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Name The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)
Logo Image:Unhabitat.jpg
Geographic Scope Global
Subject Focus Expertise Socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements
Contact E-mail: infohabitat@unhabitat.org
URL http://www.unhabitat.org/
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UN-Water Partners: AquaFed | The Global Compact | GWP | IAH | IAHS | ICID | IWA | IWMI | PSI | RAMSAR | SIWI | UNSGAB | WSSCC | WBCSD | IUCN | World Water Council | WWF
UN-Water Task Forces on WaterWiki: UN-Water Country-level Coordination TF
Key UN-Water Reports: Water Monitoring (Monitoring Task Force report - Aug 08) | UN-Water/reports
Related WaterWiki-resources: UN World Water Development Report | Water Monitoring
Key External Links: About UN-Water | About WWAP | World Water Development Report (WWDR)



The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. Towns and cities are growing at unprecedented rates and are now home to over half of the world's population. They are the hub of much national production and consumption - economic and social processes that generate wealth and opportunity. But they also create disease, crime, pollution, poverty and social unrest. In many cities, especially in developing countries, slum dwellers number more than 50 per cent of the population and have little or no access to shelter, water and sanitation, education or health services. It is essential that policy­makers understand the power of the city as a catalyst for national development. Sustainable urbanisation is one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in the 21st century. UN-HABITAT's programmes are designed to help policy-makers and local communities get to grips with the human settlements and urban issues and find workable, lasting solutions.

UN-HABITAT's work is directly related to the United Nations Millennium Declaration, particularly the MDGs of member States to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020, Target 11, MDG No. 7, and Target 10 which calls for the reduction by half of the number without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

UN-Habitat Water, Sanitation and Infrastructure Branch

UN-HABITAT’s Water, Sanitation and Infrastructure branch works with governments, local authorities and other partners to build capacity for effective and efficient provision and delivery of water, sanitation and infrastructure. It runs the Water and Sanitation programme (see below) and two regional programmes: Water for African Cities and Water for Asian Cities.

UN-Habitat Water and Sanitation Programme

The main priority of UN-Habitat's Water and Sanitation programme is to improve access to safe water and help provide adequate sanitation to millions of low-income urban dwellers in accordance with the internationally agreed goals related to water and sanitation in human settlements with particular focus on the urban poor. In doing so, the aim is to facilitate equitable social, economic and environmental development. Whilst the task is unarguably enormous, improving access to water and sanitation in low income urban settlements is possible.

UN-HABITAT's Water and Sanitation programme is funded by a Water and Sanitation Trust Fund. Its main focus is improving delivery of water and sanitation in African Asia through its regional programmes, Water for African Cities and Water for Asian Cities, and promoting policy dialogue, information exchange, water education and awareness raising. It also monitors progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets on improving access to safe water and sanitation and undertakes replicable model-setting initiatives, notably the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation and Mekong Regional Water and Sanitation initiatives.

The goals of the programme are to:

  • Include the human settlement dimension in the World Water Development Reports. Publish the Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities reports and ensure that pro-poor and gender focused governance frameworks are available and in use.
  • Enhance awareness of water and sanitation issues and encourage the application of guide documents, norms, standards and toolkits by the water and sanitation sector and UN-HABITAT partners.
  • Form strategic partnerships among key water and sanitation stakeholders, these include the United Nations, development banks, donors, urban centres, utilities, non-governmental organizations, and communities to promote increasing levels of investment in UN-HABITAT programmes.
  • Train water and sanitation sector stakeholders to enable them to develop, provide and manage improved water and sanitation services.
  • Encourage water and sanitation institutions in participating countries to replicate local initiatives as a consequence of increased investment flows and with the involvement of local communities.
  • Work with water and sanitation institutions in participating countries to develop enhanced capacity to track progress towards internationally agreed targets based on improved information systems and enhanced monitoring frameworks.

UN-Habitat is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. UN-HABITAT's strategic vision is anchored in a four-pillar strategy aimed at attaining the goal of Cities without Slums. The organization's mandate is outlined in the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, Habitat Agenda, Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, and Resolution 56/206.

Key Resources

See also complete list of WaterWiki-documented UN-Habitat-Publications

UN-Habitat's E-resources

Selected publications

Source:UN-Habitat website
  • Manual on the Right to Water and Sanitation - The Manual on the Right to Water and Sanitation is designed to assist policy makers and practitioners in implementing the right to water and sanitation. This publication, written in non-legal language, addresses the vital need to clarify how human rights can be practically realised in the water and sanitation sector. The Manual recognizes that implementing the right to water and sanitation is not limited to legal recognition or allocation of funds. Rather, it provides the basis for practical reforms in many areas of water supply and sanitation and in water resource management that can help make the water and sanitation sector operate in a manner that is more pro-poor, accountable and inclusive.
  • Mainstreaming Gender, Water and Sanitation (2006) - This strategy document emphasizes the benefits of entrusting the responsibility to groups of women and men of taking control of solving their water and sanitation problems at the local level, particularly slums which are highly deficient in water and sanitation services. It highlights the need for capacity building at different levels, from head offices to the grassroots level, to apply gender sensitive budgeting, impact analysis and monitoring and evaluation.
  • Meeting Development Goals in samll urban centres: Water and Sanitation in the World's Cities 2006 - This is the second UN-HABITAT global report on Water and Sanitation in the World´s Cities. This publication looks at small urban centres which tend to be overlooked, however they are the first tier markets and service providers for rural enterprise and development. This publication has a pivotal role to play in global and local thinking on service provision, and a critical contribution to the road map to meeting the MDGs.
  • Official Development Assistance vs. Market Based Mechanisms A Debate on Financing Water Supply and Sanitation Services in Small Towns
  • UN-Habitat Partnership with Gender and Water Alliance

Click Here for all publications from the Water, Sanitation and Infrastructure Branch.

Work on the Ground

Selected projects

  • Addressing the Urban Water Challenge in Kampala, Uganda - The objective of the programme is to demonstrate integrated urban water and sanitation interventions for the urban poor with the aim of scaling up the successful outcomes in other parishes of the city at later programme phases. The programme outputs and activities are in line with the UNHABITAT’S programme framework for the Water for African Cities Phase II, and includes both macro and micro levels of interventions.
  • Getting Water and Sanitation to Poor Urban Communities in Jos, Nigeria - The rate of urbanization in Nigeria has outstripped the capacity of the local and Federal authorities to provide adequate basic services. The brunt of this shortfall in the provision of potable water and sanitation services is borne mainly by women and children, with adverse consequences to the individual well being. In Jos, this challenge is further compounded by the very rocky nature of the terrain. Nigeria requested to be included in the second phase of the Water for African Cities Programme in 2005 and Jos, the capital city of Plateau State was selected by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources as a participating city....
  • Human Values Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire - Groundwater is the sole source of water for industry and human consumption in Abidjan City. Current exploitation of this resource is unsustainable and there is an urgent need for an information/knowledge base on the hydro-geological situation and the resulting effects of both abstraction practices and the fate of pollutants. Although water resources are not currently limited in the city, demands will gradually reach levels where groundwater resources may be insufficient. There is a need to develop a demand management strategy now to ensure that all actors use water efficiently. UN-HABITAT is implementing the Human Value Water Sanitation and Hygiene Education Programme as a component of the Water for African Cities Phase II Programme in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Water for Asian Cities, Lao PDR - The Lao PDR government has adopted a National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES) for the implementation of all its development programmes. Reflecting the significance of the sector, this strategy has identified water supply and sanitation as one of four key priority sectors to be developed in order to meet the government’s economic growth and poverty eradication objectives. UN-HABITAT, ADB and government of Lao PDR agree on the benefits and synergy of a partnership. The dialogue with the government and ADB, has already resulted in agreement on a joint initiative on the recently approved ADB-funded Northern and Central Regions Water Supply Development Project. UN-HABITAT will be providing $0.5 million capacity building assistance to this $25 million project for water supply and sanitation improvements in secondary towns. The capacity building will cover aspects such as operation and maintenance, customer relations, household sanitation, community participation in operation and maintenance, accounting and management, the development of community action teams, and land acquisition and resettlement.
  • Water for African Cities - The main objectives of the programme are to:
    • Develop norms, standards and management tools for the water and sanitation sector
    • Promote pro-poor investment
    • Provide strategic support to pro-poor water and sanitation initiatives
    • Monitor the progress towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal and World Summit of Sustainable Development targets relating to water and sanitation

UN-HABITAT’s strategy for achieving these objectives is four fold. A start-up phase focusing on incorporating knowledge sharing, awareness raising and information exchange will be followed by a consultation and formulation phase to engage national and local stakeholders. An implementation and investment phase for programme roll out at the city level will be followed by a consolidation and dissemination phase for anchoring enhanced capacity at city and regional levels through information dissemination and knowledge sharing.

The Water for Asian Cities programme focuses on the following main areas:

  • 1. Advocacy, Awareness Raising and Information Exchange to improve governance in the water and sanitation sector
  • 2. Mobilizing political will, media and public awareness to promote pro-poor investment in water and sanitation
  • 3. Enhancing human resources and institutional capacity to enhance capacity in the delivery of water and sanitation services
  • 4. Values Based Water Education in Schools and Community to promote a better understanding of water as a key social, economic and environmental resource, and
  • 5. Promoting pro-poor investments to scale up the flow of investments in water and sanitation services for the poor in Asian cities
  • 6. Gender Mainstreaming to encourage gender sensitive planning which requires that consideration be given to all gender differentiated factors so that both women and men are given possibilities to influence and participate in the benefits of development
  • Water and Sanitation Trust Fund - The Fund’s goal is to contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed goals related to water and sanitation in human settlements with particular focus on the urban poor in order to facilitate an equitable social, economic and environmental development. The Fund’s objective is to support developing countries to achieve sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation for the poor, particularly in urban areas.

The Fund was started with one million US dollars advanced from the Housing and Human Settlements Foundation. UN-HABITAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Canada committing US$11.3million to the Trust Fund. The donor community has responded impressively with generous contributions. Other countries donating funds have included the Governments of Sweden US$3.3million, the Government of Norway US$10million, The Netherlands, US$22.9 million, with US$14.9million going towards the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative.

  • Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative - The main objective of the initiative is to support secondary urban centers around the lake area to achieve Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation related to halve the number of people without access to water and sanitation by 2015. The programme also aims for equitable and sustainable economic, social and environmental development of the inhabitants of the region.

Specific objectives are to:

    • Support pro-poor water and sanitation investments in the secondary urban centers of the Lake Victoria Region
    • Build institutional and human resource capacities at both local and regional levels so that water and sanitation services are improved and more sustainable
    • Facilitate implementation of upstream water sector reforms at the local level in participating urban centers
    • Reduce the environmental impact of urbanisation in the Lake Victoria Basin
  • The Mekong Water and Sanitation Initiative - The fundamental goal of the programme is to improve the living condition of the urban poor in the Mekong Region and protect local environments. In order to meet its overall goal, MEKWATSAN aims to:
    • Expedite pro-poor water and sanitation investments in secondary towns
    • Enhance institutional and human resource capacities at local and regional levels
    • Operationalise sector reforms
    • Enhance capacities of local private sector entities in service delivery
    • Reduce the adverse environmental impact of urbanization on local environment
    • Support economic development in secondary towns through improved water and sanitation, and related income generating activities
    • Support cooperation between the countries of the Mekong Region

Click Here for all water and sanitation related activities.


See also

External Resources


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