Last updated: 22 Feb 2024

Water is under extreme threat from a growing population, increasing demands of agriculture and industry, and the worsening impacts of climate change. As we balance our demands on water resources, we need to understand that water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. In Geneva, water is discussed in various fora (human rights, humanitarian, health, meteorology, disaster prevention, nature conservation, economy, peace, pollution, etc.) and numerous organizations (UN, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, business organizations, academic) focus on water issues, making this region a strategic hub for global water governance.

Importance of Water and Its Cycle

Water is complex because it is linked to almost everything in the world. But complexity should not hinder understanding: water is a precondition for human existence and for the sustainability of the planet.

Diagram of the water cycle

Water cycle Diagram | Adapted from: The Water Module – Student Resource, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford 2018 | Authors: Saskia Nowicki, Nancy Gladstone, Jacob Katuva, Heloise Greeff, Achut Manandhar, Geofrey Wekesa and Geofrey Mwania

  • The global water cycle interconnects communities and countries beyond borders. Precipitations depend on an array of factors, among which moisture recycling, which is received by countries through the atmosphere, making the collective water and ecosystems management of all a concause of a nation’s water cycle.
  • Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.
  • Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment. The current impact of global warming on the water cycle amounts to an increase of about 7% of moisture for each 1°C of global mean temperature rise. Without proper water governance, there is likely to be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors.
  • The physical world of water is closely bound up with the socio-political world, with water often a key factor in managing risks such as famine, epidemics, inequalities and political instability.
  • According to the United Nations, one in three people live without safe drinking water. According to the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, one child under five dies every 80 seconds from diseases caused by polluted water. By 2050, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year. Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year and if we limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we could cut climate-induced water stress by up to 50%.
  • Extreme weather has caused more than 90% of major disasters over the last decade and by 2040, global energy demand is projected to increase by over 25%, and water demand is expected to increase by more than 50%. The Global Commission on the Economics of Water predicts a 40% shortfall in freshwater supply by 2030.

Humanity faces a three-headed global water crisis.

We are failing to meet human water demands while misusing and polluting water, causing harm to billions of people. Global environmental change is causing rising frequency and severity of extreme episodes of too much or too little water, such as droughts, floods, storms and wildfires. Human actions are now such a large force of change on Earth that the hydrological cycle itself is changing and interacting with climate and ecological change, which threatens the source of all freshwater—precipitation.

— Global Commission on the Economics of Water,  Turning the Tide. A call to Collective Action (March 2023)

UN 2023 Water Conference

The first United Nations conference on water since 1977 — formally referred to as the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the 2018-2028 International Decade for Action —  was held at the United Nations HQ from 22 to 24 March 2023. The UN 2023 Water Conference, convened by the UN General Assembly and co-hosted by the Governments of Tajikistan and the Netherlands featured an opening and closing ceremony, six plenary meetings and five multi-stakeholder interactive dialogues, as well as a number of high-level special events and side events organized by Member States, the UN system and other stakeholders.

The outcome of the Conference are reflected in a summary of the Conference proceedings and new commitments, pledges and actions by Governments and all stakeholders towards achieving SDG 6 and other water-related goals and targets, compiled in the Water Action Agenda. The parameters of the outcomes of the UN 2023 Water Conference are described in UN General Assembly resolution 75/212.

The UN 2023 Water Conference and the Water Action Agenda will unite the world for water. The key building blocks of the Water Action Agenda are:

  • commitment to action make a commitment
  • sustained and scalable implementation
  • follow-up and review processes

The event brought together over 6,500 participants. By the close of the meeting, the Water Action Agenda had received approximately 700 commitments in the form of financial pledges, collaborative projects, and actions to protect the world’s most precious and irreplaceable resource.  Read the coverage by the IISD Earth Negotiation Bulletin

  • In an unprecedented political push for cross-border water cooperation, Ministers from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East have declared at the UN Water Conference their country’s resolve to join the Water Convention.
  • 2023 United Nations World Water Development Report on Partnerships and Cooperation was launched on 22 March 2023. The report assesses the nature and role of partnerships and cooperation among stakeholders in water resources management and development and their role in accelerating progress towards water goals and targets.

UN 2026 Water Conference

On 1 September 2023, the UNGA adopted resolution 77/334 in which it decided to convene the UN Water Conference in 2026 and the UN Conference on the Final Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028 in 2028.

The UNGA also invited the UNSG to report on actions, best practices, lessons learned and challenges on progress on the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development” for consideration at the UNGA 81st session. Finally, it requested the UN Secretary-General to present a UN system-wide water and sanitation strategy in consultation with Member States before the end of the 78th session of the UNGA (before September 2024), to enhance coordination and delivery of water priorities across the United Nations system.

The resolution highlights the interdependence of water, ecosystems, and energy, and will contribute to making sustainable water management a reality.

Human Rights to Water and Sanitation

Water and sanitation are recognized by the United Nations as human rights, reflecting the fundamental nature of these basics in every person’s life. Water access, lack and related activities are found to have an important gender dimension, with women and girls collectively  spending 200 million hours collecting water, which affects their education and working lives as well as their health and safety.

On 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historical resolution recognizing “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” (A/RES/64/292). In 2015, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have recognized both the right to safe drinking water and the right to sanitation as closely related but distinct human rights.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation was initially established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2008 as the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate on water and sanitation in March 2011, and changed its title to Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The Special Rapporteur carries out thematic research, undertakes country missions, collects good practices, and works with development practitioners on the implementation of the rights to water and sanitation. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo is the current mandate holder.

Valuing Water

Economic development and a growing global population means agriculture and industry are getting thirstier and water-intensive energy generation is rising to meet demand. Climate change is making water more erratic and contributing to pollution.

As societies balance the demands on water resources, many people’s interests are not being taken into account. How we value water determines how water is managed and shared. The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment.

If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource. The 2021 World Water Development Report on “Valuing Water” by UNESCO assesses the current status of, and challenges to, the valuation of water across different sectors and perspectives, and identifies ways in which valuation can be promoted as a tool to help achieve sustainability.

  • Valuing Water Sources – Natural Water Resources and Ecosystems
    All water is generated by ecosystems. All the water we abstract for human use eventually returns to the environment, along with any contaminants we have added. The water cycle is our most important ‘ecosystem service’. Higher value must be given to protecting the environment to ensure a good quality water supply and build resilience to shocks such as flood and drought.
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  • Valuing Water Infrastructure – Storage, Treatment and Supply
    Water infrastructure stores and moves water to where it is most needed, and helps clean and return it to nature after human use. Where this infrastructure is inadequate, socio-economic development is undermined and ecosystems endangered. Typical valuations of water infrastructure tend to underestimate or not include costs, particularly social and environmental costs. It is difficult to recover all costs from tariffs (known as full cost recovery). In many countries, only part or all of the operational costs are recovered, and capital investments are covered by public funds. Water distribution is highly unequal and up to 40% of it can be lost in cities because of inefficient pipelines.
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  • Valuing Water Services – Drinking Water, Sanitation and Health Services
    The role of water in households, schools, workplaces and health care facilities is critical. Furthermore, WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene – services also adds value in the form of greater health, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. WASH services are often subsidized, even in high-income countries. However, untargeted subsidies can benefit people with existing water connections, rather than improving the situation for poor and underserved communities. Estimates indicate that inaction will result in  half of the global urban population (2.4 billion people) will face water scarcity by 2050 (up to half of global urban population).
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  • Valuing Water as an Input to Production and Socio-Economic Activity – Food and Agriculture, Energy and Industry, Business and Employment
    Agriculture places the biggest demand on global freshwater resources and is a major contributor to environmental degradation, with 80% of world consumed water. Despite being fundamental to food security, water in food production is generally given a low value when assessed purely through the economic lens of value produced in relation to water used. Many of the wider benefits – improving nutrition, generating income, adapting to climate change and reducing migration – are often not reflected in the cost of water. For the energy, industry and business (EIB) sector, water-related threats such as water scarcity, flooding and climate change can push up costs and disrupt supply chains. Corporate mismanagement of water can damage ecosystems and harm reputations and affect sales.
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    Traditionally, the EIB sector has valued water by the volume used, plus the costs of wastewater treatment and disposal. More organizations are adopting integrated water resource management (IWRM) planning approaches as they improve their sustainability. As of today, in some countries up to 6% of GDP will be by 2050 due to water scarcity, becoming a major cause of  migration and conflict.
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    As water scarcity is globally rampant, water should not be wasted and rather recycled. The industry sector uses up to 20% of global water withdrawals and recycles less than 20% of it.
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  • Valuing Socio-Cultural Aspects of Water – Recreational, Cultural and Spiritual Attributes
    Water can connect us with notions of creation, religion and community. And water in natural spaces can help us feel at peace. Water is an intrinsic part of every culture but the values we attribute to these functions are difficult to quantify or articulate. Economics often considers water to be a resource for practical human usage and pays little or no attention to its socio-cultural, or environmental, value. There is a need to fully understand cultural values around water by involving a more diverse group of stakeholders in water resources management.

SDG 6 on Water and Sanitation

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) on water and sanitation, adopted by United Nations Member States at the 2015 UN Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, seeks to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation for all, focusing on the sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems, and acknowledging the importance of an enabling environment. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries have committed to engage in systematic follow-up and review of progress towards the Goals and targets, using a set of global indicators.

Today, 1.42 billion people live in water vulnerable areas and globally 1 in 2 schools lacks accesss to water and sanitation. At the current rates of progress, 1.6 billion people will lack safely managed drinking water, 2.8 billion people will lack safely managed sanitation, and 1.9 billion people will lack basic hand hygiene facilities in 2030. Climate change is exacerbating the situation, with increasing disasters such as floods and droughts. 80% of wastewater in the world flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, and over 85% of natural wetland area is already lost and 75% of the land surface significantly altered, reducing the ability of earth’s ecosystems to support sustainable water. 

As a direct response to the Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development called for by Heads of State and Government at the SDG Summit in 2019, the UN system launched the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework in July 2020, to step up progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and put the world on track to realize their targets by 2030. We call upon all stakeholders to galvanize actions around the framework in order to accelerate achievement of the water-related goals and targets and overcome the global crisis.

Tracking the Progress of SDG 6

As per the UN Water SDG Portal, there are 11 global indicators to track progress towards SDG 6. The global estimates are based on country data, compiled and verified by the United Nations agencies responsible, sometimes complemented by data from other sources. For some indicators, there are not enough country data available to make a global estimates.

Globals Status | September 2021
Source: UN Water | Accessed 17 September 2021

Our progress on water related goals and targets remains off track.

Water and Climate Change

Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change. Water availability is becoming less predictable in many places, and increased incidences of flooding threaten to destroy water points and sanitation facilities and contaminate water sources.

In some regions, droughts are exacerbating water scarcity and thereby negatively impacting people’s health and productivity. Ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable water and sanitation services is a critical climate change mitigation strategy for the years ahead.

Higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable, weather conditions are projected to affect availability and distribution of rainfall, snowmelt, river flows and groundwater, and further deteriorate water quality. Low-income communities, who are already the most vulnerable to any threats to water supply are likely to be worst affected. In addition, as more floods and severe droughts are predicted, changes in water availability will also impact health and food security and have already proven to trigger refugee dynamics and political instability. The impact of flood has become particularly dire in the last years, with estimates of US$650 billion lost from 2000–2019, impacting 1.65 billion people and killing over 100,000. Over the same period, droughts affected another 1.43 billion people, with recorded estimated losses of nearly US$130 billion.

Water plays a pivotal role in how the world mitigates and adapts to the effects of climate change. An integrated view on water, the biosphere and environmental flows is required to devise sustainable agricultural and economic systems that will allow us to decelerate climate change, protect us from extremes and to adapt to the unavoidable at the same time.

Water and Ecosystems

Freshwater, in sufficient quantity and quality, is essential for all aspects of life and fundamental to sustainable development. Water-related ecosystems – including lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater – supply water and food to billions of people, provide unique habitats for many plants and animals and protect us from droughts and floods. Water-related ecosystems possess enormous biological, social, educational and economic values. They sustain the global hydrological cycle, carbon cycle and nutrient cycles. They provide natural purified freshwater, regulate flows and extreme conditions. The goods and services derived from these ecosystems span the breadth of the sustainable development spectrum and underpin sector-wide activities including water for drinking, agriculture, employment, energy generation, navigation, recreation and tourism. Protecting or restoring water-related ecosystems, such as wetlands, coastal mangrove forests and natural flood plains in watercourses is an important nature-based mitigation approach, as these ecosystems act as carbon sinks absorbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Well-functioning water-related ecosystems and the proper management of water resources has a role in achieving all 17 of the SDGs. However, a significant challenge to effectively protect and restore water-related ecosystems is that the management of these systems often is focused on water provision entirely for human and productive uses, with insufficient consideration taken to ensure the integrity of ecological functions and the biodiversity of species therein. A consequence has been the sacrifice of freshwater life, which can ultimately also lead to the destruction of the ecosystems required to support these same objectives. Nowhere is the biodiversity crisis more acute than in freshwater ecosystems (Albert et al, 2020). Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests. An estimated 87% of all wetlands were lost globally in the last 300 years, and more than 50% since 1900 (Gardner et al, 2018).

Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer

With the Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer, UNEP is partnering with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and Google to provide free and open data on the environment in a way that is policy-friendly, so that citizens and governments can easily assess what is actually happening to the world’s natural resources. This partnership is founded on the belief that data is the foundation for our understanding of the environment. Data provides a basis for assessing change across time, for analyzing the environmental challenges facing a particular area, and for determining the need for local, national and global action on the environment.

Water, Food and Energy

The water-food-energy nexus is central to sustainable development. Demand for all three is increasing, driven by a rising global population, rapid urbanization, changing diets and economic growth. Agriculture is the largest consumer of the world’s freshwater resources, and more than one-quarter of the energy used globally is expended on food production and supply.

The inextricable linkages between these critical domains require a suitably integrated approach to ensuring water and food security, and sustainable agriculture and energy production worldwide.

As water resources become more stretched, the energy and food sectors’ dependence on water, and the fact that all three underpin several of the Sustainable Development Goals, means that decision-makers in all three domains are now increasingly focusing on water resource management, ecosystem protection and water supply and sanitation as part of their policy and practice.

Fossil fuel production, still a dominant and growing part of the global energy mix, is highly water intensive, as is biofuel production and the growing practice of shale gas extraction – or ‘fracking’. There will need to be much more support for the development of less water-intensive renewable energy, such as hydropower and wind, before it makes a significant impact on water demand. For instance, geothermal energy has great potential as a long-term, climate independent resource that produces little or no greenhouse gases and does not consume water.

Agriculture looks set to remain the biggest user of water into the middle of this century. While the shift to biofuels is generally welcomed, their production could demand as much water as fossil fuels. In terms of food, the volume of demand is growing with population expansion, and we are seeing a significant global move away from a mainly starch-based diet to an increasing demand for more water-intensive meat and dairy as incomes grow in many countries.

Efficiency measures along the entire agri-food chain can help save water and energy, such as precision irrigation based on information supplied by water providers, which can motivate farmers to invest in their systems to ensure the best returns from their water investment. Globally, there is sufficient water to produce food for everyone, but food and nutritional insecurity remains widespread. Furthermore, where people have limited or no access to safe water or sanitation, the prevalence of diarrheal diseases is a major factor in high child mortality rates, malnourishment and loss of productivity.

In water scarce regions, there needs to be robust strategies to protect water availability to maintain agricultural production and avoid food price volatility. Advances in genetics and technologies that allow the sustainable intensification of crops, livestock and fish production can help meet demand as efficiently as possible.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

The core activity of WASH emphasizes the teaching of basic sanitation and hygiene to communities and school children with a particular focus on girls’ education and gender equality, as a necessary complement to the success of water and sanitation infrastructure projects.

This integrated approach to the delivery of basic services is the product of “lessons learned” from the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990). While advancements were made in increasing the access to safe drinking water, less progress was made on the provision of sanitation services and in hygiene education and training. These valuable lessons are now the focus of a global effort to improve the health and productivity of the urban and rural poor in the developing world.

The UNICEF office in Geneva operates as the Cluster Lead Agency for the Global WASH Cluster (GWC), the formal coordinating platform for humanitarian WASH actors in all parts of the sector. UN agencies in Geneva active in the cluster include the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Many Geneva-based organizations in the humanitarian sector are actively engaging in WASH, including among others Care International, Helvetas, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins sans Frontières. The International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection provides an overview of key references and actors in WASH.

Since 2020, UNICEF and WHO have been conducting studies on the progress in global and national efforts and progress to improve water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH), cleaning and health care waste management in health care facilities. A report on the progress of the fundamentals release in June 2023 highlighted that an estimated 8 million people die annually in 137 low- and middle-income countries from poor-quality health care, resulting in US$6 trillion in economic losses from poor health and premature mortality.

Hand Hygiene and COVID-19

Hand hygiene saves lives. To contain the spread of COVID-19 and many other infectious diseases, it is critically important to clean your hands regularly with water and soap or alcohol-based hand rub.

On this World Water Day, and any other day, remember to wash your hands regularly with water and soap or with an alcohol-based hand gel.

Infographic: World Health Organization (WHO)

Water and Plastics

Bottled Water | Using plastic bottles or bags to preserve water is a common practice in both developing and developed countries. The sales global industry of bottled water are currently estimated at almost 270 billion US$ and 350 billion litres. As in the Global North bottled water is often perceived as a superior quality product, but drivers of consumption in the Global South are linked to a lack of drinking water alternatives. A recent study found the contamination of hundreds of bottled water brands, opposing the conception that plastics preserve the safety of the water.

Water Pollution and Plastics | Plastic is a major source of pollution in waterways. From rivers to the ocean, plastics affect the quality of water through the release of toxic components and by disrupting ecosystems. Plastic pollution is visible throughout the various phases water cycle as microplastics have been found in fresh snow and transported by rain.

World Water Day

World Water Day is celebrated each year on 22 March. It aims to raise awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

World Water 2024 is celebrated under the theme ‘Water for peace’. Water can create peace or spark conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries. More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water. As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, there is an urgent need, within and between countries, to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource. Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle.

WWD 2024 stresses how when we cooperate on water, we create a positive ripple effect – fostering harmony, generating prosperity and building resilience to shared challenges. We must act upon the realization that water is not only a resource to be used and competed over – it is a human right, intrinsic to every aspect of life. This World Water Day, we all need to unite around water and use water for peace, laying the foundations of a more stable and prosperous tomorrow.

World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day is a day to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. Today, 3.6 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet. Life without a toilet is dirty, dangerous and undignified. Public health depends on toilets. Toilets also drive improvements in gender equality, education, economics and the environment.

Role of Geneva

Organizations are listed in alphabetical order

International Geneva

Geneva and its surrounding area host important international organizations working on water, presented below by alphabetical order.

Care International 

Care International is a 75-year-old global confederation working to address poverty and social injustice. Its work on water is focused on water-insecure areas by supporting the construction and maintenance of water infrastructure; providing guidance to governments on policies and resource allocation. Care International water programming also includes climate-specific tools such as the Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (CVCA), Water Smart Agriculture (WaSA).

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention)

The Water Convention, administrated by UNECE, strengthens transboundary water cooperation and measures for the ecologically-sound management and protection of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. The Convention fosters the implementation of integrated water resources management, in particular the basin approach. The Convention’s implementation contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other international commitments on water, environment and sustainable development.

The Protocol on Water and Health, jointly serviced by UNECE and WHO-Europe , is a unique legally binding instrument aiming to protect human health by better water management and by reducing water-related diseases. The Protocol provides a practical framework to translate into practice the human rights to water and sanitation and to implement SDG 6.

Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention)

The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Its mission is the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.

Geneva Water Hub

The Geneva Water Hub is a center of excellence specialized in hydropolitics and hydrodiplomacy of the University of Geneva, as well as a joint project with the Swiss Confederation (Agency for Development and Cooperation, Global Programme Water Division).

Global WASH Cluster 

The Global WASH Cluster  (GWC) is a 90 members platform led by the UNICEF Office in Geneva formally coordinating the humanitarian WASH actors in all parts of the sector. The GWC works leads and is accountable for strenghtening the system-wide preparedness and coordination of response capacity in humanitarian crises at the global level. At the local level, it supports national coordination platforms (NCPs) in triangulating efforts across the humanitarian sector through operational WASH support and trainings and learning opportunities UN agencies in Geneva active in the cluster include the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).


Helvetas work on access to safe water and sanitation facilities is central to its mission. Working on multiple projects and programmes on WASH and water governance, Helvetas’ work is centered around local ownership and addressing the root causes of water issues.

International Committee of the Red Cross

 The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) works to prevent the disruption of water infrastructure and supplies in conflict zones and provides drinking water to people. On top of that, ICRC monitors the water situation in conflict areas and it has recently developed a course ‘Water and sanitation – from emergency towards development 2023‘ to support engineers and scientists working on the frontline.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) works to protect the human right to water by supporting its 192 National Societies to deliver effective emergency, recovery and long-term WASH programmes. These include building infrastructure and providing education and information about water sanitation and hygiene in emergency, development, public health and urban contexts. 

International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) promotes the inclusive governance and capacity building of water supply and sanitation at the community level, with a focus on rural, indigenous communities and women. The ILO also promotes job creation through green works to restore soil and water conservation.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been focusing on the complex dimensions of the water-migration nexus through both its policy and operational works. IOM has been raising awareness and persistently addressing environmental migration challenges due to water-related disasters. IOM undertakes WASH interventions in 62 countries worldwide, serving more than 13.3 million beneficiaries.

International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA)

The International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA) was created in Geneva in November 2002 following recommendations formulated during the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg two months earlier. The mandate called for the federation and unification of the disparate rainwater harvesting (RWH) movement around the world, to promote rainwater as a valuable water resource and to build on achievements in this field for the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Water Programme

The IUCN Global Water Programme is a trusted partner for action and knowledge on sustainable water resource management. Bringing together an extensive network of IUCN Members, experts, government and private sector partners, its work focuses on promoting good water governance, implementing nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation, protecting freshwater biodiversity, and supporting increased investment in ecosystems as natural water infrastructure.

Médecins sans Frontières

Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) provides lifesaving medical humanitarian assistance and relief to people in crises in more than 70 countries. As lack of access to water and water sanitation are often the cause of diseases, MSF works to provide them. 

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as the leading UN entity on human rights, is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization, by all people, of all rights established in the Charter of the UN and in international human rights laws and treaties, including the human rights to water and sanitation. The work of OHCHR includes monitoring and preventing violations of human rights to water and sanitation, developing thematic research and advocacy, and promoting a human rights-based approach to water and sanitation in cooperation with Member States, the UN system, national human rights institutions and civil society.

Right Livelihood Geneva Office

The Right Livelihood Foundation promotes scientific research, education, public understanding and practical activities contributing to a global ecological balance; lasting peace and justice; and  that are aimed at eliminating material and spiritual poverty through the Right Livelihood Award. Over the years, various Right Livelihood Laureates have dedicated their work to water raising awareness on related issues and launching change-maker projects.

Sanitation and Hygiene Fund

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is a global, multi-stakeholder membership and partnership organization that works with poor people, organizations, governments and local entrepreneurs to improve sanitation and hygiene at scale. To reach the SDG 6.2 target of safely managed sanitation, there is an urgent need to globally prioritize sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health. That is why WSSCC is evolving into the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund by 2021.

Toilet Board Coalition (TBC)

The Toilet Board Coalition (TBC) has the ambition to address the global sanitation crisis by accelerating the Sanitation Economy. The TBC is enabling private sector engagement; connecting large and small companies; and ensuring close collaboration between private, public and non-profit sectors with the common goal to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), universal access to sanitation. The TBC runs the Toilet Accelerator, the world’s 1st accelerator programme dedicated to sanitation entrepreneurs in low-income markets.

UN-Habitat Geneva Office

The UN-Habitat Geneva Office supports various country offices with specialized expertise for humanitarian programme development for relief and reconstruction, including in water and sanitation infrastructure.

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) is the United Nations system’s focal point for disaster risk reduction and the custodian of the Sendai Framework, supporting countries and societies in its implementation, monitoring and review of progress. The seven global targets of the Sendai Framework contribute to the achievement of water-related SDGs. Target 11.5 directly refers to water-related disasters, and in addition there are 7 targets related to disaster risk reduction within in SDG 6 and 15, firmly establishing the role of disaster risk reduction as a core development strategy to achieve water-related SDGs.

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) works on SDG target 6.1 – achieve safe and affordable drinking water by provision of safe water to displaced communities (Refugees/IDPs). Policy and advocacy work to raise awareness on the importance of considering migration in water management. UNHCR also works on on SDG target 6.2 – achieve access to sanitation and hygiene and end open defecation by providing access to hygiene and sanitation services for displaced communities (Refugees/IDPs). During an emergency, UNHCR’s WASH initiatives ensure immediate survival, dignity and the prevention of disease outbreaks.

UN Water

As there is no single UN entity dedicated exclusively to water issues, UN Water coordinates with over 30 UN organizations that carry out water and sanitation programmes, reflecting the fact that water issues run through all of the UN’s main focus areas.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo is the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. The was established to focus on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, carry out thematic research, undertake country missions, collect good practices, and work with development practitioners on the implementation of the rights to water and sanitation.

Water and Climate Coalition

On 18 March 2021, a new Water and Climate Coalition was launched to speed up lagging progress towards the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular SDG6 on clean water and sanitation for all. The coalition aims to achieve more effective integrated policy-making in an era when climate change, environmental degradation and population growth has exacerbated water-related hazards and scarcity.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) works on several projects on water such as valuing water, water stewardship and targets and circularity metrics. The Global Water Tool is also a tool developed jointly by WBCSD members and partners bringing global data on key water-related indicators, allowing companies to understand their risks and plan water management strategies. The tool was the first publicly available resource to be developed for identifying corporate water risks and opportunities, and since its launch in 2007 has supported several corporates to prioritize their water management actions across their global operations.

World Economic Forum (WEF)

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has a Strategic Intelligence that provides insights and contextual intelligence to explore and monitor the issues and forces driving transformational change across economies, industries, and global issues, among them, water.

World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the UN specialized agency on health. WHO monitors global progress on WASH through estimates of global burden of WASH- related disease, monitoring of progress under the SDGs on WASH in households, schools and health facilities, wastewater treatment and the enabling environment for WASH service delivery.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

As a specialized agency of the United Nations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is dedicated to international cooperation and coordination on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the land and oceans, the weather and climate it produces, and the resulting distribution of water resources.  The World Meteorological Congress has also defined eight long-term ambitions to address the water challenge before it becomes a crisis. In addition, the WMO is a member of the Water and Climate Coalition, aimed at strengthening operational capacities at national, regional and global level to address water related sustainable development and climate change adaptation challenge.

Local Geneva

Association pour la Sauvegarde du Léman (ASL)

The Association pour la Sauvegarde du Léman (ASL) is a Franco-Swiss association, of scientific reference, apolitical, non-profit and recognized as being of public utility. With around 4,000 members, the ASL was created in 1980 to safeguard the quality of the waters of the Lake Geneva basin, namely that of the rivers and Lake Geneva.

Canton of Geneva

The Office cantonal de l’eau (OCEau) contributes to providing a pleasant and safe living environment for the population by preserving, with its partners and in a cross-border dimension, the various water cycles and the services provided by aquatic ecosystems (lake and waterways).

Commission internationale pour la protection des eaux du Léman (CIPEL)

The Commission internationale pour la protection des eaux du Léman (CIPEL) conducts studies to maintain or restore an ecologically acceptable quality of the water and the aquatic environment as a whole such as the use of Lake Geneva’s water for drinking water after simple processing, the practice of leisure activities (fishing, swimming and other aquatic activities) under optimum conditions, and that the predominance of noble fish (Arctic charr, corregones (whitefish) or féra, and trout) is ensured by natural reproduction.

SIG – Eau de Genève

SIG is a public law institution governed by the Geneva Constitution, the Act on the Organisation of Public Law Institutions (LOIDP) and the Act on the Organisation of the Industrial Services of Geneva. On a daily basis, SIG provides essential services in Geneva, among them, water. Consumed by 93% of the cantonal population on a daily basis, the water in Geneva is local, ecological and of excellent quality. Its composition, varied in mineral salts, is comparable to some bottled waters.



Droit international de l’eau douce

22 March – 9 May 2021 | Online | Geneva Water Hub

Local Water Solutions for Global Challenges

22 March – 30 April 2021 | Online | UNITAR

MOOC - International Water Law

Online | Geneva Water Hub

GEN Events

“Making Peace with Our Rivers”: The Importance of the Health of Aquatic Ecosystems to the Realization of the Human Right to Water, Taking a Gender Perspective

Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, Germany, Spain, Geneva Environment Network | 15 September 2023 | Palais des Nations

Ramsar COP14 Side Event | Unpacking the Potential of Wetlands for Addressing Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

International Union for Conservation of Nature, Geneva Environment Network | 08 Nov 2022 | CICG

Life Below Water and Microplastic Pollution: From Science to Policy | RFSD2022 & Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues

University of Geneva, Switzerland, Geneva Environment Network | 6 April 2022 | IEH & Online

Nature-based Solutions and Water | Geneva Nature-based Solutions Dialogues

International Union for Conservation of Nature, Geneva Environment Network | 22 Nov 2021 | Online

Lancement de la publication “Questions fréquemment posées sur la Convention sur l’eau de 1992”

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and GEN | 17 June 2021 | Online

Launch | Frequently asked questions on the 1992 Water Convention

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes | Geneva Environment Network | 17 Nov 2020 | Online

Wednesdays for the Planet | Our Planet – Fresh Water

Geneva Environment Network | 11 Nov 2020 | Online

GENeva Environment Dialogues | Protocol on Water and Health

Geneva Environment Network | 23 June 2020

Lake Prespa conservation: World Water Day 2017

Geneva Environment Network | 22 Mar 2017

Celebrating Water and Sustainable Development

Geneva Environment Network | 24 Mar 2015

Live Earth Run for Water

Geneva Environment Network | 18 April 2010

Paying nature for services rendered – the case of water

Geneva Environment Network | 29 November 2007