Highlights Vol 22, No. 03 - March 2018

Water decade kicks off, sending waves of action for sustainability

There is a global water crisis. 40 per cent of the world’s people are affected by water scarcity and two billion people are forced to drink unsafe water. Pressure on the world’s precious freshwater resources is rising and the need for action is urgent. Managing water well is essential for the international community to deliver the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Without this, most of the Sustainable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved. Every drop matters.

It’s time to change our approach to water. That is why the UN Secretary-General and World Bank President asked eleven Heads of Government and State and a Special Adviser to form the High Level Panel on Water, providing leadership and direction to efforts to achieve the water-related goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is also against this backdrop that the International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development will kick off on World Water Day on 22 March, putting a greater focus on water and sanitation during the next ten years.

Water and sanitation are critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, and is indispensable for human development, health and well-being. Water-related challenges, including limited access to safe water and sanitation, increasing pressure on water resources and ecosystems, and an exacerbated risk of droughts and floods, have received increasing attention in the global development arena.

Water is at the heart of recent milestone agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and the 2015 Paris Agreement. The World Economic Forum ranks the water crisis in the top three of global risks for the third consecutive year. Failing to respond effectively to these challenges will have devastating global effects.

To be successful, Member States and the United Nations system will need to respond in a coordinated and effective manner. In its resolution 71/222, the General Assembly proclaims the period from 2018 to 2028 the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, to further improve cooperation, partnership and capacity development in response to the ambitious 2030 Agenda.

This Water Action Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources and sanitation to achieve social, economic and environmental objectives and to implement and promote related programmes and projects, as well as to advance cooperation and partnership at all levels to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

These objectives will be pursued by improving knowledge generation and dissemination, facilitating access to knowledge and the exchange of good practices; developing new information relevant to water-related Sustainable Development Goals; pursuing advocacy, networking and promoting partnerships and action by different actors; and, strengthening communication actions at various levels for the implementation of the water-related Goals.

The UN Secretary-General, with the support of UN-Water, was invited to take appropriate steps within existing resources to plan and organise the activities of the Decade at the global, regional and country levels. The Resolution further requested the UN Secretary-General, with the support of UN-Water, the specialized agencies, the regional commissions and other entities of the UN system, to facilitate the implementation of the Decade in cooperation with Governments and other relevant actors.

The President of the General Assembly will formally launch the International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development on 22 March at UN Headquarters in New York, where the action plan of the Water Action Decade will be presented and discussed by Member States and panellists, as well as other actors present, who are eager to accelerate progress on water related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda. Making every drop count.

For more information:

UN Water

Water Action Decade – 2018-2028

UN DESA’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform – Water and sanitation

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Safeguarding the world’s forests – our best bet for sustainable societies

10,000 years ago, at the end of the last great ice age, 6 billion hectares of forests covered 45 per cent of the Earth’s land. Over the last 5,000 years, 1.8 billion hectares were lost, and most of this loss, 1.4 billion hectares, happened in the last 300 years. Today, forests cover about one third of land on our planet. An estimated 75 per cent of global forest loss and degradation today, can be attributed to deforestation for agricultural expansion. Per FAO figures, by 2050 global agriculture production will increase by 60 per cent, and meat production by 76 per cent. Meeting this global demand for food, without impacting forests and taking environmental risks, poses a significant challenge.

In the past two years, we have seen a groundswell of support for forests. Starting with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015 and culminating in the adoption of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 by the UN General Assembly last year, the message from the international community has been loud and clear – now is the time to invest in reversing forest loss, increasing forest area – to create a greener, cleaner, future for us all.

SDG 15 of the 2030 Agenda calls upon us to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” by 2030. The UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030, envisions “a world in which all types of forests and trees outside forests are sustainably managed, contribute to sustainable development and provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits for present and future generations.”

The Strategic Plan includes 6 Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets, including groundbreaking targets to increase forest area globally by 3 per cent or 120 million hectares, and to eradicate extreme poverty for all forest dependent people, by 2030. The Global Goals and targets also cover combating climate change, increasing forest protected areas, mobilizing financing and inspiring innovation, promoting governance, and enhancing cooperation across sectors and stakeholders.

Forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75 per cent of the world’s freshwater for household, agricultural and industrial use. Forests contribute to increased rainfall and help control erosion and flooding. A recent study on climate impacts of tropical forest loss found that deforestation in South America, South Asia and Africa could cause warming and altered rainfall patterns and alter crops growing conditions in the tropics and beyond; as far as the US Midwest, Europe and China.

One third of the world’s largest cities, including Bogota, Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, New York and Rio de Janeiro draw their drinking water from forest watersheds. Trees and green spaces in cities provide many benefits for urban communities, from reducing energy use and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, to improving air quality and stormwater management. Forests and trees thus impact the daily lives of people everywhere, and for this reason the theme of the 2018 International Day of Forests on 21 March is “Forests and Sustainable Cities.”

For more information: International Day of Forests

Follow Us