Water in the post-2015 development agenda: the Water, Growth and Stability Initiative

Water, Growth and Stability Initiative can make an important contribution to SGDs

June 23, 2016 | By Radoje Lausevic

Water has a crucial role in all dimensions of sustainable development and is linked to various key global problems, and all human and economic activities. The water goal and targets directly address the development aims of societies, promote human dignity and ensure that achievements are sustainable over the long term. Within the post-2015 agenda, water mobilisation will be critical in realising economic and social potential.

In September 2015, heads of state from all around the world gathered in New York to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets aimed at nothing less than “transforming our world”. The REC is actively contributing to SDGs through various capacity building programmes and initiatives. The newest REC intitative, Water, Growth and Stability (WGSIni), aims to actively contribute to some of the SDGs, as follows:


Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in. Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations; moreover, it is at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment. This is why the SDGs cover a wide range of drivers across the three pillars of sustainable development. They also include a dedicated goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6) that sets out to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” WSGIni aims to: contribute significantly to the achievement of SDG 6 through actions targeting the achievement of universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water, as well as access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, paying special attention to the needs of women, girls and others in vulnerable situations; improve water quality; increase water-use efficiency; implement integrated water resources management at all levels; and protect and restore water-related ecosystems. Moreover, WSGIni directly supports the achievement of SDG 6 through the expansion of international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes.

Half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities today. Sustainable, efficient and equitable management of water in cities has never been as important as in today's world, and moreover in the MENA countries. Making cities and communities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable means ensuring access to safe and affordable housing, and upgrading slum settlements. It also involves improving urban planning and management in ways that are both participatory and inclusive. Two main challenges related to water are affecting the sustainability of human urban settlements: the lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and increasing water-related disasters such as floods and droughts. Those who suffer most from these water-related challenges are the urban poor.  WSGIni contributes the achievement of SDG 11 through the empowerment of local communities and cities in MENA countries for better local water security planning and active involvement of local stakeholders in the planning process. Participatory local water security planning methodology, developed as a part of the initiative, will build up the capacities of MENA cities and help them to become more resilient and sustainable in regard to water security.

Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services and a better quality of life for all. Currently excessive use of water contributes to global water stress, and this is particularly the case in MENA countries. In the absence of any change in consumption patterns, by 2030 the shortfall between demand for, and supply of, water is projected to be 40 percent. This being the case, SDG 12 promotes sustainable consumption and production patterns, including the efficient management of water as the most important natural resource. WSGIni contributes to the achievement of SDG 12 through the establishment of an open platform of discussion about water efficiency and sustainable infrastructure for access to water, while trying to involve all important stakeholders from the public sector (national and local levels), civil society and the business community.

Recognising the interdependence of health and development, SDG 3 aspires to ensure health and well-being for all, to achieve universal health coverage, and to provide access to safe and effective medicines and vaccines for all. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) interventions have been described as “critical determinants of health” that prevent the faecal-oral transmission of pathogens, while hygiene promotion has been identified as having one of the greatest cost-benefit ratios of disease control interventions. Having been developed as a result of local needs and aspirations, and in line with national water priorities in selected MENA countries,  WSGIni aims to contribute significantly to water-related health and well-being goals through various capacity-building measures and through the direct involvement of local communities in setting objectives and water security planning.

Water has always played a key role in economic development, and economic development has always been accompanied by water development. Most of this growth will happen in developing countries (like most MENA countries) that have limited capacity to deal with this rapid change; and growth will also lead to an increase in the number of people living in slums, which often have very poor living conditions, including inadequate water and sanitation facilities. Therefore, the development of water resources for economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability will be closely linked with sustainable development. As formulated in SDG 8, water shall promote “sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth” in an equitable and reasonable manner, thus contributing to poverty reduction and to narrowing the gap between rich and poor everywhere. WSGIni will place special emphasis on water security as an enabler for sustainable growth by supporting MENA governments and local communities in water security planning and integrated water management through open dialogue between stakeholders.

Climate change will compound pressures on resources, as will policies to adapt to and mitigate. Furthermore, these pressures will be unevenly distributed around the world, with the greatest impacts occurring in populations and locations characterised by low resilience. Water is the primary medium through which climate change influences Earth’s ecosystem and thus the livelihood and well-being of societies. Strengthening resilience and the adaptive capacities of more vulnerable regions, such as the MENA region, must go hand in hand with efforts to raise awareness and integrate measures into national and local policies and strategies. Adaptation to climate change is urgent, and water plays a pivotal role in such efforts. To recognise this reality and to respond accordingly presents development opportunities for the MENA region, and  WSGIni aims to emphasise climate action as one of the most important needs for developmental planning in the region, both at the national and local level.

Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Important targets within this SDG are to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, and to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms. This means that water security-related actions in the region should be based on strong institutions and institutional support, and also that bottom-up empowerment should be fostered, including support for home-grown institutions and reformers and facilitators of carefully planned decentralisation. This is why WSGIni aims to empower national and local governments in MENA countries, civil society, and  particularly women's grassroots organisations.

Empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. It has become increasingly accepted that women should play an important role in water management and that this role could be enhanced through the strategy of gender mainstreaming. Understanding gender roles, relations, and inequalities can help explain the choices people make and their different options. Involving both women and men in integrated water resources initiatives can increase project effectiveness and efficiency. WSGIni puts special emphasis on gender issues in water security and will provide a particular forum for women's grassroots organisations to discuss water issues and to assist local communities in water security planning and national governments in integrated water management planning and implementation.