While facing numerous pressures and degradation, freshwater ecosystems play a central role for the health of economies and societies worldwide. Preserving and protecting the world’s freshwater is a key role of the members of the United Nations (UN), in particular through their environmental agency, UN Environment.
Covering a key period where it will be crucial to tackle the world’s freshwater issues to deal with threats such as increased pollution, urbanization, rising food and energy production, water-related disasters and displacement of people, this Freshwater Strategy provides actionable guidance for UN Environment to support countries’ implementation of sustainable freshwater management practices globally. It is built on several concepts and pillars. Firstly, freshwater is essential to the environment as a whole and underpins all areas in which UN Environment works, including to effective ecosystem-based management (EBM) and ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA). Thus the Freshwater Strategy helps UN Environment deliver on its mandate, programmes of work and medium-term strategies. Secondly, support for the achievement of numerous freshwater-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development falls under UN Environment’s mandate, with core targets specific to SDG 6 that include freshwater ecosystems, water quality and pollution, and integrated water resources management (IWRM). Achievement of these targets is essential for realizing the entirety of SDG 6 dedicated to water and sanitation, in addition to other SDGs closely linked to freshwater such as those on water-related disasters, conflict and climate change, food and energy security and terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and peaceful and inclusive societies, among many others.
More specifically, the strategy describes UN Environment’s planned levels of engagement, which include providing global leadership, contributing to topics of immediate and pressing concern, and actively following other closely related processes. In practical terms, the strategy will be operationalized through a combination of ongoing and new initiatives in support of Member States. A range of key work areas are defined with example activities including direct provision of expertise, development and dissemination of tools and techniques, and a range of awareness raising and knowledge sharing efforts. Many activities will be carried out through existing and new partnerships drawn from the United Nations system, and other expert organizations including national government institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.
The duration of this Freshwater Strategy, 2017-2021, covers a crucial time for kickstarting this implementation1. The Freshwater Strategy is supported by UN Environment’s comparative advantage as a trusted, impartial convening organization, and for its role in knowledge and science-based environmental management and policy. UN Environment’s approach to strategic partnering internally and externally contributes to the structure of this strategy.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Inter-Divisional Water Group