Freshwater is a finite and precious resource essential for sustaining life, ensuring sustainable social welfare and economic prosperity, and ecosystem health. No strategy for the reduction of poverty can ignore people’s vital requirements for water. Hence, policies for sustainable development must address the need for equitable and sustainable management of water resources in the interests of society as a whole.
There is evidence of an emerging global water crisis that threatens lives, sustainable development and even peace and security. Population growth coupled with rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles and economic development has led to increasing pressure on water resources everywhere and especially in developing countries. Today over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, over 2.4 billion people do not have adequate sanitation, and 2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, namely preventable diseases.
EU member states are among the most important donors in the water – development sector and can draw on a wealth of experience in international development cooperation and water management.
At the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (WSSD), the EU launched a Water Initiative (EUWI) designed to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and WSSD targets for drinking water and sanitation, within the context of an integrated approach to water resources management. The EUWI is conceived as a catalyst and a foundation on which future action can be built to contribute to meeting the water and sanitation MDGs.
The EU is comitted to contribute to achieving the following international goals:
The EUWI uses a modular or building block approach. It puts together a cluster of building blocks that assist in bringing different stakeholder activities within a common framework. The EUWI aims to add value to ongoing activities within the EC and EU Member States to improve collaboration with partners in other regions. It seeks to provide an enabling environment for complementary actions within the thematic areas. A set of demonstration projects helps to provide examples of good practice. The EUWI is based on a participative multi-stakeholder approach. Various strategic partnerships in specific regions draw together government, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders. A number of working groups has been established. Working groups have either a regional/thematic focus (e.g. Water Supply and Sanitation in Africa) or they concentrate on cross-cutting issues (e.g. Research, Finance). An advisory board and a steering group ensure coherence of all EUWI activities.
The main focus of the Water Initiative will be to:reinforce political will and commitment to action,promote improved water governance, capacity-building and awareness, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water management through multi-stakeholder dialogue and coordination, strengthen coordination through promoting river basin approaches, and identify additional financial resources and mechanisms to ensure sustainable financing.The EUWI is an innovative attempt to focus increased attention on water-related issues, embracing a broad selection of stakeholder interests and concerns, for purposes of social and economic development and protection of the environment.
Its immediate actions are to:develop an overview of the situation of different regions and countries with an analysis of major gaps and accompanying organisational, knowledge and financial needs, prepare a co-ordinated action programme with a long term-financial strategy providing concrete benchmarks and building blocks until 2015, establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism to measure progress in implementation and to steer further action, and prepare a work programme for the following years, with specified targets and responsibilities.
New research or networking projects in support of the EU Water Initiative have started. The projects have been submitted in the last calls of FP6.
More information about these projects here