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

Action on… Risk management

Throughout history, society has adapted to its environment and learned to survive, understand and coexist alongside the risk of natural disasters. Today’s climatic changes mean that we live in a world where these risks become aggravated. What’s more, a globalised economy brings with it the risk of socioeconomic disasters created by fluctuations in the global financial market. By developing solutions to manage increasing risk we can help protect the poor and vulnerable communities who bear the brunt of the effects of natural disasters. A responsive future requires new strategies and a better capacity to absorb change.

Water-related disasters, including both natural hazards such as floods and droughts, and human-influenced disasters such as chemical spills or dam failures appear to be ever more frequent. Rio+20 called for stronger coordination between disaster risk reduction and development planning and suggested mainstreaming climate change adaptation and resilience-building into broader strategies for sustainable development. The UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters in March 2013 highlighted the linkages between water and disasters. 2015 could be auspicious in marking the transition to the second phase of the Hyogo Framework for Action, making this an opportune time to harmonize the management of water and disasters at the highest level.

Rio+20 demanded coordination between disaster risk reduction and development planning and mainstreaming climate change adaptation into strategies for sustainable development.

In July 2014, the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted a global water goal related to water:

The intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted targets related to risks and water (July 2014):
11.5 by 2030 significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of affected people and decrease by y% the economic losses relative to GDP caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with the focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations;
6.a by 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water and sanitation related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies;
6.b support and strengthen the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management.
Source: Outcome document OWG (2014)

Some challenges have been generally identified for risk management in relation to water and sanitation. It would be important to approach the following:

  • Increase knowledge about communities at risk from water-related disasters, especially those likely to arise from climate change;
  • Adopt integrated disaster risk management, including structural and non-structural approaches, to reduce mortality and economic losses from water-related disasters
  • Adopt and implement monitoring and people-centred early warning systems for communities most at risk from water-related disasters;
  • Apply an end-to-end preparedness approach to water-related disaster management which sees the needs of user communities being met.

The implementation challenges with regards to risk management are mostly felt by the world’s poorest communities. These include improved financing, lack of access to financial resources, insufficient new technologies, lack of capacity and limited use of traditional knowledge, improved water governance with increased focus on water, ensuring involvement of all relevant national sectors in climate actions, lack of discussion of institutional barriers and how to overcome them hindering adaptation strategies, lack of capacity, skills, and time to access resources by local governments, untapped knowledge of women and incomplete, unreliable, inaccessible or lack of hydrological information.

Some implementation tools that would need to be discussed include:

  • Increased and improved financing - innovative funding targeting the most vulnerable groups and ecosystems to improve adaptive capacity;
  • Appropriate technologies for risk reduction - for instance, infrastructure (including natural infrastructure) can help cope with climate uncertainty;
  • On capacity development, public awareness and professional education on the inter-dependence of disasters with development, climate change, disaster risk and adaptation, are the foundations of a culture of risk reduction;
  • Improved water governance requires stakeholder participation and women’s involvement at all levels. At national level stronger institutions and planning are necessary for long-term resilience. The principles of Integrated Water Resources Management need to guide climate adaptation strategies. Managing uncertainty by adaptive planning is also needed. People working with water resources planning and management need to be aware that climate change will have consequences for their sector. Finally, the local level is crucial in climate adaptation, and institutional reforms need to be crafted accordingly (physical landscape, cultural traditions and regional knowledge).

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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
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>> Session Reports
>> Tool Papers
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>> Twitter Activity Report
>> Video recording of sessions
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