UN Water Conference in New York Germany and the Netherlands launch joint initiative for water utilities in the growing cities of the Global South
With the Urban Water Catalyst Initiative, Germany is launching, with support from the Netherlands, the first global initiative to mobilise public and private investment for climate-resilient urban water utilities in the Global South. The aim is to provide city dwellers in the growing cities of the Global South with access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The initiative will therefore support municipal water supply and wastewater utilities in improving their infrastructure on their own and financing it on a permanent basis.
The initiative was launched at the second UN Water Conference (External link) currently underway in New York. Germany is providing start-up funding of 32 million euros for the initiative. The Netherlands intends to support the initiative with 10 million euros. The next step is to attract further donors and reform-minded water utilities in partner countries.
Development Minister Svenja Schulze said: “Clean drinking water from the tap at all times of the day and adequate sanitation facilities are not a matter of course for many people. Especially in the rapidly growing cities in the Global South, the problem is becoming worse and worse. The climate crisis is above all a water crisis – many of our partner countries are increasingly struggling with long-lasting droughts. However, if cities succeed in getting their unstable water supply under control, this will have enormous benefits for the health and prospects of their populations. With our new initiative, we are supporting urban water utilities in providing more people with clean water and sanitation.”
Director General for International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Kitty van der Heijden: “The world is not on track to achieve SDG 6. Billions of people worldwide still live without safely managed drinking water, safely managed sanitation and basic hygiene services; especially in rural areas and least developed countries. Cities in low- and lower-middle-income countries are seeing the highest urbanization rates and climate risks, but are substantially lagging behind in water and sanitation infrastructure development. The current rates of progress need to quadruple in order to reach the global target of universal access by 2030. To scale up and reach those who have no access to water and sanitation, we need to have strong and well-functioning water utilities worldwide. Utilities are the key to ensuring sustainable access to WASH services and enhancing resilience in cities as part of the urban transformation.’’
Water and sanitation utilities, especially in emerging and developing countries, are often underfunded, have decaying and inefficient infrastructure, and cannot afford necessary investments in a safer drinking water supply for all city dwellers. Increasing urbanization exacerbates the situation. The number of city dwellers who do not have a secure drinking water supply has almost doubled since 2000. In addition, there are the effects of climate change – one in four of the world's 500 major cities is threatened by acute water shortages.
The new Urban Water Catalyst Initiative builds on the wealth of experience of successful projects from countries such as Kenya, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Through operational reforms, urban utilities have been able to successfully mobilise new sources of financing for infrastructure improvements. The utility ”Dhaka Water“ in Bangladesh, for example, succeeded in increasing the drinking water access rate of the population from 80 per cent to almost 100 per cent, and reduced water losses by half. Partnerships are a central element of the initiative: interested, reform-minded water utilities in the Global South can draw on the experience and knowledge of such successfully managed water utilities to become more efficient themselves.
The aim of the project is to make water utilities fit so that they can make their investments on their own – through additional own revenues or loans from local banks, municipalities, or governments. If, for example, water pipes or sewage treatment plants can be modernised or poor neighbourhoods can be connected, the entire urban population will benefit from safe access to drinking water and sanitation.
Access to water and sanitation is the basis for a life in dignity, for health and for sustainable development. The UN Water Conference ”Water for Sustainable Development“ (External link) will take place from 22 to 24 March 2023 in New York, the first of its kind since 1977. The aim of the UN Water Conference is to significantly accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through ambitious voluntary commitments by UN member states. The international voluntary commitments are to be bundled in a ”Water Action Agenda“. In total, the Development Ministry is implementing water and sanitation projects in more than 50 countries worldwide. In the water sector, the BMZ supports its partner countries with more than 445 million euros per year and is one of the world's three largest bilateral donors in that sector.