UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC)


The UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC), established in August 2007 and funded by the German Federal Government, is hosted by the United Nations University (UNU) and located in Bonn, Germany. UNW-DPC is one of the two programmes coordinated by UN-Water which are under the auspices of the International Decade for Action 'Water for Life' 2005-2015.

The aim of the programme office is to strengthen the activities of UN-Water and to support it in its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other targets related to water with capacity development, education, training, and institutional development.


Based on a firm belief that the achievement of the MDGs related to water and sanitation is conditional on stakeholders being able to mobilise essential capacities, UNW-DPC’s mission is to enhance the coherence and effectiveness of the capacity development activities of UN-Water members and partners. By working on a full range of individual, organisational and institutional capacity development, UNW-DPC is involved in a multitude of activities to support UN-Water in two ways: ‘scaling up’ activities of individual UN-Water members and partners, and ‘adding value’ to UN-Water activities as a whole. This has been done primarily through the organisation of worldwide trainings, seminars, workshops, and publications involving UN-Water members and partners or on behalf of all of UN-Water; analyses of capacity development needs and mapping activities for UN-Water and its Task Forces/Thematic Priority Areas; and information systems for UN-Water such as the UN-Water Activity Information System (UNW-AIS).

Thematic areas

In order to carry out its activities related to individual and institutional capacity development, UNW-DPC focuses on thematic areas of importance to UN-Water. To date, since 2007 UNW-DPC has conducted around 100 activities with at least one, and often multiple, UN-Water members or partners. UNW-DPC works in all areas of strategic importance to UN-Water, including gender, sanitation, drinking water and health, climate change, transboundary waters, water scarcity and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), among others.


The UN General Assembly Resolution 59/250 from December 2004 states that “capacity development and ownership of national development strategies are essential for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”

The achievement of the MDGs is a major priority for UN-Water within the Water for Life Decade (2005-2015), and thus also forms a core part of the mission of UNW-DPC. Achieving the MDGs is not possible without concerted development of capacities on the regional, local, individual and institutional level.

Water Scarcity

Population growth and rapid urbanization are continuing to intensify pressure on freshwater resources around the world, affecting every continent. Frequently, the lack of high-quality water and a high level of local water demand coincide, leading to increasing water scarcity and stress and consequently encouraging a growing use of non-conventional waters, such as (treated) urban wastewater. Urban areas have special demands in regard to their water supplies, and particularly in arid lands, water scarcity is a reality that affects all areas of development. In sum, active improvement of knowledge transfer and capacities are required.

For this reason, UNW-DPC embarked at the end of 2011 on a multi-year project on the “Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture” together with UN-Water members and partners FAO, WHO, UNEP, UNU-INWEH, ICID and IWMI. A series of regional workshops will culminate in an international wrap-up workshop in mid-2013. More information can be found on the wastewater page in the UN-Water Activity Information System.

Other issues addressing water use in agriculture such as AquaCrop software training have been another major focus for UNW-DPC, as it teamed up with FAO in 2009 and 2010 to train nearly 150 trainers throughout Asia and Africa from diverse backgrounds, providing week-long training courses on how to use the software, followed up by a presentation of applications six months later. The participants who attended had each trained on average 10 others in the use of the software. The results of these workshops and case studies were published in January 2011.

Reducing drinking water losses has been an additional major line of activity for UNW-DPC since inception, with four regional training workshops together with UN-Habitat and other activities including a trilingual documentary on “Reducing Water Loss in Cities Around the World” and a publication on “Capacity Development for Drinking Water Loss Reduction: Challenges and Experiences,” both of which were launched at World Water Day  activities in Cape Town in March 2011.


Given the important role that women play and the challenges they face in water management, UN-Water, under the leadership of UNDESA, has taken a particular interest in gender issues, to which UNW-DPC has also leant a contribution.

UNW-DPC activities in this area have included an ‘Expert Meeting Group on Gender-disaggregated Data on Water and Sanitation’, jointly organised by UNW-DPC and UNDESA at an Expert Group Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in December 2008 in New York, which was followed up by a publication in UNW-DPC's ‘Knowledge’ series: Gender-disaggregated Data on Water and Sanitation.

>> More information about UNW-DPC’s activities in the area of gender and water

Transboundary Waters

The Task Force on Transboundary Waters has stated that “obtaining a clear and comprehensive picture of current activities is an essential first step for improving and promoting coordination between Task Force members” and has entrusted UNW-DPC with the task of preparing a mapping report and a website on the activities being carried out by UN-Water members and partners in the area of transboundary waters.

In addition to actively supporting the UN-Water Task Force on Transboundary Waters, UNW-DPC has carried out several additional activities on this topic, including an International Workshop on Institutional Capacity Development in Transboundary Waters; and an edition of its Capacity Pool newsletter on Sharing Waters, the theme of the 5th World Water Forum and World Water Day 2009. The International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013, also closely relates to this topic.

>> More information about UNW-DPC’s activities in the area of transboundary waters


UNW-DPC actively seeks to strengthen the ability of UN-Water members and partners to support Member States in achieving water and sanitation-related goals and commitments, including the MDGs. UNW-DPC is an active member of theTask Force on Sanitation and Drinking Water, including activities on the Sanitation Drive to 2015 and the Task Force on Wastewater. The “Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture” is currently UNW-DPC’s largest ongoing capacity development project with more than half a dozen UN-Water members and partners. World Water Day 2010 focused on addressing water quality and World Water Day 2011 dealt with urbanisation, which overlaps with both sanitation and water quality issues. At World Water Day 2010, 2011 and 2012, UNW-DPC co-organised a Stakeholder Dialogue together with the other UN-Water programmes, UNW-DPAC and WWAP, and other UN-Water members.

>> More information about UNW-DPC’s activities in the area of water quality and sanitation.

Climate Change

In acknowledgement of the fact that “climate change issues will continue to be at the forefront of UN-Water concerns for several years”, UN-Water transformed its Task Force on Climate Change to the more long-standing mechanism of a Thematic Priority Area in January 2010. A major activity for 2009–2010 was a mapping exercise of UN-Water members and partners on mandates and capacities related to water and climate issues, which was coordinated and led by UNW-DPC. A Task Force workshop was held on UNW-DPC’s premises in 2010 and publishable results included in the UN-Water Activity Information System (UNW-AIS).

Other UNW-DPC activities on this topic have included the training workshop on Climate and Water Affairs, held in Skopje in April 2009. The results of this and another train-the-trainers workshop have been brought together in a UNW-DPC publication on Curriculum Development for Water and Climate Change (Knowledge no. 5). In addition, UNW-DPC has dedicated one issue of its Capacity Pool newsletter to climate change.

>> More information on UNW-DPC’s activities in the area of climate change

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

Training water professionals and personnel on the framework of IWRM is a capacity building issue and can help in the enormous task of achieving the water and sanitation-related targets of the MDGs by 2015, especially when it comes to designing, constructing, managing and operating all of the water systems that will be required to meet these global challenges.

UNW-DPC has been involved in and organised numerous activities related to IWRM. In May 2008 it organised a ‘Learning Center on Virtual Learning Approaches to Capacity Development’, together with the UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) at the CSD16 in New York. It was also involved in a series of three week-long training programmes on IWRM for decision-makers from the Middle East and North Africa from October to December 2009. Furthermore, UNW-DPC produced a book together with UNESCO-IHE on ‘Capacity Development for Improved Water Management’ in March 2010 and was also involved as the co-organiser of a training workshop on conflict resolution in IWRM entitled ‘Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness in Water Security’ in Hanoi, April 2010. In addition, UNW-DPC is developing, jointly with UNITAR and UN-Habitat, an e-learning course on Urban Water Governance and Management in the Asia Pacific Region. The course emphasizes the concept of integrated approaches in urban water management.

Africa: a region for priority action

UNW-DPC has carried out numerous capacity development and training activities in Africa. All of its regionally-focused series of workshops since its in inception in 2007 have had one foot in Africa, including trainings for journalists (in Cairo, Egypt, in January 2009), trainings in the use of the AquaCrop software for agricultural efficiency in the use of water (in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in July 2009 and Bloemfontein, South Africa in March 2010), trainings for policymakers in the MENA region (three workshop between October and December 2009), UNW-DPC’s regional Drinking Water Loss Reduction workshops for water managers (in Rabat, Morocco, in January 2010), and collaboration in the first workshop for the scientific G-WADI network in Dakar, Senegal (April 2010). In addition, UNW-DPC has carried out UN-Water-wide activities in the form of a Capacity Development Seminar in Kampala, Uganda (March 2010) on the occasion of the 15th African Water Association Congress, and another session for Water Loss Reduction in Africa at the World Water Day 2011 in March in Cape Town. Activities have continued throughout 2012, with regional workshops for the "Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture" project taking place in both Morocco and South Africa.