Water for Life Voices

The Decade’s success builds on your success

Achieving the Water for Life Decade’s goals has needed sustained commitment, engagement, cooperation and investment from all.

Share your Water For Life Voice with us!.

The decade is officially drawing to a close on World Water Day, 22 March 2015. The Decade has seen the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water well in advance of the 2015 deadline. But what does this mean at ground level? Have these advancements improved your daily life? Did your water and sanitation situation improve? Have you benefited from the successes of the Decade?

As the end of the 'Water for Life' Decade approaches, we would like to show how people's efforts, your efforts, have contributed to its success. We want to hear your voice! Your WaterForLifeVoice!

  • Looking back. What has the Decade meant for you? How has your life changed in relation to water and sanitation over the last 10 years? Where have you seen a significant change?
  • Looking forward. Where do we need to improve? What are your hopes for the future?
  • Your contribution. How have you contributed to improving the situation? At home, in your city, your country? We want to know what you have done and can do about it.

>> Submit your contribution
>> Browse fantastic photos submitted from all around the world on Flickr

The 'Water for Life' Decade

The sanitation challenge

The Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation require 75% of the planet to have improved sanitation by 2015.

In 2011, 64% of the world relied on improved sanitation facilities. Open defecation rates declined globally from 24% in 1990 to 14% in 2012.

But still, more than one third of the global population, 2.5 billion people, do not use an improved sanitation facility, and 1 billion practise open defecation. 7 out of 10 of these people live in rural areas. The world is not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target; 69 countries were not on track in 2012, 36 of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Did you know that every US$1 spent on sanitation brings a $5.50 return by keeping people healthy and productive?

In September 2000, building upon a decade of major United Nations conferences and summits, world leaders came together at United Nations Headquarters in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets - with the deadline of 2015 - that became known as the Millennium Development Goals.

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and providing universal primary education by 2015 – form a blueprint agreed on by all the world’s countries and leading development institutions. Together they have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. In 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the water target was expanded to include basic sanitation and water as a resource was recognized as a critical factor in meeting all the Goals.

Significant progress has been made since then in providing people with access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation. However, a major effort is still required to extend these essential services to those still unaccounted for.

Given the magnitude of the task, in December 2003, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim the period 2005-2015 International Decade for Action 'Water for Life'.

How you contributed to the Decade's achievements?

The primary goal of the ’Water for Life’ Decade is to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015.

The themes

Water affects everything and everyone. Over the Decade, our remit has taken us from improving access to sanitation, to recognizing the human right to water and sanitation, better understanding the water and energy nexus, facilitating women's involvement in water and sanitation issues, considering water and food linkages, highlighting water scarcity and better positioning water resources management. We have been involved in potential flashpoints where water spans national boundaries, and in the area of water quality, which is still difficult to measure accurately. And of course, we have considered the role water plays in sustainable development and our planet's biodiversity. There are so many areas where success can be celebrated!

>> Access to a list of themes for inspiration

Significant progress has been made since then in providing people with access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation:

  • Since 1990 well over 2.3 billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water and 116 countries have met the MDG target for water. More than half of the world’s population, almost 4 million people, now enjoy the highest level of water access: a piped water connection in their homes. The MDG drinking water target coverage of 88% was met in 2010, 5 years ahead of schedule despite significant global population growth.
  • Almost 2 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation and 77 countries have met the MDG target. Between 1990 and 2012, open defecation decreased from 24 per cent to 14 per cent globally.
  • Global attention to water and sanitation has increased and there has been significant progress in water cooperation and the engagement of women in water and sanitation issues.

In providing the world’s population with an improved water source and basic sanitation we still have a lot to do and the future is full of challenges. To build this future upon solid foundations we must acknowledge and celebrate our successes. Don’t you think so?

How to get involved?

We want to make a big splash! You can contribute by submitting different types of materials: your photos with your message, a 3 minute audio/video recording or an interview. All these need to respond to the three questions above.

Selected contributions will be considered for inclusion in the end of Decade online exhibit. To be considered, you need to submit your materials before the end of December (deadline for submissions is 15 December 2014). If your work is considered you will be notified and credited. Contributions submitted before the end of August are now being assessed to be included in the exhibit that will take place on World Water Day 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters.

>> Terms and conditions of use

>> Submit your contribution

Be our champions!

The 'Water for Life' Decade has provided an opportunity for everyone to get involved and contribute. All around the world, activities and initiatives have been actively building the Water for Life Decade campaign. YOUR ideas, activities and initiatives have been welcomed and become part of the Water for Life Decade family!

You have promoted the Decade by using and distributing its logo. So, we especially want to know your plans to celebrate and take stock of the end of the decade. We would like to invite you to be our Champions. Please submit your photos, videos and messages and also those from people whose lives have improved during the decade.

>> Submit your contribution

Be our champion! There’s still time to join the ‘Water for Life’ Decade Campaign, you simply have to request the use of its logo.

Media professional's special nomination

As a media professional YOUR ideas, activities and initiatives have been welcomed and become part of the Water for Life Decade family! Contribute now to the WaterForLifeVoices Exhibit and Campaign.

We would like to invite you now to be our Champions in showing how people have benefited, what they want for the future and how people's efforts have contributed. Please submit your photos, videos, audios and messages from those people whose lives have improved during the Decade.

Submissions by media professionals will be evaluated and those selected will receive a special media nomination.

>> Submit your contribution

Your #WaterforLifeVoices on Flickr!
Your #WaterforLifeVoices on Flickr!

>> Access the Flickr Photo Gallery

Voices of Experts: Thoughts on the Decade
Anders Berntell

Anders Berntell
2030 Water Resources Group
"I think the focus of the international discussions on water has changed a lot. 10 years ago there were lots of discussion about the privatization of water, that’s gone. The human right to water is recognized and within the water discussion there’s much more focus on management of water resources, the water-food-energy-climate change nexus, and on the scarcity of water resources."

Clarissa Brocklehurst

Clarissa Brocklehurst
Senior Advisor, Sanitation and Water for All Secretariat
"One of the differences is that things that were crazy ideas 10 years ago are now being discussed as quite sensible solutions. Now we’re not talking about whether excreta reuse is a good idea or not, we’re talking about all the different ways to do it, including some quite crazy ways - but it’s all good."

>> More Voices of experts

Voices from Business
Dan Bena

Dan Bena
"In the last 10 years it is amazing to me how many different partners are starting to collaborate now. So I remember when I first started this [initiative] years ago, the idea that the private sector could engage with the United Nations was taboo, that was never a consideration, but more and more the private sector is being invited to different round tables by the UN."

Dominique Gatel

Dominique Gatel
"The water sector has become a lot more professional over the last 10 years. A small concrete example is Water Quality, which is now in most places monitored in a transparent manner with performance indicators, which allow tracking and shows improvements."

>> More Voices from Business

Voices from Civil Society Organisations
Dominique Gatel

Carolyn Meub
Executive Director, Pure Water for the World
"We have learned much over the past decade. What's very exciting is that the technology exists today to deliver safe water solutions to people across our planet. We no longer need to focus on the technology of making safe water accessible. Rather the focus is shifting to sustainability."

Dominique Gatel

Ken Surritte
Founder, WATERisLIFE
"I am optimistic about the future. Groups are learning we all have to work together. UN-Water, NGOs, governments, other groups and organizations, we all want the same thing. It’s not about taking credit; it’s about making the maximum impact on people in need."

>> Voices from Civil Society Organisations