2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action. 15-17 January 2015

The role of actors involved


The Rio+20 outcome document reaffirms commitment to the right to education and in this regard, commits to strengthening international cooperation to achieve universal access to primary education, particularly for developing countries. It further reaffirms that full access to quality education at all levels is an essential condition for achieving sustainable development, poverty eradication, gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as human development, for the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals, as well as for the full participation of both women and men, in particular young people. In this regard, it stresses the need for ensuring equal access to education for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, local communities, ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas.

The United Nations University (UNU) contributes, through research and education, to efforts to resolve pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare.

Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO’s mission has been to contribute to the building of peace, poverty eradication, lasting development and intercultural dialogue, with education as one of its principal activities to achieve this aim. The Organization is committed to a holistic and humanistic vision of quality education worldwide, the realization of everyone’s right to education, and the belief that education plays a fundamental role in human, social and economic development.

According to UNESCO, these are the fundamental principles:
1) Education is a fundamental human right and inextricably linked to the realization of other rights;
2) Education is a public good. The State is the custodian of the principle of education as a public good. At the same time, the role of civil society, communities, parents and other stakeholders is crucial in the provision of quality education;
3) Education is a foundation for human fulfillment, peace, sustainable development, gender equality and responsible global citizenship;
4) Education is a key contributor to reducing inequalities and reducing poverty by bequeathing conditions and generating opportunities for better, sustainable lives.


The Rio+20 outcome document "The Future We Want" explicitly recognizes the important role of the private sector in moving towards sustainable development. It strongly encourages business and industry to show leadership in advancing a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

At the High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG Summit), the UN General Assembly stressed the critical role of the private sector for development and called on businesses everywhere to contribute to the MDGs: "The private sector plays a vital role in development in many countries, including through public-private partnerships and by generating employment and investment, developing new technologies and enabling sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. We call upon the private sector to further contribute to poverty eradication, including by adapting its business models to the needs and possibilities of the poor. Foreign direct investment and trade, as well as public-private partnerships, are important for the scaling-up of initiatives. In this connection we note the work of the United Nations Global Compact, in which companies have committed to corporate social responsibility and action in support of the Millennium Development Goals."

Launched by the UN Secretary-General in July 2007, the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate is a unique public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. The Mandate recognizes that the business sector, through the production of goods and services, impacts water resources – both directly and through supply chains.

Civil society

According to Agenda 21, Chapter 27, on “strengthening the role of non-governmental organizations: partners for sustainable development”, non-governmental organizations play a vital role in the shaping and implementation of participatory democracy. Their credibility lies in the responsible and constructive role they play in society. Formal and informal organizations, as well as grass-roots movements, should be recognized as partners in the implementation of Agenda 21.

The nature of the independent role played by non-governmental organizations within a society calls for real participation; therefore, independence is a major attribute of non-governmental organizations and is the precondition of real participation.

Along these lines, the Rio+20 outcome document underscores that broad public participation and access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings are essential to the promotion of sustainable development. Sustainable development requires the meaningful involvement and active participation of regional, national and sub-national legislatures and judiciaries, and all Major Groups: women (e.g. Women for Water Partnership), children and youth (e.g. International Youth Parliament), indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, and farmers, as well as other stakeholders, including local communities, volunteer groups and foundations, migrants, families as well as older persons and persons with disabilities. In this regard, it agrees to work more closely with Major Groups and other stakeholders and encourage their active participation, as appropriate, in processes that contribute to decision making, planning and implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable development at all levels.

Governments and local authorities

The Rio+20 outcome document reaffirms the key role on all levels of government and legislative bodies in promoting sustainable development. It further acknowledges efforts and progress made at the local and sub-national levels, and recognizes the important role that such authorities and communities can play in implementing sustainable development, including by engaging citizens and stakeholders, and providing them with relevant information, as appropriate, on the three dimensions of sustainable development. It further acknowledges the importance of involving all relevant decision makers into planning and implementation of sustainable development policies.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) works closely with governments and stakeholders to help countries around the world meet their economic, social and environmental goals. As the Secretariat entity responsible for the development pillar of the United Nations, UNDESA's work addresses a range of cross-cutting issues that affect peoples’ lives and livelihoods. From poverty reduction to governance to finance to the environment, DESA’s work is about human progress for all, especially the most vulnerable. It is fundamentally concerned, not only with global prosperity today, but also for tomorrow. Its vision for human progress goes beyond promoting global agreements and is exigently about action. Working closely with governments and other partners, UNDESA seeks concrete solutions. It is committed to addressing the world’s most pressing concerns and taking the necessary steps to help create a better world for all – a world that is inclusive, prosperous and sustainable.

The Rio+20 outcome document acknowledges the importance of the regional dimension of sustainable development. It encourages regional, national, sub-national and local authorities as appropriate to develop and utilize sustainable development strategies as key instruments for guiding decision-making and implementation of sustainable development at all levels, and in this regard it recognizes that integrated social, economic, and environmental data and information, as well as effective analysis and assessment of implementation, is important to decision-making processes.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aims to develop strategic alliances with European Regions and Local Authorities for decentralized cooperation - with and through the UN: mobilization of innovative resources. The aim is to facilitate the setting up of international, national and local structures for local governance and development and to broker UN partnerships that help to foster UN reform. The objectives of the partnership are to provide support to regional and local governments interested in establishing collaboration.


Sustainable water management is a sociopolitical issue – and the media can play an important role. They should convey information and knowledge, which could contribute to educating and sensitizing the general public. But they can also serve as watchdogs by bringing attention to problems and holding those responsible accountable for their actions.

Media have an important role in making the voices of people and civil society to be taken up to the level of governments. The role of media may be to raise the noise levels - shock and inspire people, educate people and inform government. Make politicians and water planners more exposed to ordinary people, those who face the daily challenges.

It is clear that the role of media and communicators as information multipliers is paramount to public advocacy and awareness-raising.

The UN-Water Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) supporting the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life 2005-2015’, aims at sustaining the global attention and political momentum in favour of the water and sanitation agenda at all levels. One of the Office main lines of work is media activities, mainly through media workshops and engaging media in reflecting on their role in water governance.

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About the Conference

>> Conveners and partners
>> Objectives and expected outcomes
>> Conference flyerPDF Document
>> AgendaPDF Document
>> StructurePDF Document
>> ParticipantsPDF Document


>> Accommodation
>> Travelling to Zaragoza
>> Your stay in Zaragoza
>> Map

The vision

>> Rio+20
>> Water and sustainable development
>> Global commitments on water
>> A post-2015 global goal for water
>> Water and the Open Working Group (OWG)
>> The role of actors involved

The action

>> Capacity development
>> Financing and economic instruments
>> Governance frameworks
>> Technology

Action on…

>> Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
>> Water Resources Management
>> Water Quality
>> Risk management

14 January: Pre-Conference Side events and Technical Visits

>> Technical visit: La Cartuja
>> Technical visit: The Ebro River Basin Authority and its Automatic System for Hydrologic Information (SAIH)
>> Technical visit: Expo + Water Park
>> New sources: Wastewater reuse
>> Local level actions in decentralized water solidarity towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
>> Water Footprint Assessment
>> Technological advances and Water Policy
>> Cultivando Agua Boa Programme
>> CODIA and water and energy in LAC
>> The fulfillment of the human right to water and sanitation

15 January: Setting the scene and the context

>> Achieving sustainable water for all in LAC
>> Achieving water security for Asia and the Pacific
>> Ensuring implementation of the water-related SDGs in Europe
>> Setting the scene

16 January: Whose action?

>> Academia
>> Business
>> Civil society
>> Governments and local authorities
>> Media and Communicators

17 January: Integrating knowledge and the way forward

>> Multi-stakeholder dialogue on tools for implementation


>> Cases
>> Conference daily
>> Conference Communications ReportPDF Document
>> Discussion forum
>> Information briefs on Water and Sustainable Development
>> Interviewing conference participants
>> Overview Papers
>> Presentations from participants
>> Session Reports
>> Tool Papers
>> Toolbox
>> Twitter Activity Report
>> Video recording of sessions
>> Video interviews with conference participants

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