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Water cooperation must be a priority on sustainable development agenda – UN official

A villager takes extra precautions to keep her supply of water clean in Niger.
UNDP Niger/Rabo Yahaya
A villager takes extra precautions to keep her supply of water clean in Niger.

Water cooperation must be a priority on sustainable development agenda – UN official

Water cooperation at national and global levels is essential to achieve sustainable development and ensure millions of people have access to this precious resource, a senior United Nations official stressed today at a conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

“Not only is the world experiencing explosive growth in the demand for water resources, but water waste and pollution increasingly threaten the integrity of aquatic and agro ecosystems vital for life and food security,” the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Rebeca Grynspan, said at the High-Level International Conference on Water Cooperation.

“Climate change is not helping either, increasing variability in the water cycle, and exacerbating extreme events like floods and droughts complicates even further an already immense water management and water governance challenge. If these trends continue, by 2025, as many as 3 billion people could be living in areas facing water stress.”

Currently, some 770 million people worldwide lack access to an improved water source and 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation. As part of its efforts to tackle these issues, the UN has declared 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, recognizing that cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share the precious resource equitably, using water as an instrument of peace.

Ms. Grynspan stressed countries must collaborate to increase access to clean water and sanitation and improve water management for irrigation and productive uses, which has the potential of lifting millions out of poverty and hunger. The importance of this cooperation should feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda, as well as in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Water is at the heart of a daily crisis faced by millions of the most vulnerable people in the world,” she said, emphasizing that: “Effective and inclusive water cooperation at all levels – local, national, regional, and international – is essential to effective water governance and thus to achieving key water-related objectives and targets.”

“At the national level, community involvement, women’s voices and participation and private sector cooperation are essential […] at the Regional level, dialogue, information sharing and cooperation on transboundary waters to advance peace, security, environmental protection, and regional economic development should be supported.

“And at global level, international standards, goals, and targets on water and related issues like climate change and cooperation mechanisms such as UN-Water, the Sanitation and Water for All initiative, and indeed, the International Year of Water Cooperation itself, are key.”

The Conference, Ms. Grynspan added, will serve to further inform UN Member States on this issue as they undertake the process of designing the post-2015 and sustainable development agenda.

“Governments, the UN system, private sector, civil society and citizens at large all have to come together, and raise their voice for a post-2015 and sustainable development agenda that will be owned by all. I urge all of you to stay engaged and participate in this unprecedented global conversation,” she added.