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The BMZ’s new Water Strategy

In July 2017, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) published its new Water Strategy. It contributes to the realisation of the UN 2030 Agenda and to the Paris Agreement.

Key to the achievement of sustainable development and climate goals

In July 2017, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) published its new Water Strategy. It contributes to the realisation of the UN 2030 Agenda and to the Paris Agreement. At the same time, the strategy generates a fresh momentum in the water sector: With this strategy German development cooperation pledges to increase its commitment to achieve greater water security by one-third. This is a significant step towards implementing the human rights to safe water and sustainable sanitation for all by 2030, to which the UN is committed under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 of its global development agenda.

The BMZ’s Water Strategy supports the partner countries in the following four areas:

  1. create access to sanitation and drinking water and ensure hygiene;
  2. promote water resource security;
  3. contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  4. utilise water as a resource for peace and to tackle the causes of displacement.

In view of the responsibility shared by all stakeholders for economically sustainable, integrated and climate-friendly development, it is becoming increasingly important in development cooperation to take account of the correlations between the individual sectors. There are, for instance, several interlinkages between water, energy and agriculture. Six additional strategies for interlinkages establish the necessary connections with other sectors, where water issues are concerned.

As an important part of the BMZ’s new Water Strategy, they offer a concrete and binding frame of reference.

BMZ Water Strategy | A key contribution to implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement read it now (PDF 288 KB)

BMZ Strategy for interlinkages between water, the environment and agriculture (Nexus perspective) read it now (PDF 104 KB)

BMZ Strategy for interlinkages between water, the environment and climate change read it now (PDF 112 KB)

The theme of water in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The water sector is increasingly becoming the focus of international attention. This is also evident in the UN 2030 Agenda, which was adopted in 2015. It defines the availability of water and sanitation for all as an SDG in its own right (SDG 6). For the first time, all aspects of the water cycle have been combined into one development goal. Several of the other 16 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda, e.g. health, nutrition and environment, include  references to water.

The targets of SDG 6 specify what is to be achieved by 2030. In addition to safe drinking water and sanitation for all, improved wastewater treatment and better surface and groundwater quality, better water management and more effective handling of water scarcity are on the agenda. All this is meant to ensure that there is adequate water for people, industry and the environment, which is crucial, for instance, for energy generation (SDG 7) and food production (SDG 2).

An initial overview of the progress made in implementing SDG 6 is provided by the Synthesis Report of the "World Water Assessment Programme" led by UNESCO. It was proposed and funded by BMZ and will form the basis for discussions at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to be held in July 2018. An advance briefing (PDF 1.5 MB) of the Synthesis Report has already been published.

Realising the human rights to water and sanitation

Clean drinking water and sanitation are human rights. The two are indispensable for sustainable development and poverty reduction, as emphasised unequivocally by the UN. We cannot remain healthy without safe drinking water; we need it to prepare our food and to maintain our personal hygiene. The use of adequate toilets is also of central importance for maintaining privacy and human dignity.

Realising the human right to water and sanitation is an explicit goal of the new BMZ Water Strategy. Under its "Sanitation for Millions" initiative, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) seeks to reach four million people and to develop water and sanitation facilities in at least 1,000 schools and 500 health care centres. Poor and marginalised population groups as well as people with disabilities will be the primary beneficiaries of this initiative.

In ensuring access to clean drinking water and sanitation, human rights standards are binding for German development cooperation. Sanitation and drinking water facilities for personal and domestic use must be sufficient for all and must be hygienic and safe. The facilities must be located at an appropriate distance and should be safe to access, must be affordable, and should be socially and culturally acceptable. A guideline helps in reviewing all projects implemented under German development cooperation for any risks posed to human rights.

Taking a holistic view of water, energy and food provision

The areas of water, energy and food security are closely intertwined. For example, water is vital for food production. Agriculture accounts for around 70 per cent of global water consumption. Energy production also depends on water, examples being electricity generated by dams and the cooling of power plants. At the same time, providing people with water is highly energy-intensive. Worldwide, the cost of electricity accounts for 5–30 per cent of the total costs incurred by water supply and wastewater disposal companies.

A holistic approach (Nexus approach) to the water, energy and agriculture sectors is essential because measures undertaken in one sector almost always have an impact on the other two sectors as well. The Nexus approach ensures that synergy effects are taken into account as are the conflicting objectives that the measures can give rise to.

German Development Cooperation supports regional dialogues in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East with the goal of strengthening the Nexus approach. Dialogue participants include a range of stakeholders, including national and regional policy-makers, universities and civil society. The aim is to disseminate the Nexus approach and to develop specific measures at national and regional level. The Global Nexus Secretariat, led by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, promotes information-sharing, supports national and international cooperation between sectors, and designs the website of the Nexus Platform.

Minimising climate-induced water risks

Even under changing climatic conditions, all people should always benefit from efficient water supply and sanitation facilities. This is one of the key concerns of German development cooperation. A prerequisite is the sustainable management of water as a resource. The BMZ’s new Water Strategy therefore makes a significant contribution to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Targeted activities in the water sector reduce climate-induced risks for the water sector because water resources are efficiently and appropriately managed. Special attention is paid to the challenges and opportunities that arise as a result of the interaction between the areas water, the environment and climate change.

In the water sector, German development cooperation supports projects worth an average of 400–450 million euros each year. This makes the Federal Republic of Germany one of the major bilateral donors in this sector, and in Africa indeed the largest. In 2016, more than a third of the bilateral BMZ financing for climate change adaptation was spent on activities in the water sector.

The Paris Agreement helped in further strengthening the coordination of climate activities at country level. This is why it is fundamentally important for climate projects to be integrated into national climate and development strategies. In several developing countries, water plays a key role in achieving the national climate goals: for instance, water is prioritised more often than any other sector in the adaptation sections of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).