The ongoing and expected future changes in the global and regional climate, current land-use changes and substantial alterations of the demographic structure in and between urban and rural societies challenge the paradigms of sustainable development and integrated resources management. As one key feature and observable consequence of these changes, the global hydro cycle is accelerating. Water is not only a resource itself, but a potent dissolver and transport agent. As a consequence, soils, nutrients (e.g. phosphorus) and recyclable organic material and waste may migrate with water and ultimately can be lost in unwanted places like oceans and other recipient water bodies. Thus, sustainable use of the resources soil, water, and recyclable organic matter and fertilizers in wastes is of growing importance for mitigating and adapting to the future changes of climate, land-use and demography.
The complex relations between demands, resource availability and quality, and financial and physical constraints can only be considered through knowledge-based policies and professional practice. High priority is to be given to capacity development in order to generate and transfer knowledge using innovative methods.
These challenges are the background against which the establishment of a new institute of the United Nations University devoted to the integrated management of material fluxes and of resources was proposed. UNU-FLORES extends and upscales the concept of integrated resource management by adopting a truly integrative perspective by explicitly considering interrelated environmental resources such as water, soil and waste and by emphasizing fluxes of resources between phases and between compartments. Consequently, the integrated and interrelated assessment, tracing and management of the resources water, soil and waste, based on a coherent systems approach to flux analysis while considering conditions of global change in itself is considered a challenging but very promising task and an innovative concept, clearly requiring a global perspective.
Given that the overarching theme of UNU is sustainability, the topic of UNU-FLORES is at the heart of UNU´s overall aim to foster sustainable solutions to pressing issues that are the concern of the United Nations and its member states.