The UNESCO Chair at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna provides valuable support to the internationally-oriented work of the World’s Large Rivers Initiative (WLRI) underway since 2012. The original point of departure was the first World’s Large Rivers Conference, which was held in Vienna, Austria, in 2011. Proving its interdisciplinary approach, the event was co-sponsored by UNESCO, IAHR (International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research), IAHS (International Association of Hydrological Sciences), WASER (World Association for Sedimentation and Erosion Research) and IAG (International Association of Geomorphologists).


An outcome of the conference was the recommendation of a collaborative and multidisciplinary international initiative to create the basis for a holistic, global scientific assessment of the status of the WLRs and to promote an integrated and sustainable management of WLRs and their basins. In order to launch the project at the UN level it was presented to UNESCO-IHP during its 20th session of the Intergovernmental Council (IGC) in 2012. The proposal was discussed and the initiative was welcomed among the Member States, which was reflected in the final report of IGC. The IGC encouraged the presenter of the proposal to submit a full proposal to the IHP Bureau and subsequently to the IGC. The WLRI was officially approved by the 21st session of the IGC in 2014.


Therefore, this Chair considers the promotion and facilitation of the WLRI as one of its primary goals. The WLRI functions as a global initiative in which UNESCO - through its International Hydrological Programme (IHP) - plays a key role through the linkages to its initiatives and programmes. The WLRI supports the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and commitments (e.g. SDGs, UNBiodiv., UNFCCC) and allows an integrated approach (e.g. IHP – MAB – IGCP – WWAP).


The long term objectives of the proposal are:

  • To coordinate and facilitate the World’s Large Rivers Initiative (WLRI) [see Act. 1]
  • To support the organization of the international World’s Large Rivers Conferences [see Act. 2]
  • To foster a linkage between research at and management of large river basins [see Act. 3]
  • To promote and organize a proposal for an integrated project on the status and future of the World’s Large Rivers [see Act. 4]
  • To develop a concept for a global observatory of large rivers and their associated basins [see Act. 5]
  • To educate, to build knowledge societies and to raise awareness in the context of integrated river research and management [see Act. 6]



Specific short term objectives are – among others – the promotion and preparation of the World’s Large Rivers Conferences as well as supporting the integrated and international Danube Research and Management Project DREAM. The next WLR Conference will be held in 2021.