UN-Water Bulletin – Vol. 82 No. 31 – 27th UN-Water Meeting – Summary

“This IISD report on the world’s top-level attention to water issues is comprehensive and important. We wish that there had been some awareness of the key role of halophyte agriculture and how four under-utilized resources:

1) 97% of the planet’s saline water,

2) 40% of scrubland and deserts,

3) 10,000 varieties of salt-loving plants (halophytes , e.g. quinoa ) and

4) free photons from our Sun, could be producing much human food, fiber and fuel, while conserving fresh water.

See our TV program “Investing in Desert-Greening” with NASA Chief Scientist Dennis Bushnell and Dr. Carl Hodges, President, Seawater Foundation  in our global TV series  at www.films.com, and in our Green Transition Scoreboard® “ Plenty of Water “ (2014) at www.ethicalmarkets.comHazel Henderson, Editor  “

UN-Water Bulletin

Volume 82 Number 31 | Tuesday, 29 August 201727th UN-Water Meeting

25-26 August 2017 | Stockholm, Sweden

Languages: EN (HTML/PDF)Visit our IISD/ENB+ Meeting Coverage from Stockholm, Sweden at:

The 27th UN-Water Meeting convened from 25-26 August 2017, in Stockholm, Sweden. The two-day meeting took place immediately prior to the World Water Week, which gathers water and sanitation policy makers and stakeholders in Stockholm annually.

Sixty-four representatives of UN-Water Members and Partners registered for the event, representing the UN Secretariat and UN agencies, funds, programmes and other entities, multilateral environmental agreements, and civil society organizations.

Two half-days were devoted to discussions with UN-Water Partners on agenda items including: report of the fourth meeting of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace; presentation on the UN-Water and International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) SDG Knowledge Hub partnership; a proposal for a task force on unconventional uses of water; an update on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, related intergovernmental processes, and integrated monitoring and reporting related to SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation); and planning for World Water Days, World Water Development Reports and World Toilet Days. This report focuses on the deliberations during the sessions with UN-Water Partners.

UN-Water Members also met in closed session during the morning of 25 August and the afternoon of 26 August, to take decisions on a number of organizational issues, including: partnership applications; the creation of Expert Groups; consideration of views of Members to identify the conditions that would enable UN-Water to engage with and receive funds from the private sector; and discussion on the Expert Group Terms of Reference prepared by the Task Force on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

During the discussions on 2030 Agenda topics, participants highlighted that the July 2018 meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will focus on SDG 6 and noted that UN-Water’s preparation of the SDG 6 Synthesis Report as a contribution to the HLPF discussion provides an opportunity to provide decision makers with a big picture of the status of water and sanitation issues and to offer policy recommendations on how to accelerate SDG 6 implementation in the overall 2030 Agenda context. They outlined progress in defining the indicators and developing the dataset necessary to monitor SDG 6 implementation, while indicating that further work is necessary. UN-Water Members and Partners also noted the need to break down the silos between government, UN and the private sector to work together in a more integrative and efficient way, and emphasized that the achievement of SDG 6 is necessary in order to achieve the other SDGs.


Over 30 United Nations organizations carry out water and sanitation programmes, but no single UN entity is dedicated exclusively to these issues. The UN’s Intersecretariat Group for Water Resources began coordinating UN activities on water in 1977. Subsequently, in 2003, the UN Administrative Coordination Committee’s (ACC) Sub-committee on Water Resources transformed into UN-Water and was endorsed by the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. UN-Water plays a coordinating role within the UN, to ensure that the UN family “delivers as one” in response to water-related challenges.

INITIATIVES: The overarching focus of UN-Water’s Members and Partners is to support UN Member States to sustainably manage water and sanitation. This mission is carried out through three areas of work.

Efforts to inform policies focus on placing water and sanitation issues on the agenda of key UN agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. SDG 6 calls for the international community to strive to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Efforts to monitor and report seek to provide coherent and reliable data and information on key water trends and management issues. The Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 builds on and expands the experience and lessons learned during the Millennium Development Goal period, and aims to: develop methodologies and tools to monitor SDG 6 global indicators; raise awareness at national and global levels about SDG 6 monitoring; enhance technical and institutional country capacity for monitoring; and compile country data and report on global progress towards SDG 6.

Efforts to inspire action include coordination of the annual observance of World Water Day, on 22 March, and World Toilet Day, on 19 November. UN-Water releases the World Water Development Report on World Water Day.

GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE: UN agencies, programmes and funds with a water-related mandate are Members of UN-Water. Partners are international organizations, professional unions, associations or other civil-society groups that are actively involved in water and that have the capacity and willingness to contribute to the work of UN-Water.

UN-Water Senior Programme Managers (SPM) are the representatives of UN-Water Members. They provide the overall governance and strategic direction, and constitute the highest operational decision-making body of UN-Water.

The Chair of UN-Water is nominated among the UN Executive Heads after consultations in the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. The Vice-Chair of UN-Water is elected among the UN-Water Senior Programme Managers. The Secretary of UN-Water is a senior staff member of UN-DESA in New York, and serves in a personal capacity and not in representation of UN-DESA.


The 27th UN-Water Meeting commenced on Friday morning, 25 August 2018. Opening the sessions with UN-Water Partners, Guy Ryder, UN-Water Chair and Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO), stated that SDG 6 is ambitious, and the institutional structures required to achieve it may not yet exist. For example, Ryder noted that SDG 6 remains largely uncovered in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the Secretary-General’s report titled, “Repositioning the UN development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda – Ensuring a Better Future for All,” acknowledges that gaps exist. Ryder recalled that two dialogues have been convened by the President of the UNGA to address the work that is necessary to achieve the water targets. He also highlighted that Member States want to know how the UN’s work on water has been successful, where hurdles remain, and what can be done to address them.


REPORT ON THE FOURTH MEETING OF THE GLOBAL HIGH-LEVEL PANEL ON WATER AND PEACE: Joakim Harlin, UN-Water Vice-Chair and Chief, Freshwater Ecosystem Unit, UN Environment, presented the report on the fourth meeting of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace. The Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace was launched on 16 November 2015, and was tasked with developing proposals aimed at strengthening the global framework to prevent and resolve water-related conflicts and facilitate the use of water as an important factor of building peace and enhancing the relevance of water issues in national and global policy making. He noted that he represented UN-Water at the Panel’s meetings, and that the final meeting was convened in Amman, Jordan, from 3-4 May 2017.

Harlin said that, during the final meeting, the Panel discussed their final report, which addresses issues of armed conflict and international law and transboundary cooperation and includes sections titled: Synopsis; The Drama of Water; Into the Abyss: Water in Armed Conflicts; An Ounce of Prevention: International Water Law and Transboundary Water Cooperation; Quantity and Quality: Strengthening of the Knowledge-Based and Data Driven Decision Making and Cooperation; People’s Diplomacy, Inter-Sectoral Water Management and Decision Making; Centrality of Finance: Improvement and Innovation; In pursuit of Agency: New Mechanisms of Water Diplomacy; and, Towards a Coherent and Effective Global Architecture for Water and Peace: Summary of Recommendations. He said that the Panel has recommended that attacks on water infrastructure be seen as a war crime, and that the Security Council should adopt a resolution along these lines. He also reported that the idea of a “blue fund” for financing infrastructure was discussed. He told participants that the report of the Panel will be launched on 14 September in Geneva, and 18 September in New York, at which time the work of the Panel will conclude.

DISCUSSION ON THE DRAFT INPUT TO THE ACTION PLAN FOR THE “INTERNATIONAL DECADE FOR ACTION – WATER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” 2018 – 2028: Reza Ardakanian, UNU-FLORES, presented on behalf of the Task Force on Decade Planning and Organization. He said the Task Force is responding to UNGA resolution A/RES/71/222, which calls on UN-Water to organize and facilitate the implementation of the Decade on Water. He noted that the Task Force has developed Terms of References for its mandate and has shared them with UN-Water Members on the Task Force on Decade Planning and Organization, and has convened two virtual meetings. The Task Force has also developed three objectives to achieve SDG 6: advance sustainable development; energize implementation of existing programmes; and inspire action to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Ardakanian presented a matrix that is being used to map the activities for achieving the objectives. Ardakanian summarized the Task Force’s achievements as having set goals, gathered and analyzed data, created and implemented a plan and devised how to monitor the plan. He said that, based on feedback from the UN-Water meeting, the task force would develop a revised draft Action Plan, which will be submitted in final form to the Secretary-General in March 2018.

During the discussion, one speaker stressed the need to highlight the connection between water and agriculture use, proposed incorporating a stronger focus on financing and financial resources, and called for giving attention to development assistance for developing countries. Other speakers inquired about how the new website on the UN Decade on Water would be used, suggested incorporating the resources developed for the last decade into its archives, and called for exploring other communication tools to make the decade successful.

In the decision on this item, the SPM agreed to create a single website for the Decade for all Members and Partners to complement the section on www.un.org, and to ask the UN-Water Communications Manager to work with UN DPI to ensure consistent messaging across www.un.org and www.unwater.org. The SPM also requested the Task Force to organize a Member State briefing on UN-Water’s support to the Decade before the end of November 2017.

PRESENTATION ON THE UN-WATER AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (IISD) KNOWLEDGE HUB PARTNERSHIP: Lynn Wagner, IISD, introduced the UN-Water-IISD partnership for SDG 6 knowledge and reporting on UN-Water meetings. Wagner noted that the SDGs present the international community with a challenging agenda, and partnerships will be required if we are to implement the SDGs by 2030. She reviewed the SDG Knowledge Hub’s (http://sdg.iisd.org/) news, calendar, and guest article features, and noted that news on activities related to SDG 6 would be provided in cooperation with UN-Water. Wagner explained that the SDG Knowledge Hub can help readers identify how the SDGs are interrelated. She invited UN-Water Members and Partners to send news about their organization’s activities and publications, and to contribute guest articles on what their organization is doing to achieve SDG 6. Wagner also noted that, as part of the partnership, IISD’s Reporting Services would be provided for this and future UN-Water meetings. A short discussion followed the presentation, with a question about the impacts of IISD’s work. Wagner responded that, by making the decisions taken by policy makers more transparent and building stakeholder capacity to engage in sustainable development policy-making processes, IISD’s work helps stakeholders hold policy-makers accountable.

UNCONVENTIONAL USES OF WATER – TASK FORCE PROPOSAL: Vladimir Smakhtin, Director, UNU-INWEH, presented the proposal to bring together work on unconventional water sources, noting that these include: desalination of seawater and highly brackish groundwater; groundwater confined in deep geological formations or in off-shore aquifers; physical transportation of water through tankers and icebergs; micro-scale capture of rainwater where otherwise it evaporates; atmospheric moisture harvesting such as cloud seeding, fog water collection; collection and treatment of wastewater, greywater, and stormwater; and collection and use of agricultural drainage water. He said the task force would consider the current knowledge of these sources and how they could be addressed by the end of the decade.

During the discussion, a number of speakers indicated their support for the initiative. One speaker suggested considering unconventional financing mechanisms as well, and the need to de-risk the financing for such resources. Another said questions related to governance and the social implications of the new sources should be incorporated into the examination, to understand how the new approaches would be adopted in practice. A speaker questioned whether cloud seeding represents new water and said the task force should coordinate with the water scarcity expert group.

In the decision on this item, the SPM agreed to establish a Task Force on Unconventional Water Resources, and that the Task Force would have a duration of two years (2018-2019) and be coordinated by UNU. The Task Force was requested to harmonize its work with the Expert Group on Water Scarcity.

MEETING OF EXPERTS TO DRAFT NEW GUIDELINES ON SOCIAL DIALOGUE IN PUBLIC EMERGENCY SERVICES: Carlos Carrion-Crespo, ILO, informed UN-Water Members and Partners that ILO is updating its guidelines for social dialogue in public emergency services and called attention to the fact that this update will incorporate emergencies caused by floods and other water-related disasters. A Meeting of Experts will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 16-20 April 2018, to draft the revised Guidelines. He noted that ILO will issue invitations to their focal points at UN agencies to request input on the guidelines, and suggested that interested UN-Water Members and Partners should contact their focal point if they want to provide input.

GROUNDWATER OVERVIEW: MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Neno Kukuric, International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), noted that groundwater is invisible and, accordingly, far from the mind. He said UN-Water Members and Partners are dealing with groundwater in different ways, and sometimes their organizations are not very clear or specific about the impacts of groundwater on health or disasters, among other issues. Kukuric said it is important to explore the complementarities and differences in how groundwater issues are addressed, and added that the 8th World Water Forum will provide a venue for promoting awareness in this issue. He encouraged UN-Water Members and Partners to share photos and several sentences on how groundwater is being used, for inclusion in materials to be distributed at the Forum.

During the discussion on this issue, speakers also suggested that a better understanding of the users of groundwater would be useful.

In the decision on this agenda item, the SPM decided that the Groundwater Overview (i.e. a leaflet currently being produced by IGRAC, UNESCO, IAH, IWMI and IUCN) will be a UN-Water category 3 publication. As such, UN-Water will support communicating about the Groundwater Overview presentation during the World Water Forum 2018. The SPM invited all interested UN-Water Members and Partners to participate in the Groundwater Overview production.