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UN-Water's Recommendations for a Global Goal on Water

UN-Water has undertaken an expert consultation process where UN-Water’s 31 Members from the United Nations system and 36 international Partners have come together to analyze what role water could have in the Post-2015 Development Agenda based on their experience and expertise.


The outcome of the consultation is a consolidated technical advice from the UN-System to Member States to prioritize water in the post-2015 development agenda. A broad goal would capture the fundamental importance of water for both humans and the environment.


The proposed goal builds on and extends existing commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals and the priorities agreed at Rio+20. The goal provides an overall framework that is universally applicable, but that responds to particular national circumstances and addresses account costs, benefits and means of implementation. The framework, with a clear set of targets and indicators, can be tailored to the context and priorities of each country. 


Technical Advice

More about the targets and indicators

Executive Summary

  More about the consultation process

Résumé (français)

News and updates

Resumen Ejecutivo (español)




What Would a Global Water Goal Lead to?


The suggested water goal and targets recognise the development aims of societies whilst ensuring achievements are sustainable over the long term. The goals would promote the following development outcomes, among others:

The Targets

The global goal for water is supported by a coherent, cohesive and mutually reinforcing set of targets that will help countries reach the goal by 2030. To facilitate understanding of the multiple functions water plays in society, the framework is structured into five measurable and interconnected targets. The short versions of these targets are below. Under each link, you will find descriptions of each of the targets and more resource material.


Target A: Achieve universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene





Target B: Improve by (x%) the sustainable use and development of water resources in all countries




Target C: All countries strengthen equitable, participatory and accountable water governance




Target D: Reduce wastewater pollution and improve water quality by reducing untreated domestic and industrial wastewater by (x%); increasing wastewater reused safely by (y%); and reducing nutrient pollution by (z%) to maximize water resource availability and improve water quality.



Target E: Reduce mortality by (x%) and economic loss by (y%) from natural and human-induced water- related disasters.


Background: Water in the post-2015 development agenda

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by world leaders in 2000 have served as a shared framework for global action and cooperation on international development. As the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs approaches, the UN is working with governments, civil society and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs and shape a new development framework beyond 2015 that builds on the MDGs, but also addresses weaknesses, including by reflecting previously omitted issues.

One of the main outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, was the agreement by Member States to launch an inclusive process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would address in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environment - and be coherent with and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

The process to define the post-2015 development agenda is led by Member States with broad participation from external stakeholders including civil society organizations, the private sector, academia, and scientists. The United Nations play a facilitating role in this global conversation and has the responsibility of supporting Member States by providing evidence-based inputs, analytical thinking and field experience. The Secretary-General will continue to provide overall leadership to the process with the support of the Deputy-Secretary General and the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning.

Draft Timeline of Ongoing UN Processes

Overview of the workstreams

The Open Working Group on SDGs

In January 2013, the UN General Assembly established the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals as mandated in the Rio+20 outcome document. The OWG, tasked with preparing a report proposing SDGs "for consideration and appropriate action" by the 68th Session of the General Assembly ( Sep 2013- Sep 2014), is co-chaired by Hungary and Kenya and comprises 30 "seats" shared by several Member States in an innovative rotational procedure.

The Secretary-General submitted a report to the OWG as an initial input based on the responses from 63 Member States to a questionnaire about the new goals, including members of the European Union, which submitted a joint response.
This report highlights that the overarching priority areas of poverty eradication and sustainable management of natural resources were high on the list of many respondents, and Water & Sanitation ranked #2 (after food security) in Member States' priorities.

As requested in the Rio+20 outcome document, the Secretary-General established a UN System inter-agency Technical Support Team (TST) to ensure all necessary input and support to the OWG from the UN system. The TST consists of over 40 UN entities, is co-chaired by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and works under the umbrella of the UN System Task Team on the post-2015 development agenda (see below).
The TST produced an Issue Brief on Water and Sanitation with the support of UN-Water for the third session of the OWG on 22-24 May 2013. The Issue Brief served as input for the session and was presented by UN-Water Chair Michel Jarraud via video conference.

The OWG has discussed water and sanitation on several occasions. In May 2013, UN-Water Chair Michel Jarraud made a keynote speech, presented the Issue Brief on Water and Sanitation prepared by the TST (see above). In June and July 2014, the OWG held Informal sessions with Member States to discuss the 17 proposed goals and 212 targets.

 The first seven goals, which includes the proposed goal on water, had broad support as they address the social dimension of sustainable development and build on the MDGs. During the session, UN-Water was called upon to provide technical clarifications related to the proposed water goal.



The High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda

The High-level Panel was established by the UN Secretary-General with the mission to reflect on new development challenges while also paying attention to the experience gained in implementing the MDGs, and advise on the global development framework beyond 2015. The Panel is co-chaired by the Presidents of Indonesia and Liberia, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and includes 27 leaders from civil society, private sector and government. The HLP released its report "A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development" on 31 May 2013 with its vision and recommendations on a global development agenda beyond 2015.
The report of the HLP includes an illustrative goal (Goal #6): Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation and 4 related targets:
6a. Provide universal access to safe drinking water at home, and in schools, health centers, and refugee camps
6b. End open defecation and ensure universal access to sanitation at school and work, and increase access to sanitation at home by x% 1, 2
6c. Bring freshwater withdrawals in line with supply and increase water efficiency in agriculture by x%, industry by y% and urban areas by z%
6d. Recycle or treat all municipal and industrial wastewater prior to discharge

The UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda

The Task Team was also established by the UN Secretary-General and provides analytical thinking and substantial inputs to the process. The Task Team brings together more than 60 UN agencies and international organizations, and is co-chaired by UNDESA and UNDP.
The Task Team published its first report "Realizing the Future We Want for All" in June 2012. Building on the lessons learned, this report provides an assessment of the key development challenges and proposes a bold vision for transformative change towards inclusive, people-centered, and sustainable development.

The World We Want: national, regional and global thematic consultations

These processes are complemented by a 'The World We Want 2015' Global Conversation facilitated by the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and comprising a set of eleven global thematic consultations and national consultations in 88 countries. This global conversation responds to a growing call for broad and active participation of everyone in shaping the world we want. Taking place well before governments sit down to negotiate and finalize the new development agenda, the consultations underway provide evidence and perspectives to governments on the challenges people face in improving their lives and those of their families and communities.
A final report of the findings of the consultations will be prepared in the summer of 2013

88 national consultations were convened with the support of the UN Country Teams. These are forums to exchange ideas for a shared vision of "The World We Want", in an open process tailored to country contexts.

Regional consultations were organized by the Regional Economic Commissions and their partners to formulate regional positions on the post-2015 development agenda.

Eleven global thematic consultations complement these national and regional consultations. Jointly organized by various UN entities and with support from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other international organizations, the thematic consultations help guide thinking on how to include emerging and pressing issues in the post-2015 development agenda. The eleven thematic consultations include: Conflict and Fragility, Education, Energy, Environmental Sustainability, Food Security, Governance, Growth and Employment, Health, Inequalities, Population Dynamics, and Water. The messages of the 11 thematic consultations will be presented during the summer 2013.

The 'MY World' global survey was launched by the United Nations and its partners. It seeks to capture people's voices, priorities and views, so that global leaders can be informed as they work on defining the new development agenda for the world.


All interim results of the consultations on the post-2015 development agenda from 36 developing countries and 11 thematic consultations as well as regional consultations and consultations in OECD countries were summarized in UNDG's report "The Global Conversation Begins: Emerging Views for a New Development Agenda". Among the key messages that emerged is a strong call for an expanded development agenda that reflects strengthened public accountability, equity and human rights and remodels itself to respond to new realities including the ongoing jobs crisis, governance issues, growing and moving populations, resource scarcity and environmental degradation, and peace and security.


Last update:07 Oct 2014