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Water takes centre stage in discussion on Post-2015 Development Agenda

Published: 01 March 2013

© IISD Reporting Services

Geneva – 27 February 2013. Does water have a role to play in the post-2015 Development Agenda? If so, how will it be addressed? A global resource that affects all millennium development goals, water is a particularly challenging – and important – issue to incorporate in defining the post-2015 Development Agenda. Almost 200 representatives of governments, international organizations, civil society and business from 70 countries gathered to address this issue on 27-28 February 2013 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

For two days, participants scrutinized the role of water and its importance in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, in particular two aspects defined as “Water Resources Management” and “Wastewater Management and Water Quality.” They also discussed how water relates to the other 10 themes of the World We Want consultation such as energy, health and food.

After intense breakout group discussions, six clustered themes emerged as priorities under this framework: Resilience/Climate Change, Efficiency/Reuse, Allocation/Balancing Uses, Transboundary Water Cooperation, Pollution/Protection/Water Quality/Ecosystems and Governance. 

“Water is essential for human development and hence must be at the core of a post-2015 sustainable development agenda”, says Ambassador Martin Dahinden, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Addressing the water crisis is a matter of economic growth, human and social development, public health, urban planning, environmental integrity, national and regional security, as well as human rights. It requires the mobilization of governments at all levels and all stakeholders – including the private sector and businesses. And last but not least, the voice of the poor has to be strongly represented in the process.

Liberian Assistant Minister of Public Works, George Yarngo, one of the co-hosts of the Thematic Consultation on Water, adds, “The evidence for action is clear - a healthy human society has direct impact on the wellbeing and productivity of a successful population as well as sustaining freshwater ecosystems, water and sanitation are human rights and increasingly widely recognized as such and essential for ensuring food and energy security”.

“The management of all forms of water, and especially the management of wastewater, is often conveniently forgotten in the political debate, while in reality it is a time-bomb waiting to explode” says Bert Diphoorn, Director for Human Settlements and Financing Division of UN-Habitat, one of the co-leads on the Wastewater Management and Water Quality stream.

Add to this the transboundary water context, where rivers, lakes and aquifer cross political boundaries, which adds a level of complexity to both governing and managing these shared waters.  There are 276 shared river basins and over 300 shared aquifers worldwide.  Over 60% of all water comes from transboundary basins and 40% of the world’s populations reside within them. 

Mr. Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of UNECE, the lead organization for the Water Resources Management Stream reflects on the transboundary water issue: “What has not yet received sufficient attention is that the water crisis is a transboundary issue.  Cooperation is therefore critical to avoid conflicts and ensure effective and sustainable use of shared resources. To this end, transboundary water cooperation needs to get higher on the international agenda. I believe that the globalization of the UNECE Water Convention is an important step forward in this process”.

The meeting’s recommendations on the inclusion of water in development goals will ultimately contribute to the final outcome of a Post-2015 Development Agenda.  The water crisis is one of the most pressing political, environmental and social issues of the 21st century and directly relates to nearly every global challenge: climate change, health, nutrition, environment, transportation, political conflicts, all this and much more is directly linked to water.

For further information, please visit http://www.unece.org/post_2015_water_consultation_meeting.html

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