Water for people
The right to water is a human right; this has been emphasised by the German government in its seventh report on its human rights policy in the context of foreign relations, as well as in other policy areas. Germany therefore helps its partner countries to implement this right and promotes a wide range of measures in all areas of water management.
Reform of the water sector
Water crises are not simply a stroke of fate: they are almost always precipitated by human activity. They are frequently the result of an unequal distribution of power and of political mismanagement.
The poor, in particular, are often unable to assert their right to water. Corruption and cumbersome bureaucracy also hinder people's access to adequate water supplies. Because there is no comprehensive legislation on water, water users and providers often lack legal security.
In addition, technical systems in many countries are outdated and inefficient. Modernisation strategies are lacking, as are investment plans and the money to implement them.
If water resource management is to be improved, therefore, the water sector must be reformed and good governance stepped up. Germany supports its partner countries in bringing about these changes.
Drinking water and sanitation
Polluted water makes people ill. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), more than 2.6 billion people – over 40 per cent of the world's population – have no access to suitable sanitation facilities and therefore endure degrading living conditions.
When people are ill they cannot work and have no opportunity to escape poverty. In the developing countries five billion working days and more than 400 million school days are lost each year as a result of waterborne diseases. Inadequate water and sanitation causes sub-Saharan Africa to lose five per cent of its gross domestic product annually – more than the region receives in development aid.
Water scarcity also stands in the way of education and gender equality. Millions of women and girls spend many hours each day fetching water from distant water points or rivers. Because of this they have less time to attend school or engage in income-generating activities.
Germany supports water and sewage utilities in its partner countries. Through funding and organisational and management advice these utilities are helped to become more customer-oriented and efficient.
In supporting municipal water and sewage services the focus is frequently on overhauling the existing pipe network and training specialist staff. In rural areas the priority is setting up decentralised supply and disposal systems.
Sewage treatment systems can harness the nutrients contained in household sewage to be used in agriculture and can reduce environmental pollution. Germany therefore supports ecological sanitation (ecosan) strategies which aim to purify water and collect nutrients so that they can be returned to the environment.
Standard elements of all programmes in this field are hygiene and awareness-raising measures and user involvement in project planning and implementation.
German Development Cooperation in the Sanitation Sector
Special 157 new window, PDF 414 KB, accessible 02/2009 | pdf | 414 KB | 31 P. | accessible
Human rights in practice: Fact sheets on a human rights-based approach in development cooperation
BMZ Information Brochure new window, PDF 1.4 MB, accessible 11/2010 | pdf | 1.4 MB | 28 P. | accessible