Water Decade to culminate; exhibit to highlight progress

water exhibit

As the ‘Decade for Action: Water for Life’ concludes at the end of 2015, an exhibition highlighting the significant impact of comprehensive water policy over the past 10 years will bring the lives and voices of the beneficiaries of water programmes right into the halls of the UN Headquarters, from 9 March to 14 April. 

 “It serves as a reminder to the UN’s top decision makers of just how much impact their work has had on people over the last Decade,” said Josefina Maestu, Director of the Office to support the Water for Life Decade. “It should also show visitors how much has been done, and how much there is yet to do to ensure continued development and progress for all the world’s peoples.”

2015 also sees the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs related to water have been broadly successful and is now informing final discussions for the post 2015 agenda, and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals.

Looking post 2015

While we have seen tangible change in water policy over the last 10 years – from improved coordination between ‘water stakeholders’ in business, government, energy, food production, to hitting the Millennium Development Goal for halving the number of people without access to an improved water source five years ahead of its projection –key areas where the world is failing to hit targets remain. Many experts see it as vital that transformations brought about by having human rights and empowering communities remain a primary focus.

In fact, the target for access to improved sanitation will not be met by the end of the year. Today, many stakeholders and UN entities within UN-Water are attempting to bring the sanitation issue into the spotlight, with some success. The 5 Year Sanitation Drive, the Sanitation Initiative, World Toilet day and the Open Defecation campaign have people talking about the issue, and it has become a priority area for UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), the United Nations Global Compact and several other UN entities and many other stakeholders.

While the health and economic benefits to communities of improved sanitation are increasingly prominent, many experts believe it is vital that any targets in the SDGs are sensitive to exactly what is required to achieve the full range of benefits.

Rehema Bavuma, Katosi Women’s Development Trust, Uganda, said: “Having access to water is key to all other forms of empowerment.  In rural areas, it is only when a woman has water at home that she is able to invest time in economic activity. If a woman is engaged in the daily routine of searching for water by walking miles and miles away from home, it is practically impossible to engage in anything that brings in money for her. Until recently there was no mention of how entire communities could benefit when those involved in water management – usually women – actually have decision-making power over the resources they manage. ”

Bringing the world of water to UNHQ

The exhibition brings the voices of beneficiaries of water programmes over the Decade to the public at the United Nations. It is hoped that these voices will highlight the human aspect of water programmes, and thus help support the inclusion of such considerations being written in to the SDGs.

The work of the Water Decade continues into 2015 with the World Water Day celebration in India, and the Water for Life Award 2015 being unveiled on 30 March. Two key events for the evaluation of achievements, lessons learnt and best practices will also see delegates, ambassadors and players in international development come together this year. First, a high-level event on the International Water Decade, organised by the President of the General Assembly and UN -Water on March 30th at the UN headquarters in New York; followed by the high-level international conference on the implementation of the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’, 2005-2015 on 9-11 June 2015 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. 

The exhibition is open to the public from 9 March until 14 April. Please attend and add your voice.

Where: UN Headquarters, New York
When: 9 March to 14 April 2015

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