UN-Water coordinates the United Nations’ work on water and sanitation.
There is no single United Nations Agency, Fund or Programme dedicated exclusively to water issues. In fact, over 30 United Nations organizations carry out water and sanitation programmes because these issues run through all of the United Nations’ main focus areas.
UN-Water is a ‘coordination mechanism’. It is comprised of United Nations entities (Members) and international organizations (Partners) working on water and sanitation issues.
UN-Water’s role is to ensure that Members and Partners ‘deliver as one’ in response to water-related challenges.
What we do
The overarching focus of our Members and Partners is to support UN Member States to sustainably manage water and sanitation
UN-Water has three lines of work:
- Informing policy processes and addressing emerging issues
- Supporting monitoring and reporting on water and sanitation
- Building knowledge and inspiring people to take action
How we help drive progress
UN-Water’s Members and Partners have helped place water and sanitation at the heart of recent milestone agreements, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the 2015 Paris Agreement within the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change.
UN-Water’s consolidated technical advice from United Nations entities and external organizations helped shape Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. As a result, SDG 6 and its various targets take the entire water and sanitation cycle into account.
The UN-Water Senior Programme Managers (SPMs) are the representatives of the UN-Water Members at UN-Water. They provide the overall governance and strategic direction of UN-Water.
UN-Water is supported by the UN-Water Management Team, which fosters increased collaboration and effective coordination. The UN-Water Management Team is composed of the Chair nominated among the UN Executive Heads, the Vice-Chair elected among the SPMs, the Secretary, served ex officio by the SPM of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) in New York to ensure the liaison with the UN Member States and the UN General Assembly processes
The Chair, Vice-Chair, and Secretary of UN-Water with selected SPMs form the Joint Steering Group.
The Technical Advisory Unit provides substantive technical support, including accounting, budgeting, and administration.
Members and Partners
All activities outlined in UN-Water’s Work Programme are primarily implemented through our Members and Partners. UN-Water Members and Partners collaborate in Expert Groups, Task Forces, and initiatives.
UN-Water’s Members are United Nations agencies, programmes and funds with a water-related mandate.
UN-Water’s Partners are international organizations, professional unions, associations or other civil society groups that are actively involved in water.
UN-Water’s donors are external support agencies that wish to support the implementation of our work.
These long-term partnerships give predictable and continuous support, helping to create a high degree of confidence for strategic growth and operational planning.
UN-Water’s history is part of a long tradition of collaboration between UN entities. Here are some milestones from our backstory:
1977: The UN’s Intersecretariat Group for Water Resources coordinates United Nations activities on water and has a three-person secretariat in the predecessor of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (UN DESA) in New York.
1992: The Group is subsumed into the UN Administrative Coordination Committee’s (ACC) Subcommittee on Water Resources, which functions for several years before being disbanded. Members continued to meet informally to continue collaborating around water issues.
1993: The United Nations General Assembly designates 22 March as World Water Day.
2003: UN-Water is established, endorsed by the successor to the ACC: the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.
2005-2015: UN-Water coordinates the ‘Water for Life’ International Decade for Action, culminating in the Sanitation Drive to 2015, a campaign to meet the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals’ sanitation target and end open defecation.
2012: The Key Water Indicator Portal is launched, backed by a federated database containing data from several UN agencies.
2013: The United Nations General Assembly designates 19 November as World Toilet Day.
2014: UN-Water launches its 2014-2020 Strategy in support of the 2030 Agenda.
2015: The 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals are launched and a dedicated goal on water and sanitation is adopted by the United Nations General Assembly with input from UN-Water Members and Partners.
2015: The Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 is launched with the aim of reporting on progress on water and sanitation in a coherent and coordinated way, shaped by input from UN-Water's Members and Partners.
2018: The United Nations General Assembly launched the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 to energize existing water related programmes towards achieving achieve the 2030 Agenda.
2018: UN-Water produces the first SDG 6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation, presenting the global status of SDG 6 and other water-related targets, and exploring interlinkages within SDG 6 and the wider 2030 Agenda.
2019: UN-Water creates the SDG 6 Data Portal, bringing together data on all the SDG 6 global indicators and other key parameters, and tracks overall progress.
2020: UN-Water launches the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework and accompanying SDG 6 Action Space.
2021: UN-Water published the 2021 Summary Progress Update.
2023: UN 2023 Water Conference.