The Role of UN-Water as an Inter-Agency Coordination Mechanism for Water and Sanitation.

Author:Houngbo, Gilbert F.

Today, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed water services, and 4.5 billion live without safely managed sanitation services. This crisis costs the lives of around 340,000 children every year, with other impacts deeply affecting entire societies and economies. By 2050, the world's population will have grown by around 2 billion people and demand for water will increase up to 30 per cent. Water is finite, so we must ask: how are we going to balance all of the competing demands on water resources while meeting our obligations to fulfil every person's human right to water and sanitation?

At UN-Water, answering that question is the central challenge of every working day.

The United Nations has always recognized that because of water's intrinsic value to so many sectors, collaboration is essential to avoid fragmentation of efforts. Although the United Nations system does not have a single entity dedicated exclusively to water issues, water and sanitation are important to all of the main focus areas of the Organization, reflecting their critical role in everything from health and nutrition, to gender equity and economics. Efforts to coordinate the work of the United Nations on water issues began in 1977 with the Intersecretariat Group for Water Resources, later subsumed under the Subcommittee on Water Resources of the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC).

This year, UN-Water celebrates 15 years of formal existence. With 31 United Nations entity members and 39 external partner organizations, UN-Water strives to ensure that the United Nations family delivers as one in response to the water-related challenges.

There are three main thrusts to our work: informing policies, monitoring and reporting, and inspiring action.


    Ensuring that everyone has access to sustainably managed water and sanitation services poses complex challenges that can only be met by partnerships and collaboration. Our Members (United Nations entities) and Partners (external organizations) work together to identify emerging issues and develop effective, coordinated responses.

    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have taken account of the interlinkages between water and sanitation and all other development sectors. The result is that water and sanitation not only have a dedicated goal (SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all)...

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