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Advancing Water and Sustainable Development
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1 Mar 2015 - The Division for Sustainable Development organized a two-day workshop at the United Nations in New York in support of the proposed sustainable development goal on water which seeks to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The workshop, held from 24-25 February 2015, enhanced the capacity of selected developing countries to integrate water and sustainable development into their national development strategies. “One of the biggest challenges will be communicating the post-2015 development agenda to those that are in a better position of realizing this agenda”, said Mr. Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, DESA, in his opening remarks. “We look to you to help us disseminate this more widely, ratchet up on national political agendas, create more partnerships and communicate the importance of this new agenda especially in the area of water.”

Selected policymakers and national practitioners from 20 developing countries and countries in transition from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean worked with UN-system partners to increase their understanding of the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) and targets. Participants identified major entry points for how the water SDG and its targets can be mainstreamed into policies and strategies at the national level. These entry points included creating national awareness, enhancing the lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for transitioning into the proposed SDGs and identifying gaps in policy and implementation.

Unlike the MDG on environmental sustainability, where the water target focused on access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, the water goal will cover six target areas and is not confined to only one proposed sustainable development goal. “Among the 17 sustainable development goals, water is a livelihood resource. The most significant long-term risk worldwide in terms of impact is water security. Water is now the top issue for posing a risk to various development initiatives,” said Mr. Jong-Soo Yoon, Head of the UN Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD) in Incheon, which was a partner in the workshop.

The workshop provided an opportunity for the participants to share their knowledge and best practises on integrated water resources management with research institutions, academia and regional organizations active in the water sector. The participants identified three key challenges for implementing the SDGs: financial and budget allocations, institutional mandates on who will be responsible and how they will monitor and review the targets, and human resources development. “We need up-to-date information, which is a challenge in Zambia,” said Mr. Michael Mutale, a senior water expert from Zambia and former official of the Zambian River Commission. “With the focus traditionally put on hydrological data, more focus has to be placed on collecting economic, social and environmental data as well. The implementation of SDG six would require national resources for monitoring and reviewing.”

A key follow-up action was to establish partnerships and a network of experts that will continue to promote an active dialogue on the water goal, cross-sectoral integration, and the nexus approach to enhance the efficiency of different sectors such as the water-energy-food security nexus or the water-climate change nexus. “The water SDG needs to be seen as the goal where interrelationships can be built,” said Ms. Ndey-Isatou Njie, Chief of the Water, Energy and Capacity Development Branch in DSD. “In moving forward, let us look at how the water sector will have linkages to other sectors where water has an impact.”

The UN-Statistical Division, the UN Economic Regional Commissions, UN-Water, UNU-INWEH, UNICEF, UNEP, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University contributed to the workshop presentations.