International water policy

Students at a drinking fountain

Germany is committed to upholding the human rights to water and sanitation as recognised by the UN and is helping its partner countries to realise these rights. It is a matter of mobilising the political will to secure these human rights and making the necessary financial resources available. The basis for all of the activities supported through German development cooperation in the water sector is the BMZ's 2016 strategy for the water sector.

Integrated water resource management

German development cooperation in this sector is based on the principle of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). Essentially, IWRM aims to ensure a fair balance of interests between the various water users. The standpoints of all the different user groups within a water catchment area are taken into account when developing strategies for managing water and land resources. This can be rather challenging in the context of transboundary water catchment areas; however, taking a joint approach also offers opportunities for cooperation, and can contribute to regional stability and development.

The German government takes this as the starting point for helping its partner countries to develop pro-poor water policies and legislation, and carry out reforms regarding water and sanitation and water resource management. In addition to establishing the IWRM principles, core aspects include strengthening administration, operation and management structures, and developing independent monitoring bodies and regulatory authorities.

Nexus approach

A second important principle for coordinated action is the nexus approach. This approach was first put onto the international agenda at the Bonn 2011 Nexus Conference, which was hosted by the German government. The nexus approach takes into account the interdependencies of closely linked sectors. The core idea is that, given the scarcity of resources and the shortage of supplies, managing water, energy and land and securing basic services are tasks that need to be planned and carried out collectively by the sectors involved.

A collective approach to managing resources and ensuring services – i.e. the nexus approach to water, energy and food security – can increase efficiency, create synergies and help negotiate fair compromises where supplies are short. In keeping with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, security of supply in one sector must not be achieved at the expense of other sectors.

Germany is already applying the nexus approach in many of its development cooperation projects. In addition, it cooperates with its partner countries, other donors and international organisations, fostering the exchange of information along with research and publications on this topic.

Water in the 2030 Agenda

The international community has demonstrated how important water is by making water an ambitious stand-alone goal in the 2030 Agenda. Goal 6 says: "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030."

If this goal is to be achieved, however, the engagement in the water sector will have to be increased. This does not just mean making investments and developing sustainable strategies for financing infrastructure and services in developing countries. This means it is also important to significantly strengthen the capacities of institutions in these countries and improve policy coherence.

At the international level, Germany is a strong advocate of effective political governance, monitoring and accountability in the implementation of the global water agenda.

International initiatives

With regard to development cooperation in the water sector, Germany has contacts and exchanges with a vast range of international players, for instance with United Nations organisations, the Global Water Partnership and the Water Integrity Network, which addresses corruption in the water sector.

The German government actively voices its positions in international processes, initiating changes and contributing to shaping international water policy. It does this, for instance, in the context of the G7/G8, the G20 or the United Nations Human Rights Council.

An example of Germany's successful advocacy work at the international level is the growing recognition that sanitation is equally as important as water supply. Germany has been pushing this position for many years in various forums.

More information

BMZ glossary

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