Lessons Learned on Enhancing Water Management to Meet the SDGs

The SDG 6 IWRM Support Programme, coordinated by GWP in collaboration with the UN Environment-DHI Centre and UNDP Cap-Net, has facilitated a coordinated approach to monitoring and enhancing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.5, implementing Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). In 2019 four pilot countries were supported to create an IWRM Action Plan. Some lessons on how the experience gained can be put to practical use in other countries have now been captured in a summary report.

The SDG 6 IWRM Support Programme has been set up to assist countries to streamline their approach to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), as a contribution to broader sustainable development and water-related SDG targets. The Programme helps countries to design and implement responses that promote measurable progress towards SDG target 6.5. It is organised around three stages: Stage 1 – Identify challenges, Stage 2 – Formulate responses, and Stage 3 – Implement solutions. A summary report is available with the key lessons learned on the first four pilot countries to design their stage 2 activities, IWRM Action Plans – Ghana, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Guatemala.

The four pilot countries, with different institutional and hydrological realities, were supported over 2018-19 with a consistent methodology involving a series of workshops and multi-stakeholder consultations. These countries had the flexibility to design the approach in a way that made optimal use of the resources available. But regardless of the approach chosen, the main aim was to have the interventions designed in a way that advances the national development agenda, with buy-in from the national institution(s) with a mandate to advance the water-related SDGs.

“The key lessons we learned – first, it's a very useful exercise,” said GWP Senior Network Specialist Francois Brikké. “It's not only about working with water ministries, but also with planning ministries. We have learned that this is an enormous opportunity to make a change, so we need the right people around the table and at the right level – because decisions need to be made. You also need to invite key donor organisations in the country. This way it becomes a project that everybody can buy into."

“Global SDG monitoring and reporting is, by nature, a very top-down process”, said Gareth James Lloyd, Senior Programme Advisor at UNEP-DHI Centre. “However, the SDG 6 IWRM Support Programme provides an opportunity to leverage this top-down process to the benefit of individual countries. A lesson that I have personally found most interesting is the value of being able to support and build on existing in-country priorities and processes. As the programme is not a classic project with a fixed results framework with hard-wired outputs and outcomes, we have the opportunity to offer countries a degree of flexibility for them to determine what best suits their needs. Moving forward we need to maintain this flexibility, while also helping ensure results, impacts and necessary follow-up”.   

In 2020, a second round of monitoring SDG 6.5 implementation will be carried out through an IWRM survey, giving countries the possibility to start a comparative analysis on how their integrated approach to water resources management has progressed between 2017 and 2020. It will also be an opportunity for the four pilot countries to maintain a focus on implementing the Action Plans they agreed to and to advance water management as a contribution to meeting their own SDG targets. Similarly, in addition to facilitating multi-stakeholder analysis of the current status of IWRM implementation in at least 60 countries in 2020, the Support Programme will assist 20 of those countries in defining their Action Plans for the coming years, building on the lessons learned in the four pilot countries.

Photo: The SDG 6 workshop in Ghana was held on 20 June 2019.