UN Urges Improved Water Governance and Action on World Water Day
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On World Water Day, UN leaders and others called for urgent cooperation to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The 2015 World Water Development Report (WWDR), which the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched for the Day, recommends a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water, which the report says would contribute to poverty alleviation and improvements in the environment, health and food and energy production.

un-water22 March 2015: On World Water Day, UN leaders and others called for urgent cooperation to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The 2015 World Water Development Report (WWDR), which the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched for the Day, recommends a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water, which the report says would contribute to poverty alleviation and improvements in the environment, health and food and energy production.

World Water Day 2015 marks the end of the ‘Water for Life: International Decade for Action,’ which the UN launched in 2005 to accelerate progress on water and water-related commitments. This year’s theme was ‘Water for Sustainable Development.’

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is among “the most urgent issues” affecting the world, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. Observing the many pressures on finite water resources, from climate change to pollution, Ban said cross-sectoral, holistic planning and policies are necessary to address water challenges. UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner similarly called for an “integrated approach to water supply chain management,” including in the post-2015 agenda, noting that stressed water resources result in biodiversity loss, disease, food insecurity, endangered marine life, loss of economic productivity and other challenges. In his message for the Day, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, also underscored the importance of water to ecosystems and sustainable development, describing the role of forests, grasslands and wetlands as natural water infrastructure that ensure water availability and maintain water quality. He welcomed recognition of the role of biodiversity as a solution for achieving water security, including in the post-2015 agenda.

“The story of access to drinking water since 1990 has been one of tremendous progress in the face of incredible odds,” said the head of UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programmes, Sanjay Wijesekera. Despite this progress, he stressed that 748 million people globally still lack access to drinking water and many, particularly the poor and marginalized, are being left behind in their countries’ progress on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and remain deprived of the basic human right to water. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a social media campaign, #wateris, to raise awareness on the importance of improving water quality and access.

Noting that a goal on ensuring access to WASH in the post-2015 agenda is “just one step,” the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, said the post-2015 agenda must aim for a higher rate of progress on ensuring access to WASH for disadvantaged groups.

Participants discussed Africa’s challenges related to access to water and sanitation at an event hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), stressing issues related to access, affordability and health. They also noted the disproportionate effects on women and children. The UN Economic and Social Commission (ESCAP) recognized the Day by opening a public exhibition on the theme.

UN leaders also highlighted health and human rights concerns related to water, noting that nearly 1,000 children die each day from diseases associated with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation or poor hygiene.

In its message for the Day, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) drew attention to groundwater resources as particularly at risk from overexploitation while also highlighting pressures on the ocean, such as coastal degradation, marine debris, overfishing and pollution.

In the absence of improved water resources management, the planet will face a 40% shortfall in its water supply by 2030, according to the 2015 WWDR, ‘Water for a Sustainable World.’ The report presents trends from around the world, underscoring increasing demands for water alongside unsustainable water management, which it cautions could lead to conflicts between regions and countries as well as between types of users. It highlights the water crisis as a governance and knowledge crisis rather than one of resource availability, calling for changes in how water is valued, governed and utilized.

The report illustrates the importance of water resources and the services they provide in achieving environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and economic growth. It argues that a sustainable world is one in which, inter alia: integrated water resources management (IWRM) is the norm; water is valued in all of its forms, including wastewater; water is governed in a participatory, transparent manner; and water resources management, infrastructure and service delivery are sustainably financed. The report also presents the main water and sustainable development challenges by region.

UNESCO launched the WWDR in New Delhi, India, on 20 March. The WWAP, hosted by UNESCO, produces the WWDR on behalf of the 31 UN agencies and 27 international partners that compose UN-Water. [UN Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [CBD Executive Secretary Statement] [UNICEF Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [Special Rapporteur Statement] [UNESCO Press Release on WWDR] [AfDB Press Release] [ESCAP Press Release] [GEF Press Release] [IFAD Press Release] [UNDP Press Release] [UN Water Website for World Water Day] [ Water for a Sustainable World]


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