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High Level Panel on Water
The High Level Panel on Water is implementing the Action Plan through specific initiatives, and calls upon all actors to contribute and build on what they are already doing. Currently the Panel is working on the following initiatives:


United Nations Secretary-General and President of the World Bank Group convened a High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), consisting of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services.

The core focus of the Panel is the commitment to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

On 21 September 2016 the HLPW called for a fundamental shift in the way the world looks at water. The Panel issued an Action Plan for a new approach to water management that will help the world to achieve the 2030 agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The HLPW commits itself to take action on water, and calls upon Heads of State and Government, and all people, to do the same.

The Panel was announced by the co-conveners at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2016, and officially launched in April 2016 in New York. The Panel is a time-bound initiative, established for an initial period of two years. (Background note)
Action Plan
This Action Plan is a living document which we expect to update over the life of panel. Together, the action areas described below, represent a comprehensive and integrated approach to helping ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6), as well as contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

The areas of action are summarized in the accompanying graphic, which together represent a comprehensive agenda for action. Each action area is interdependent with others, and a number of specific actions are therefore overlapping and mutually reinforcing.

The work to date has been guided by a number of key considerations and principles, including:

  • Political leadership for a comprehensive approach - technical solutions to many of the world’s water problems already exist but strong and coordinated political leadership is required to make progress;
  • A commitment to the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
  • Transparency and inclusion – all interested organizations shall be given equal chances to engage and contribute;
  • Autonomy – organizations need to define, organize and drive their own engagement in support of the agenda – the Panel will set directions and provide momentum;
  • Collaboration – having an e ffective working interface between existing organizations and the Panel is critical. It will include both online and direct interactions with the Panel or their Sherpas;
  • Continuous engagement through regular consultations.
1. Online consultation valuing water
Drafting common principles

The High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) aims to contribute to “a global consensus and common language to guide better approaches to valuing water across three critical dimensions – social and cultural, environmental and economic”. The first draft of the HLPW’s key deliverable is found here.

In its final form this set of general shared principles aims to motivate and encourage governments, business and civil society to consider multiple values of water and to guide the transparent incorporation of these values into their decision-making. The use of “shared” relates to:

  • Process: inclusive, with the participation of as diverse stakeholders as possible;
  • Agreement: within the HLPW and the broadest possible coalition.

Making better trade-offs

Water is important to people, economies, and the environment. Societies around the globe aim to optimize the combined social and cultural, environmental and economic values of water. In doing so they increasingly face difficult tradeoffs. If there were agreement on principles for valuing the contribution that water makes to both people, their economies and the planet, and if these principles were to be applied in decision making, then societies could make better tradeoffs between different uses of water.

Previous attempts (see references) to agree on a common way of valuing water and to apply it in practice have encountered numerous challenges. The commitment of 11 world leaders in the HLPW to make a difference in this domain, presents a unique opportunity to overcome these.

Your online contribution

Your online contribution is crucial. Therefore, we invite you to contribute in any or all of the following ways:

  • Give your feedback on the first draft of the Bellagio Principles on Valuing Water here;
  • Articulate here what the possible actions are for specific target groups in the application of the principles.
  • Give examples – good or bad – of valuing water practices here, reflect how these illustrate relevance or shortcomings in the draft principles and suggest improvement;

All these contribution can be given by pressing the “start button” on the “Web form” page.

A potential pitfall that we experience in the drafting process is an over-emphasis on wording and an under-emphasis on applicability. That is why we ask you not to copy and edit but rather to comment and give examples in which you test the principles. Do they apply to your specific case? Are they relevant? Are they incomplete? Which principles prove to be more difficult when it comes to implementation? Etc.

Influencing our next draft of the common principles and their application

Your contributions will be shared on this website. By End-August 2017 we start to make a synthesis of your contributions. First your comments on the draft principles. This synthesis will be made available on line. In the course of September 2017 we will also make a synthesis of the examples and actions that you propose. These syntheses will be shared on this website. A next version of the principles will be available by the end of September 2017. A final version of the principles and an action agenda will be made available in the first quarter of 2018.
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Charting a Path to Valuing the World’s Most Precious Resource

Most people agree that water is an extremely valuable resource -- for farmers who depend on it to grow crops, for factories that need it to cool machines and spin turbines and, of course for life itself. But unlike most other valuable resources, it’s hard to put a price on water. The very fact that water is so important to people, economies, and the environment means that it is tough to even agree on a common way of valuing it.

No less an economic mind than Adam Smith was stumped by this challenge. As he famously observed, “Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarcely anything. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarcely any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.”

The problem of valuing water is far from academic. Societies around the globe are increasingly facing the task of difficult tradeoffs between different uses of water. While in most countries the majority of human water use goes to growing crops, cities and ecosystems are getting thirstier as a result of growing populations, economic development, and climate change.

Water quality, too, is deteriorating in many areas because of pollution, and far too many people still lack access to safe and dependable sources of clean water.

Without a common set of principles for valuing the contribution that water makes to both people and the planet, it’s hard to tackle these challenges.

Last week, the United Nations High Level Panel on Water gathered a group of experts to chart a path towards agreeing on a set of common principles for valuing the world’s most precious resource. The Panel, co-convened the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the World Bank Group, is charged with mobilizing action to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, many of which depend on managing water more effectively. The Panel recognizes that action is critical, and aims to build momentum toward a common vision for better stewardship of our water.

Participants agreed that valuing water is an important part of that vision—but that previous attempts to value water more effectively have encountered a number of challenges, including the difficulty of capturing its importance to so many different sectors, activities, and species. The meeting concluded that valuing water effectively means developing an inclusive, consultation-driven process to articulate a set of principles for how to capture the many different values of water, including for economies, ecosystems, cultures, and religions. It also means building on the efforts of many groups around the world who have tried to tackle this issue in the past. The participants agreed on the need to develop a roadmap for soliciting views from all segments of the water stakeholder community, including agriculture, energy and other sectors, on how water should be valued.

Going forward, the Panel will call on the global water stakeholder community to put forward ideas on how water should be valued – and how we can integrate the full range of these values to manage water more effectively. Based on this roadmap, the Panel’s Valuing Water initiative will develop a process for seeking and integrating this input into policy reform. Eventually, the hope is to put forward a common set of principles, fully informed by this wide-ranging consultation, for the Panel’s endorsement, which can then inspire and catalyze policy action around the globe.

So watch your inbox— while we’re hard at work on charting a path toward better valuing the world’s most precious resource, we’ll need your help to get there!