Since 1957 the Institute has provided graduate education to more than 14,500 water professionals from over 160 countries, the vast majority from the developing world. Numerous research and capacity development projects are carried out throughout the world. The Institute offers a unique combination of applied, scientific and participatory research in water engineering combined with natural sciences and management sciences. Since its establishment the Institute has played an instrumental role in developing the capacities of water sector organizations in the South, not least by strengthening the efforts of other universities and research centres to increase the knowledge and skills of professionals working in the water sector.
UNESCO-IHE carries out educational, research and capacity development activities that complement and reinforce each other in the broad fields of water engineering, water management, environment, sanitation, and governance.
The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education is based in and operates from Delft, the Netherlands. UNESCO-IHE is part of the UN Water family and is owned by all UNESCO member states. The Institute is established as a UNESCO 'Category I Institute' jointly by UNESCO and the Government of the Netherlands.Through the signing of the following three agreements, UNESCO-IHE was established in 2003:
- UNESCO and the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed the Seat Agreement,
- UNESCO and the Dutch Ministry of Education signed the Operational Agreement,
- UNESCO and the IHE Delft Foundation signed the Cooperation Agreement.
The agreements include internal rules that guarantee functional autonomy to achieve the Institute's objectives.
Beneficiaries and clients
UNESCO-IHE provides a wide range of services to a variety of target groups in developing countries and countries in transition:
- Education, training and scientific research - for water sector professionals, engineers, scientists, consultants and decision-makers working in the water and environment sectors.
- Water sector capacity development - for water sector ministries and departments, municipalities, water boards and water utilities, universities, training and research institutes, industries, non-governmental and private sector organisations.
- Partnership building and networking - among knowledge centres, public and private sector organisations.
- Standard setting for education and training - for water-related institutions, universities and other education and training agencies in the water sector.
- Policy forum on water - for UNESCO member states and other stakeholders.
UNESCO-IHE’s campus is located in the centre of Delft. The premises, comprising three interconnected buildings, cover an area of 14,000 square metres, extending from the main entrance of the new building on Westvest 7, to the historic buildings of Oude Delft 95 and 93 along one of Delft’s main canals.
The Institute offers a wide range of facilities:
- Four modern teaching and research laboratories: aquatic ecology, microbiology process and analytical laboratories;
- A library with online connections to a worldwide network of libraries, and a reading room containing many international journals and magazines;
- Multifunctional lecture theaters and a fully equipped auditorium that seats 300;
- Extensive ICT facilities, including a studio with videoconferencing facilities;
- Innovative learning tools, including smart boards, WiFi and remote access to all digital resources
- A restaurant offering a wide variety of meals and snacks;
- An in-house prayer and meditation room;
- Residential accommodation equipped with computers, internet connections and other facilities.
Building on a knowledge network that catalyzes solutions for water challenges will be an essential task for the water sector. UNESCO-IHE recognizes that meeting these global challenges requires a strong foundation of knowledge to improve water management practices.
UNESCO-IHE envisions a world in which people manage their water and environmental resources in a sustainable manner, and in which all sectors of society, particularly the poor, can enjoy the benefits of basic services.
The mission of UNESCO-IHE is to contribute to the education and training of professionals, the knowledge base through research and to build the capacity of sector organizations, knowledge centers and other institutions active in the fields of water, the environment and infrastructure in developing countries and countries in transition. In support of its mission, the Institute has three main goals:
- Develop innovation, provide new knowledge, and promote the uptake of technologies and policies that will address the issues of the global water agenda, in particular those related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- Seek, evaluate and facilitate responses for the sustainable management of water, to meet the needs of all sectors of society, particularly the poor;
- Strengthen and promote principles of good governance that drive institutional and management change to support the sustainable management of water.
Water will be one of the most important issues of the 21st century. How should water be managed 40 years from now in a world inhabited by more than 9 billion people? This and many other questions demand direct action. Water is critical to the world’s prosperity and environmental sustainability. Safe drinking water and appropriate sanitation are vital factors in human health and quality of life. More than half the population already lives in cities, and this number will only increase. UNESCO-IHE’s strategic plan recognizes that addressing global challenges such as poverty, climate change and public health requires a strong foundation of knowledge to improve water management practices.
The UNESCO-IHE Global Campus for Water & Development is an international UNESCO-IHE networking organization. The Global Campus establishes nodes for joint education and research within the current and future education and research partner institutes.
The Global Campus international network will close the gap in the broad field of specialist capacity needed in the field of water worldwide. This is done by providing more education to talented people in collaboration with partners in the developing world and countries in transition.
The Global Campus operating mechanism will be implemented partially through joint education and research programmes and partially through a virtual learning environment.
Potential Global Campus members include partner universities and research institutes, knowledge networks and public private partnerships, Category II centers and UNESCO chairs. From 2014 onwards a phased implementation of related activities will be realized aiming at the establishment of a Global Research Agenda and ultimately a fully operational UNESCO-IHE Global Graduate School on Water & Development in 2018.
UNESCO-IHE is part of the UN Water family and facilitates all UNESCO member states. The Institute is established as a UNESCO 'Category I 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 and UN family, there is the international policy context, the Millenium 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 16 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 2012: Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk.
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 or visit the networks & partnerships page.
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.
UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education continues the work that was started in 1957 when a postgraduate diploma course in hydraulic engineering was first offered to practicing professionals from developing countries. Today, UNESCO-IHE has developed into one of the largest graduate water education facilities in the world.
Historical Time Line
The Netherlands became famous in the field of hydraulic engineering after the devastating North Sea flood of 1953. This flood broke dikes and seawalls in the Netherlands, killing almost 2000, destroying 4,500 buildings. To prevent such a tragedy from happening again, an ambitious flood defence system was conceived and deployed, called the Delta Works.
In 1955 this led to several developing countries inquiring about the possibility of having their engineers trained in the Netherlands in the field of hydraulic engineering. The request of the Ambassador of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) marks the start of training engineers from developing countries.
In 1957 the first 'International Course in Hydraulic Engineering' was set up and followed by forty-five participants from twenty-one different countries. This course had three branches: 'Tidal and coastal engineering', 'Reclamation' and 'Rivers and navigation works'.
In 1960, upon request of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in a mutual effort of Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (Nuffic), IHE's curriculum was extended with the 'European Course in Sanitary Engineering'.
From 1966 onwards, due to increasing applications for the Sanitary Engineering Course, a parallel course has been organized, this parallel course is dealing with drinking water supply, sanitation and public health administration in agricultural and rural areas.
In 1976 the name International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) was introduced. Several years later, after a steady growth of courses and research themes, the word Infrastructural was added to the full name, not changing the abbreviation IHE however.
In 1977 IHE celebrated its 20th anniversary; in these 20 years about 2,500 engineers from 97 countries have attended the courses. From 1985 to 1998, under the leadership of rector Wil Segeren, the IHE yearly student numbers grew from 200 to 450 and staff grew from 35 to 130. IHE became a major player in water sector capacity building, be it by educating and training individuals, research activities or strengthening institutions in developing countries.
From 1990 to 1992 the building at Westvest 7, now the heart of UNESCO-IHE, was build, extending the historical Oude Delft 95 complex and so physically representing IHE's growth. In 1995 IHE is recognised as an Institute for Technology by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IHE became an independent institute after having been part of Nuffic for 39 years. As from January 1 1996, all staff is employed by the IHE foundation.
The process to establish the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education was concluded by a decision of the 31st General Conference of UNESCO in November 2001. In 2003, the newly-created UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE) came officially into operation.
Today, UNESCO-IHE has trained more than 14,500 water professionals (diploma/degree education) and thousands of short-course participants from 160 countries, almost all from developing countries and countries in transition. It has also graduated more than 130 PhD candidates in collaboration with leading universities and executed numerous research and capacity building projects throughout the world. Since it became part of UNESCO, the Institute has become the only institution in the UN system authorised to confer accredited MSc degrees. More than 60 institutions around the world are to be counted among its partners; many more among its friends.