event 13 Feb 2018

HLPF Policy Brief #9 // Water-Energy-Food Nexus for the Review SDG 7

This document is a part of a series of policy briefs being developed to support SDG7 review at the UN High Level Political Forum to be held in July 2018. The objective is to inform intergovernmental discussions by providing substantive inputs on SDG7 and its interlinkages with other SDGs prepared through inclusive multi-stakeholder consultation processes. The development of these Policy Briefs is coordinated under the auspices of the Ad Hoc Informal Multi-Stakeholder Technical Group of Advisors on SDG 7.

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Key Messages

Status and progress towards achieving the SDGs

  • If we continue with business as usual, it will be impossible to meet the simultaneous huge increases in water, energy and food needs in the next decades. The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus builds on the close linkages between these sectors to manage tradeoffs and synergies in order to address this challenge;
  • The importance of water, energy and food in sustainable development is evidenced by the fact that they have their specific SDGs. However these sectors also significantly contribute to several others, and to the implementation of the Paris Agreement;
  • The WEF Nexus approach is increasingly used at project level and supported by some governments, civil society, international development partners, the private sector and research. Progress has been much slower in mainstreaming the Nexus approach in policy making, institutional set ups and planning;
  • The implementation of the WEF Nexus approach faces several challenges which often vary depending on country situations of geographical coverage (e.g. transboundary river basin), and gender. However, governance issues are very common, including lack of policy coherence, institutional coordination and information, as well as stakeholder power differences and politics at different levels;
  • Despite a strong gender dimension in the WEF sectors, gender aspects are often overlooked in the use of the WEF Nexus approach;
  • At the same time there exist several opportunities to support the adoption of the WEF Nexus approach, including the use of well-proven WEF Nexus technologies, Nexus tools and practices, operators’ interest when it reduces costs and risks and financial support in that respect; opportunities for stakeholder dialogues and public awareness, and increased WEF Nexus investments; Given the challenges in mainstreaming the use of the WEF Nexus in policies and programmes, actions to that end should adopt a stepwise process through practical approaches might be better than striving for the ‘ideal’.

Priority actions over the next four years

  • Document, advertise and further support practical cases where the use of the WEF Nexus approach has led to successful outcomes;
  • Fill knowledge gaps, in particular through support to knowledge platforms and the improvement of data collection relevant to the WEF sectors;
  • Strengthen gender perspectives and financial support to SMEs that embrace the WEF Nexus approach;
  • Keep fostering multi-stakeholder stakeholder dialogue at all levels and with a wide variety of partners, including the private sector; and
  • Prioritise capacity development of decentralised levels as basis for WEF Nexus based decision making on actions related to the WEF sectors.

Priority actions towards 2030

  • Strengthen participatory approaches and address power differences, in particular regarding the implementation of WEF–related interventions at local level;
  • Strengthen capacity of national decision makers relevant to the WEF sectors, building in as much as possible on but not necessarily limited to existing structures and mechanisms; and
  • Promote horizontal and vertical coordination.


13 February 2018


UN Sustainable Development website


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with: OPEC Fund for International Development, IRENA, IEA, UNECE, The European Commission, BMZ, UN Environment, ENERGIA and UNESCWA.

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