“Achieving the water and sanitation goals would trigger a major leap forward in human development” (UNDP)

Fast facts:

  • More than 750 million people in 43 countries still suffer from no or poor access to water.
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions.
  • 3,900 children a day die because of dirty water.
  • Lack of sanitation is the world’s leading cause of infection.
  • 88% of deaths due to diarrhea in children under five are water related.
  • In 2015, more than 600 million people will still lack access to safe drinking water.
  • About 2.5 billion people, (or 42% of the world’s population), lack access to basic sanitation.

UNDP recognizes the explicit links between water and development and is advocating for water needs to be a central focus of the post-2015 agenda. As UNDP’s leading platform to promote decentralized cooperation in water and sanitation, GWS considers that cooperation is indispensable to achieve results in these fields, and must be part of a coordinated multi-actor, multi-level and multi-sector effort that takes into account the environmental, social and economic dimensions of Sustainable Human Development.

This holds particularly true when it comes to water and sanitation, for water is intrinsically connected to all major development objectives: access to water, is directly correlated to political security, economic development, health, education, food security, gender equality, environmental and other poverty indicators.

Taking into account these intricate linkages, water should be a crosscutting element of development initiatives, carefully integrated in territorial local development plans.


How does water affect the MDGs?

  • MDG 1: Access to water for domestic and productive uses (agriculture, industry, and other economic activities) has a direct impact on poverty and food security.
  • MDG 2: Incidence of catastrophic but often-recurrent events, such as droughts, interrupts educational attainment.
  • MDG 3: Access to water, in particular in conditions of scarce resources, has important gender related implications, which affects the social and economic capital of women in terms of leadership, earnings and networking opportunities.
  • MDGs 4 and 5: Equitable, reliable water resources management programmes reduce poor people's vulnerability to shocks, which in turn gives them more secure and fruitful livelihoods to draw upon in caring for their children.
  • MDG 6: Access to water, and improved water and wastewater management in human settlements, reduce transmission risks of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and dengue fever.
  • MDG 7: Adequate treatment of wastewater contributes to less pressure on freshwater resources, helping to protect human and environmental health.
  • MDG 8: Water scarcity increasingly calls for strengthened international cooperation in the fields of technologies for enhanced water productivity, financing opportunities, and an improved environment to share the benefits of scarce water management.
(source: http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.shtml)


What is Decentralized Cooperation?

GWS understands decentralised cooperation (DC) in a broad and inclusive sense, where local and sub-national governments, civil society, NGOs, the private sector and academia work with counterparts in other countries to advance sustainable human development. DC responds to needs identified and formulated locally, putting the Local and Regional Authorities (LRAs) in the driving seat of their own development processes.

The joint actions of LRAs from the North and the South lead to long-term relationships between two or more communities. DC focuses on the exchange of know-how, institutional support and training, where two local authorities share experiences on local management and local development. It is a modality that encourages dialogue between territories and mutually enriching exchanges.

GWS believes that human development —as an overall objective that includes water targets— needs to start at the local level, and ought to be led, managed and monitored by the territories if optimal and sustainable results are to be achieved. Territories have an unparalleled capacity to bring together local actors, making them essential players in the elaboration of feasible, viable and long-term water management policies.

This is the consequence of the local authorities’ unique capacity to listen to their communities’ needs and to exchange knowledge, expertise and financial resources when responding to the most pressing local needs in water and sanitation.



“Local authorities play an important role in contributing to development objectives in general and to water security in particular. Hence a water-secure world can only be reached in collaboration with local authorities and with the strong involvement and empowerment of communities”

François Münger, Head of the Global Programme Water Initiatives, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)


Read more: GWS and ART, capitalizing complementarities



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