Catalyzing Water for Sustainable Development and Growth

Catalyzing Water for Sustainable Development and Growth

We are delighted to republish the “Catalyzing Water for Sustainable Development and Growth” report from United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UN OSD) and United Nations University - Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).


  The international community has invested considerably in discussing and defining the global development agenda after 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will reach their maturity date. The underlying debate was kicked off in earnest at Rio, where the world leaders gathered in June 2012 to inter alia discuss the outlines and framework of that development agenda. The outcome of the dialogue at Rio, encapsulated in the document “The Future We Want,” included elements of social development, environmental integrity and economic growth. Water, as both a resource and a human right, figured centrally in this document.

This report is an independent evidence-based analysis of how water can be addressed in a developing agenda beyond 2015

  As the dialogue and efforts further intensified since the Rio Summit to converge on the global framework for a post-2015 development agenda, it also became apparent that the evidence base for comparatively assessing various development scenarios was largely absent. This indeed was the case for the discussion around issues related to drinking water, sanitation, water resources management and water quality. It is apparent that some ambiguity exists around whether water should be identified as a stand-alone issue area, or considering its significance in various sectors and fields of development, should appear in all of them in an integrated manner. In recent years, there has been considerable debate in the international community about understanding the nexus between water, energy and food security; while some interesting approaches have emerged from that discussion, implementation of this concept through sector-focused government agencies and various stakeholders remains a challenge.

  This report is an independent evidence-based analysis of how water can be addressed in a developing agenda beyond 2015. Its formulation, and the underlying study, was undertaken by UNOSD, UNU-INWEH and SEI as a way of addressing the information gaps and providing background information that can be used by the UN member states and other stakeholders in negotiations. The overall goal of this report is to draw attention to the complexities of water as a resource and a human right, and the challenges associated in implementing the various formulations of Sustainable Development Goals related to water.

  The report takes stock of how water figured in the MDGs and the key lessons we can learn about how to improve the response of the international community to the global water challenges. It uses this analysis to offer a forward-looking assessment of the various models of incorporating water in the post-2015 development agenda. It is obvious that significant investments are needed to meet the water-related challenges; the report gives the first ballpark-estimates of these investments. It also highlights the fact that these investments are not just needed by developing countries but, in fact, by all countries. Developed countries will need to provide significant new investments in near future to replace aging infrastructure and support urban sprawl. Emerging studies point to the consideration that decentralization, social media, and novel ways to raise capital should be used to empower local populations to create their own solutions.

It is obvious that significant investments are needed to meet the water-related challenges

  This report has made us realize that more concerted efforts at all levels are required to create the enabling environment necessary to implement solutions and that such efforts will have to be broader than just dealing directly with water issues. Transparent and accountable governance will have to support all aspects of a sustainable planet. As we approach some planetary tipping points, and resulting irreversible changes, innovative perspectives and paradigm shifts are necessary. This report is meant to enable that process. We look forward to engaging with the UN member states and other stakeholders in order to discuss its findings and address emerging issues through future studies.

  Read the Report

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