Magazine article UN Chronicle

Strengthening and Revitalizing Global Partnerships to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: Three Solutions for Securing Water and Sustaining Growth

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Strengthening and Revitalizing Global Partnerships to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: Three Solutions for Securing Water and Sustaining Growth

Article excerpt

Shifting our priorities from economic growth to sustainable development is the political imperative of our time. To do so, leaders must deliver on water security, ensuring that water becomes an enabler, rather than a major barrier to sustainable growth. What is it going to take?


The Global Water Partnership (GWP) was created in 1996 to advocate for the application of integrated water resources management (IWRM), and has since produced a substantial body of knowledge in that respect. GWP cheered when a Sustainable Development Goal on water, SDG 6--"ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all"--was incorporated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including a specific target (6.5) for the implementation of IWRM. This integrated approach has become a global political commitment.

One of the core tenets of IWRM is "a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policymakers at all levels." GWP was also pleased when the 2030 Agenda called for an all-of-society engagement and partnership to bring about the large scale transformational change needed to address the worlds challenges through SDG 17, "Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development". This inclusive approach is essential for solving water problems, most of which stem from the growing demand of competing users. Water is everywhere: in food, health, energy, migration, jobs, poverty, climate change solutions and disaster relief. Business as usual--a fragmented approach with each sector acting unilaterally--means we will eventually need three planets worth of water! A water-secure world will require all users at the table to share water more holistically and understand that unless upstream resources are managed sustainably, the well may dry up for everyone.

The first solution to securing water and sustaining growth is multi-stakeholder inclusion, thereby deploying SDG 17 for SDG 6. The GWP local-national-regional-global network includes stakeholders--governments, civil society, and business--who have the power to solve water problems. Our network on the ground provides the knowledge, capacity and flexibility to respond quickly, so that political will may be exercised for achieving water security in a timely fashion.

As an example, GWP leveraged its stakeholder network in 2017 to advance the SDG 6 reporting process. Together with the United Nations Environment Programme-DHI, the custodian agency of the SDG target 6.5.1 indicator, measuring the degree of IWRM implementation, GWP convened 30 workshops in order to collect individual country data. The results of the workshops will form part of the SDG 6 baseline data to be included in UN-Water's SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation in the 2030 Agenda, (1) which will serve as an input to the high-level political forum on sustainable development in July 2018. The workshops highlighted national priority areas for IWRM, which will be used to design interventions to further advance SDG 6.


"Water crises" are among the top-ranked global risks for the past several years in the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report. The 2017 report states that "... changing weather patterns or water crises can trigger or exacerbate geopolitical and societal risks, such as domestic or regional conflict and involuntary migration, particularly in geopolitically fragile areas". (2) Even though the Paris Agreement did not make an explicit connection between climate change and water, the link is evident. Thus, water is the most cited priority sector in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of countries to the Paris Agreement.

The 2016 New Climate Economy report estimates that to prevent the worst impacts of climate breakdown, a net additional investment of $4 trillion will be needed. (3) We realize that not all this money is coming from public funding. Fortunately, CEOs from a range of industries have stepped up their efforts to address climate destruction, making commitments to decrease carbon footprints and engage in sustainable resource management. …

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