 23 U.N. agencies and convention secretariats.

The forum, which aims to raise global awareness of water issues, will be held simultaneously in Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga prefectures. About 6,000 participants from some 150 countries are expected to take part, the forum’s secretariat said.

An executive summary of the U.N. report states: “Many targets have been set over the past 30 years and will continue to be set. However, experience over this period shows a consistent pattern of failure in achieving those targets.”

According to the report, 7 billion people in 60 countries may face water scarcity by the middle of this century. Even best-case scenarios put the figures at 2 billion in 48 countries. Forecasts vary depending on factors such as population growth and policymaking.

The report evaluates global water resources; examines 11 specific challenges, such as water use and management; and provides concrete suggestions to prevent scarcity and solve distribution problems.

The report will be presented officially at the ministerial conference of the World Water Forum on March 22, Young said.

According to Young, if governments spent even relatively small amounts of money on water compared to arms expenditures, the problems could be overcome.

“If governments were motivated to put more finances in to remedy the situation, the situation can be changed,” he emphasized. “There is hope.”

Young said $50 billion to $100 billion per year could basically resolve most of the world’s water difficulties, especially those related to health and food security.

The report adds, “Globally, the challenge lies in raising the political will to implement water-related commitments.”

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