The Critical Role of Water in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals:
Synthesis of Knowledge and Recommendations for Effective Framing, Monitoring, and Capacity Development
Summary of Recommendations
This paper has four objectives: 1) to synthesize the major lessons learned regarding the role of water based on a review of existing knowledge on water and sustainable development; 2) to analyse the multi-sectoral integration of water-energy-food as well as the linkages to poverty-resilience-peace and security-climate change [i.e. broadly defined “nexus”]; 3) to review the proposed Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 6 (“ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”) and target areas with potential tools and methods for monitoring progress and indicators as well as the means of implementation; and 4) based on the review, to offer recommendations on how water and sustainable development can be better integrated into national development agendas, with special reference to the implications for policies, institutional arrangements, and capacities. The paper reviews experiences and lessons learned from implementing the MDGs, promoting water management for development, and the proposals for the future sustainable development agenda. It draws on emerging evidence regarding threats to the critical planetary systems on which humans depend. The paper concludes with 18 recommendations under four headings. These are 1) the proposed Goal 6 (ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all); 2) the linkages of water and other SDGs; 3) water and nexus issues; and 4) capacity strengthening. The explanations for these recommendations are provided in the text.
The MDGs as originally formulated did not prioritize water. They were retrofitted in part after the Earth Summit in 2002 to give water more emphasis. In formulating the future sustainable development agenda, the critical importance of water and sanitation is receiving more attention. Nevertheless, given the fundamental roles that water plays in all aspects of life, the large number of people who do not have access to an adequate water supply for domestic and productive uses, and the growing threat to water global water systems, the currently proposed SDGs and associated targets need further work to strengthen recognition and attention to water.