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UN Water for Development

In December 2003, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed the years 2005 to 2015 the International Decade for Action: Water for Life. The primary goal of the "Water for Life" Decade is to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015.

Water and Human Health

“We shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any of the other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking-water, sanitation and basic health care”

Source: Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General

In 2003, the High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) set up United Nations-Water as a mechanism to consolidate and coordinate all UN bodies dealing with water-related issues, specifically the urgent issues of water and sanitation issues. There are four specific programmes under United Nations-Water:

Women collecting water from a hand pump in Chokwé, Mozambique.
Source: Qwist-Hoffmann 2010
( click to enlarge )

The United Nations World Water Development Report

The United Nations World Water Development Report is released every three years in conjunction with the World Water Forum. The report gives an overall picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources and aims to provide decision-makers with the tools to implement sustainable use of our water. The reports to date are:

  • Water for People, Water for Life, First edition, 2003
  • Water: A Shared Responsibility, Second edition, 2006
  • Water in a Changing World, Third edition, 2009

The first report was an evaluation of the world’s water resources in respect to the needs for, the demands on and the uses of. The report examined water management challenges and case studies were presented highlighting different water management scenarios. The challenges highlighted in the report were:

  • Meeting basic needs – for safe and sufficient water and sanitation
  • Securing the food supply – especially for the poor and vulnerable through the more effective use of water
  • Protecting ecosystems – ensuring their integrity via sustainable water resource management
  • Sharing water resources – promoting peaceful cooperation between different uses of water and between concerned states, through approaches such as sustainable river basin management
  • Managing risks – to provide security from a range of water related hazards
  • Valuing water – to manage water in the light of its different values (economic, social, environmental, cultural) and to move towards pricing water to recover the costs of service provision, taking account of equity and the needs of the poor and vulnerable
  • Governing water wisely – involving the public and the interests of all stakeholders
  • Water and industry – promoting cleaner industry with respect to water quality and the needs of other users
  • Water and energy – assessing water’s key role in energy production to meet rising energy demands
  • Ensuring the knowledge base – so that water knowledge becomes more universally available
  • Water and cities – recognizing the distinctive challenges of an increasingly urbanised world

The second report was an extension to conclusions drawn from the 1st United Nations World Water Development Report "Water for People, Water for Life" published in 2003. The second report created a comprehensive overview of freshwater resources available in all the regions of the world. Progress towards meeting water-related targets of the UN Millennium Development Goals, typical water resource challenges and risk management were some of the topics covered in the second report. South Africa was included as one of the case study countries in the second report.

The Third edition of the Report (WWDR–3) was presented at the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey on March 16, 2009. The World Water Development Report –3, called “Water in a Changing World”, is again an extension on previous reports and studies. The third report focuses on increasing capacity in countries to deal with water issues by building on existing strengths and experiences. The third report includes twenty case studies from regions around the world including the Zambezi and Congo River basins.