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Name UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Logo Image:Undesa.jpg
Geographic Scope Global
Subject Focus Expertise International development
Contact E-mail: Submit general queries online
URL http://www.un.org/esa/desa/
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The Department of Economic and Social Affairs promotes and supports international cooperation to achieve development for all, and assists governments in agenda-setting and decision-making on development issues at the global level. DESA provides a broad range of analytical products and policy advice that serve as valuable sources of reference and decision-making tools for developed and developing countries, particularly in translating global commitments into national policies and action and in monitoring progress towards the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Drawing on its analytical capacities and the policy debate in intergovernmental bodies, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and other entities of the United Nations advise and support countries in implementing development strategies consistent with global action plans on economic and social development. The aims are to build national capacities, and to strengthen economic and technical links among developing countries.

DESA represents a crucial interface between global policies and national action and between research and operational activities. International agreements are translated into strategies at the country level, while lessons learned and experiences gained are fed back into the policy-making process.

UN/DESA Division for Sustainable Development & Water Management Branch

The Division for Sustainable Development provides leadership and is an authoritative source of expertise within the United Nations system on sustainable development. It promotes sustainable development as the substantive secretariat to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and through technical cooperation and capacity building at international, regional and national levels. The Division is seeking to promote integrated approaches to natural resource management as part of Agenda 21, specifically related to the provisions of Chapter 18 dealing with freshwater. Through its Water management Branch, the Division provides project execution and policy advisory services at national and regional levels in integrated water resource management (IWRM).

The principle objective of the Branch is to assist developing countries in enhancing their own capacity in integrated water resource management (IWRM), particularly the operational aspects. The promotion of progressive regulatory and institutional frameworks are vital elements which need to be linked explicitly to macro-economic and spatial planning initiatives. This approach stresses the need to view water resources in a holistic way with consideration of socio-economic and hydro-environmental systems as mutually dependent. The long term sustainability therefore hinges upon a sound understanding of these systems and their inter-relationships.

The Division assists Governments in all aspects of water resource development and management including:

  • diagnostic assessments of national and provincial water sectors
  • development of water policy and legislation frameworks,
  • training, capacity building and institutional strengthening for integrated water resource management,
  • rural water supply and sanitation programmes,
  • medium and long-term management strategies,
  • macro-economic planning tools,
  • assessments of water resource availability and use,
  • hydro-environmental impact assessments; and
  • hydro-geological and hydrological studies.

UN/DESA's missions is to promote international cooperation to achieve development for all. The mission of the Division of Sustainable Development is to provide leadership and promote sustainable development. The mission of the Water Management Branch is to assist developing countries in enhancing their own capacity in integrated water resource management (IWRM).

Key Resources

See also complete list of WaterWiki-documented UNDESA-Publications


  • UN Statistical Database - covers a range of issues related to water, air, waste and land. It contains the official data supplied by national statistical offices and/or ministries of environment or equivalent institutions. They are supplemented by the UNFCCC's data on greenhouse gas emissions and FAO's data on water resources. Data on the OECD and EU countries are obtained from OECD and from Eurostat.
  • Water Action Network Database - At the conclusion of the 2003-2005 Implementation Cycle of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), governments agreed to "develop web-based tools to disseminate information on implementation and best practices" to support international efforts to achieve the internationally agreed goals related to water and sanitation. Building on the wealth of information collected during the 2003-2005 CSD Cycle and in the Portfolio of Water Actions developed by Japan for the Third World Water Forum in 2003, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is developing the CSD Water Action and Networking Database (CSD WAND) to implement the CSD's decision and to provide a growing resource to those working on water and sanitation issues.


  • Integrated Development Plan for Water Supply and Sanitation in Chad 2002-2020 - The Integrated Plan for Water Development and Management (SDEA) is a multisectoral and strategic master plan providing guidelines for the sustainable development and management of water resources in Chad, with a view to meeting the populations’ basic needs and promoting the economic and social development of the country while protecting the environment. It complies with the objectives set by the Chadian Government to reduce poverty and, in terms of the deadline of 2015, is consistent with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as specified and completed during the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. The SDEA constitutes an adaptable reference instrument to be used by all internal and external stakeholders who are, or will be, involved in the Chadian water sector.
  • A Framework for Analyzing Tariffs and Subsidies in Water Provision to Urban Households in Developing Countries (2007) - The aim of the paper is to present a basic conceptual framework for understanding the main practical issues and challenges relating to tariffs and subsidies in the water sector in developing countries. The paper introduces the basic economic notions relevant to the water sector; presents an analytical framework for assessing the need for and evaluating subsidies; and discusses the recent evidence on the features and performance of water tariffs and subsidies in various regions, with a special focus on Africa. The discussion is limited to the provision of drinking water to urban households in developing countries.
  • Booklet on the International Water for Life Decade (2005-2015)
  • Guidelines for Reducing Flood Losses - This publication is based on the findings of previous workshops and is a contribution to the overall efforts that are required to help society cope with the forces of nature. Focused efforts are required to reduce the risk of flooding on society. Flood forecasting and warning systems, data collection systems, flood plain management practices and land-use planning, as well as economic and social measures can be adopted within an integrated framework to lead to sustainable solutions. Concerted efforts are required to achieve these solutions, and such efforts are necessary to stem the rising losses from water-related disasters. It is truly hoped that these guidelines will assist in the planning and implementation of actions leading to more healthy and resilient societies.
  • Changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production in human settlements and water (2005) - The Johannesburg Summit noted that fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development. It agreed that all countries should promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, with the developed countries taking the lead and with all countries benefiting from the process. For this purpose, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) called for the development of a 10-year framework of programmes in support of national and regional initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production to promote social and economic development....

Click Here for UNDESA's publication catalogue.

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Work on the Ground

Selected projects

  • Policy study on water management in the Huai-Hai River Basin (1997-1998) - Since the mid-1980s, DESA has been supporting the Ministry of Water Resources of China and related provincial departments in addressing water resource development for food production, urban development and inter-provincial water sharing. Detailed environmental and economic assessments have been carried out across China’s diverse economic and physical landscapes.
  • Strengthening of the national capacity in water resources planning (1995-present) - The project is intended to strengthen the Water Resources Planning Unit within the Ministry of Water & Irrigation to make it capable of a) formulation of long-term, sustainable and environmentally sound water resources development programmes; b) analysis and evaluation of existing and forthcoming projects related to water consumption or disposal from technical, economic and environmental protection points of view; and c) providing advise to the government on various aspects of water resources development and use.
  • Strengthening national capacity in water resources monitoring - The project will assist the national organizations in rehabilitation and extension of the water resources monitoring system in order to control the diminishing of water resource reserves and deterioration of water quality caused by excessive water abstraction and by economic activities to ensure the sustainability of the resource base.
  • Sustainable water resources management - Regulatory action in Yemen must be taken soon before scarce water resources run out altogether. This programme is designed to build the full managerial and technical capacity of the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) of Yemen to ensure sustainable development of scarce water resources.
  • Sustainable Access to Water and Energy 'BA AN RASIK' - BA AN RASIK is a demonstration program of the Government of Timor-Leste implemented by UNDESA to strengthen community management of water and renewable energy services in three rural sub-districts. The Program addresses all facets of sustainable water and energy provision, including social, governance, financial and infrastructure aspects.. BA AN RASIK focuses particularly on building community capacities and stewardship. The underlying principle of the Program is that communities with a strong sense of ownership over their resources take care of those resources. BA AN RASIK will facilitate stronger ownership by building communities’ capacity to make decisions, recognize their assets and better understand the benefits of improved management. Therefore, the project attempts to apply the principles of the sustainable livelihood approach (SLA).
  • Study of artificial recharge of groundwater in northern Qatar - phase II - Groundwater system in Qatar is heavily over exploited mainly for irrigation purposes. The result of over abstraction is a deterioration of water quality due to saline water intrusion from the coast and upcoming of more saline water from the deeper aquifers. Abstraction is currently almost more than five times the natural recharge to the aquifers. The project will concentrate on carrying out long term recharge/reabsraction tests comparing the characteristics of different aquifers at different sites - where dispersive effects are widely believed scale dependent.

Click here for all Water Resources Development and Management projects.

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See also

External Resources


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