Water management introductory kit for UNDP newcomers

From WaterWiki.net

Jump to: navigation, search


Foreword (by Roxana Suciu)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges.

This guide was developed as an Advisory Services Project (ASP-the ASP is the 18th month, self directed “Master Practicum of the VDA. Through the ASP each VDA participant defines and carries out an individual, “hands-on “ project that builds and stretches their advisory services capacity, both substantively and practically) under the Virtual Development Academy Programme of the UNDP(VDA - The Virtual Development Academy is part of a comprehensive change effort now underway in UNDP. The VDA was established by the Learning Resources Centre (LRC), Office of Human Resources (OHR) and is an integral part of UNDP’s concerted effort to invest in its staff and to provide them with the unique opportunity of building their skills and competencies to provide state-of-the-art advisory services to programme countries). The aim of the ASP is to improve each student’s substantive knowledge in the area that he/she chooses to work on (such as democratic governance, poverty reduction, energy and environment etc).

As a young energy and environment practitioner, I choose to learn and share my knowledge with others on the issue of water management. The idea emerged from the need of Romania (my home country) to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) no. 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability, Target 19: Double the proportion of people with sustainable access to drinking water by 2015 (Romania’s “Millennium Development Goals Report", Bucharest 2003). As a newcomer to UNDP, I found difficult to find targeted information on this issues so the aim of this guide is to help UNDP colleagues to easy access information about water management and to get a comprehensive overview of what UN does through its different agencies to achieve sustainable development targets.

In this attempt I found a lot of support for which I am very grateful from the part of my ASP tutor, Mr. Phil Reynolds and my buddy throughout half of the process, Mr. Arnaud Comolet. I would also like to thank for their support and understanding, to my two supervisors that help me during my ASP assignment: Mr. Kalman Mizsei, UNDP Regional Director for Europe and the CIS and Mrs. Violeta Kogalniceanu, former Head of Energy and Environment Section UNDP Romania and also to my colleague Juerg Staudenmann from Bratislava Regional Center for his helpful advices. Many thanks also to Mrs. Soknan Han Jung, UNDP Resident Representative in Romania and Mr. Thore Hansen, Deputy Resident Representative for their trust invested in me.

Roxana Suciu, UNDP CO Romania

UN’s involvement in water issues

The United Nations

The purposes of the United Nations are to:

  • maintain international peace and security
  • develop friendly relations among nations
  • cooperate in solving economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems
  • promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.

(find out more and see the UN Charter...)

By doing this, the UN plays the catalytic role of harmonizing the action of the nations to achieve the above mentioned objective.

Among the six principal organs of the United Nations, The Economic and Social Council serve as a central forum for discussing international economic and social issues by being involved in (the other 5 are General Assembly, Security Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat):

  • Advancement of women
  • Countries in special conditions
  • Governance and institution building
  • Human rights
  • International trade
  • Microeconomics and finance
  • Population
  • Science, technology and productive sectors
  • Social development
  • Statistics
  • Sustainable development, human settlements and energy.

Environment related issues in UN

To work on environmental related issues, and to put into practice the decisions of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, UN established the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs; under this umbrella, the water related issued are solved through the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD).

Since 1989, the CDS is putting a lot of effort to coordinate the water protection and management issues around the world. In 1992, head of states and important stakeholders reunited in Rio, concluded the first Earth Summit by issuing the document called Agenda 21. This document is establishing the framework for sustainable development and water management is discussed in Chapter 18 . Further recommendations to support implementation of Chapter 18 were taken by the CSD in its second (1994) and sixth (1998) sessions; by the United Nations General Assembly at its nineteenth Special Session to review the implementation of Agenda 21 (1997) and by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) through its Plan of Implementation. In 2004, in its 12th session, the CSD reviewed and assessed implementation of three thematic issues, including water and sanitation.

UN, as a worldwide organization, is also the engine behind other important initiatives that support the sustainable use of water resources such as Water for Life Decade (in 2005, for the World Water Day, the programme "Water for life" Decade was launched with the aim to support efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water related issues by 2015), Partnership initiatives (1) and WEHAB Initiative (2). As a tool to call for more attention on water issues, year 2003 was chosen by the General Assembly as the International Year of Freshwater.


  • (1): The Partnership initiative represents a "voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives contributing to the implementation of Agenda 21, Rio+5 and the JPOI - Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI)"
  • (2): WEHAB initiative was proposed by UN Secretary general Kofi Annan as a tool to contribute to the preparation of the Earth Summit that took place in 2002 at Johannesburg. WEHAB is a framework for action on water and sanitation

Water issues and the Millennium Development Declaration/Goals

But probably the most important and ambitious initiative of UN system is the Millennium Development Declaration. It was issues in 2002 and called for the world to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water as well as the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation. It called upon the international community to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought and floods; to develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005; and to support developing countries and countries with economies in transition in their efforts to monitor and assess the quantities and quality of water resources.

In order to transform into reality the Millennium Development Declaration, a set of 8 Millennium Development Goals were endorsed by Governments. The seventh goal is to "Ensure Environmental Sustainability". As under each goal, several targets were establishes; the Goal number 7 has 3 targets (one strictly referring to the water issues):

  • integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources
  • halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation
  • by 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

The indicators are monitored, in close collaboration, by UN agencies and funds, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and OECD. Because the country-level monitoring of indicators is an essential tool in assessing the progress towards achieving the MDG’s, the UN system designated the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a leading agency. UNDP should help countries to mobilize resources to achieve the goals and should ensure technical assistance in preparation of national monitoring reports.

UNDP and the water issues

At the global level, UNDP it is focused on few main areas of interest, were it is offering technical and financial assistance to countries with the aim of sustainable development:

  • democratic governance,
  • poverty reduction
  • crisis prevention and recovery
  • energy and environment and

Energy and environment are key points for sustainable development. It is widely recognized that poor are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation or lack of access to clean water and energy services. So, water plays a central role in sustainable development process: is essential for human health, for agriculture, is essential for child and economic development as it is the most common and most exploited natural resources.

But water crises is directly linked with the issue of governance therefore UNDP’s approach refers to "a range of political, social, economic and administrative systems that are in place to regulate the development and management for water resources and provision of water services at different levels of society" (Visit UNDP's Water Governance homepage). UNDP’s water strategy is implemented at the global and local level through various initiatives designed to raise awareness, mobilize funds and implement practical, local solutions (Complete list of programes and projects). Each and every initiative is design taking into account the MDG’s and in order to find the best available solution to reach the MDG’s, the UN-Secretary General and UNDP Administrator established the Millennium Project. Under this project, 10 thematic Task Forces composed by international expert, were created, with one focused on water and sanitation (Task Force 7). According to the Task Force report "at least 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation, resulting in the deaths of 3900 children per day".

Reading these numbers, it is obvious, that rapid action should be taken at all levels of intervention. To address these issues, UNDP is applying several tools and it is worth to mention the integrated water resource management (IRWM) one (See Cap-Net's IWRM Tutorial for more info on IWRM). The IWRM represents a new approach: to orient our action towards a more integrated and coordinated water development and management process. It is basically recognized, that the current crises will not be solved through technology advancement but in the way we manage our water resources. As a way of achieving this, UNDP is part of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) – an initiative that seeks to support integrated approached to sustainable water management by encouraging stakeholders at all levels to work together. Through the GWP, UNDP is also involved in a Dialogue for Effective Water Governance: The purpose of the Dialogue is to bring stakeholders together to examine the political processes that drive water governance systems. It creates a platform for conflict resolution, negotiation, social learning and collective decision making.

A more specific initiative of UNDP is the global strategic project [Cap-NET] (International Network for Capacity Building in IWRM). Leading this initiative, UNDP plays an operational role in assisting countries to build cross–sectoral capacities and put in place effective and sound policies and institutions to manage and develop water resources in a sustainable way.

Important funds to sustained water related initiatives are channeled by Global Environment Facility through UNDP. The UNDP/GEF unit is currently managing an important global project portfolio related to water issues and through its programmes in the other focal areas (such as biodiversity or climate change), is also contributing to the achievement of the MDG targets.

Other UN agencies and water issues

"..the water problems facing our world need not be only a cause of tension; they can also be a catalyst for cooperation. {..} If we work together, a secure and sustainable water future can be ours" - Message of World Water Day 2002-Koffi Annan, United Nations Secretary General

As stated before, the water issues in not only related to the environment issue but also linked to the governance, poverty reduction, gender issues etc. This is why, UNDP is the agency dealing with capacity issues related to water governance and achieving MDG’s targets, but other UN agencies, are also dealing with water issues but in a close relationship with their area of intervention:

  • UNICEF: because thousands of children die every day from diarrhea and other water-sanitation-and hygiene-related diseases and many more suffer and are weakened by illness, UNICEF has developed important project and programmes in this area . The lack of access to safe water and sanitation has many other serious repercussions. Children – and particularly girls – are denied their right to education because they are busy fetching water or are deterred by the lack of separate and decent sanitation facilities in schools.
  • UNIFEM: especially in poor countries, were the water resources are scarce, women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Women are less productive due to illness caused by unsafe water sources, and national economies suffer. Without safe water and sanitation, sustainable development is impossible.
  • FAO: The world's food production depends on the availability of water, a precious but finite resource. Today, irrigation covers about 20 percent of the world’s cropland, and it contributes 40 percent of total food production. Irrigated agriculture is responsible for approximately 70 percent of all the freshwater withdrawn in the world, and more water will be used for irrigation in the future, as world food production continues to increase to meet demand.
  • UNIDO’s preoccupation regarding water issues can be illustrated by the Global Mercury Project (GMP) that began in August 2002. This project’s aim is to demonstrate ways of overcoming barriers to the adoption of best practices and pollution prevention measures that limit the mercury (Hg) contamination of international waters from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASM).

UNDP’s water initiatives in RBEC-region

In the RBEC Region (RBEC stand for Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. RBEC is one of the 5 bureaus that are established in UNDP on geographical criteria), water governance plays an important role as countries are sharing most of the water resources and currently are facing different development constrains. Programmes in the area of water governance in the region help countries assess the legal, policy and institutional frameworks used to manage water resources. For example, the Bratislava Regional Center based in the Slovak Republic (there are 24 countries serviced by the Center - with most of them having country offices in the field) is forging partnerships among the 13 countries that share the Danube River Basin, together with the European Union and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River. Similar initiatives are under way for the Tisza, Kura-Aras and the Upper Syr-Daria River Basins, as well as for the Black, Caspian, and Baltic seas. The Centre also promotes networks of experts to share knowledge and experience.

For RBEC, both water quality and quantity issues continue to be important priorities for programming in the region. Under the overarching approach of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), there are two main entry-points for UNDP at the transboundary and the national levels in this region, respectively:

a) Transboundary (sub-regional) Water Resources Management, with special focus on integrated land & water management;
b) National-level Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), including sustainable access to water supply & sanitation services.

There are several regional initiatives and many country level projects to address the water issues in the region . To better manage the already available knowledge and to encourage experience exchange among UNDP practitioner and not only, an interactive website was recently put in place: WaterWiki.


See also

External Resources

UNDESA: http://acc.unsystem.org/-subsidiary.bodies/accswr.htm

UNEP: http://www.unep.org/themes/marine /

UN-HABITAT: http://www.unchs.org/programmes/water/

UNESCO: http://www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/index.shtml

WHO: http://www.afro.who.int/wsh/index.html

IDNDR: http://www.unisdr.org

World Bank: http://www.wsp.org/english/

WMO: http://www.wmo.ch/web/homs/hwrpframes.html

IAEA: http://www.iaea.org

UNCBD: http://www.biodiv.org/

UNFCC: http://unfccc.int

UNCCD: http://www.unccd.int/main.php

Economic Commissions:

World Water Day: http://www.unesco.org/water/water_celebrations/

International Year of Freshwater: http://www.unesco.org/water/iyfw/

World Water Council: http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/

Third World Water Forum: http://www.worldwaterforum.org


1563 Rating: 2.7/5 (55 votes cast)