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At UN, Countries Call for a Dedicated Water Goal in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

19.02.2014 -

The President of the General Assembly’s thematic debate on water, sanitation and sustainable energy concluded today with countries underscoring the need for a dedicated water goal to secure sustainable water for all.

Hundreds of delegates and civil society representatives took part in this gathering, which was one of three thematic debates that will be hosted in the coming months by UN General Assembly President John Ashe to set the stage for the post-2015 development agenda with the potential to guide the course of humankind away from poverty for decades to come.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Ashe highlighted that there is already an agreement that water and sanitation are essential to the achievement of many development goals. “They are inextricably linked to climate change, agriculture, food security, health, gender and education, among others,” he said, emphasizing that “the water, sanitation and sustainable energy crises are the pre-eminent development challenges of our world”.

Mr. Ashe was joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who underscored that “access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene must feature prominently in the post-2015 development”. “We must improve water quality and the management of water resources and wastewater” Mr. Ban also said, adding that “this is a matter of justice and opportunity.”

During a round table discussion on the water and sanitation challenge, many speakers referred to UN-Water’s proposal on “securing sustainable water for all”  as a viable framework for advancing the water agenda after 2015. The framework proposed by UN-Water suggests five measurable and interconnected targets, namely: achieving universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; improving the sustainable use and development of water resources; strengthening water governance; improving water quality and wastewater management; and reducing risks of water-related disasters.

“The inter-related nature of the water cycle requires integrated approaches at all levels, including at the river basin level, and participatory decision-making”, said Federico de Ramos Armas, Vice Minister for the Environment of Spain in his summary of the round table discussion on water. “To secure sustainable water for all, the future development agenda must address the broader water agenda in a holistic manner”, he said, continuing that “a dedicated goal on water, with possible targets on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; water resources management; reuse and treatment of waste water and wastewater pollution and water quality was widely supported”. Mr. de Ramos Armas also noted that  “water-related disasters, including floods and droughts” were frequently mentioned during the debate.  

Intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 agenda are expected to start in September 2014.

The preliminary summary of key messages of the roundtable on the water and sanitation challenge can be found here.

More information on the thematic debate on water, sanitation and energy including videos of the discussions can be found here.

Photo: Bill Bly