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Water and sanitation
Today it is widely recognized that an integrated approach to freshwater management offers the best means of reconciling competing demands with supply and a framework where effective operational actions can be taken. It is thus valuable for all countries at all stages of development.

This is the focus of chapter 18 of Agenda 21. Further recommendations to support implementation of chapter 18 were taken by the Commission on Sustainable Development at 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. The Commission on Sustainable Development, at its twelfth session (2004) reviewed and assessed implementation of three thematic issues, including water and sanitation. Most recently, in 2005, at its thirteenth session, the Commission explored policy options for furthering implementation on the issues of water and sanitation as well as on human settlements as reflected in its decision.

It was also decided to monitor and follow up the implementation of CSD-13 decisions on water and sanitation, and their interlinkages in 2008 (CSD-16) and 2012 (CSD-20). A questionnaire on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Water Efficiency Plans (word) | (pdf) was developed in partnership with the IWRM taskforce of UN-Water to facilitate national reporting for the review during CSD-16.

Water for Life Decade:

The "Water for Life" Decade ( was launched on 22 March 2005, on World Water Day. The Decade aims to promote efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015, placing special emphasis on the involvement and participation of women in these efforts. The year 2003 was earlier chosen by the General Assembly as the International Year of Freshwater. Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan established an Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation in 2004 to galvanize global action on these issues. Former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan agreed to serve as Chair of the Board.

Millennium Development Goals

Millennium Development Declaration (2000) 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 quantity and quality of water resources.

Other Initiatives: The emphasis on action-oriented policies and implementation has led to two further initiatives that complement the WSSD Plan of Implementation: these are Partnership initiatives and the WEHAB Initiative. Project execution and policy advisory services: The Division for Sustainable Development, through its Water, Natural Resources and SIDS Branch, provides project execution and policy advisory services at the request of interested countries to promote and support integrated water resources management at the international, national, regional, local and basin levels. These services are based on a contemporary technical cooperation model that links current political discussions with the realities in the field.

International Year of Sanitation (2008)

The General Assembly of the United Nations through its Resolution A/C.2/61/L.16/Rev.1 declared 2008 as an International Year of Sanitation (IYS) and requested UN DESA to serve as the focal point for the year to develop, in a timely manner, relevant proposals on possible activities on all levels, including possible sources of funding. Sanitation as a theme was discussed at the twelfth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development for the first time. In the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, sanitation-related goals are addressed under the section on Poverty Eradication. The JPOI target to halve the number of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015 is closely related to the Millennium Development Goal of reducing, by 2015, by half the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water.

The other goals and targets related to sanitation reflected in JPOI include:

Ensure, by the year 2025, that sanitation coverage is achieved in all rural areas; Improve sanitation in public institutions, especially schools; Promote safe hygiene practices; Promote affordable and socially and culturally acceptable technologies and practices; Integrate sanitation into water resources management strategies; Develop innovative financing and partnership mechanisms and Strengthen existing information networks. In the pre-WSSD work of the Commission for Sustainable Development, sanitation issues were mainly addressed in relation to waste. Sanitation involves the adequate management and disposal of different types of wastes with a view to minimizing harmful effects to human health and the environment.