World Water Assessment Programme

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The United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) is a UNESCO programme which was founded to compile periodic assessments and analyses of water resources availability and present a global picture of the state of freshwater resources and major challenges. Simply stated it is charged with monitoring the world’s freshwater resources. Thereby WWAP provides recommendations and capacity-training programmes with as goal to enhance assessment capacity at a national and regional level and to inform the decision-making process and resulting policies. Founded in 2000, it is the flagship programme of UN-Water. [1]

Its primary product, the UN World Water Development Report, is a periodic UN-Water flagship report which accounts as the most comprehensive Report of UNESCO on freshwater resources. It provides an authoritative picture of the state of the world’s freshwater resources.


In 1998, the Sixth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development stated that there was a need for regular, global assessments on the status of freshwater resources. In response to this recommendation, the member organizations of UN-Water (known then as the ACC Subcommittee on Water Resources) decided to undertake a collective UN system-wide continuing assessment process. Founded in 2000, the flagship programme of UN-Water, the World Water Assessment Programme coordinates the production of the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR), with as aim to report on the status of global freshwater resources and the progress achieved in reaching the Millennium Development Goals and currently also the new set of Sustainable Development Goals related to water. Initially the periodicity and coverage of the Report was triennial and comprehensive, but in 2012, UN Water changed this for it to have an annual periodicity and being theme oriented (plus an additional synthesis report every five years) with as purpose to sharpen the focus of the Report on strategic water issues and become more topical. The first annual edition was published in March 2014 (Theme: Water and Energy) followed by the 2015 edition (Theme: Water for a Sustainable World). The WWDR 2016 (Theme: Water and Jobs) was launched on 22 March 2016 in Geneva during the official World Water Day celebrations held in ILO Headquarters.

The growing global water crisis threatens the security, stability and environmental sustainability of developing but also developed nations. Millions die each year from water-borne diseases, while water pollution and ecosystem destruction aggravate, particularly in the developing world. Over the past few decades there has been an increasing acceptance that the management of water resources must be undertaken with an integrated approach, that assessment of the resource is of fundamental importance as the basis for decision-making and that national capacities to undertake necessary assessments must be fully supported. Management decisions to alleviate poverty, to allow economic development, to ensure food security and the health of human populations as well as preserve vital ecosystems, must be based on our best possible understanding of all relevant systems.

Mission Statement[edit]

This UN-wide programme wants to influence leaders in government, civil society and private sector, so that their water-related policies and decision-making promotes more sustainable, social and economic development at a local, regional, national as well as global scale. WWAP also seeks to equip water managers with knowledge, tools and skills through information-sharing and training so they may:

  • Effectively participate in the development of policies and in decision making;
  • Monitor, develop and manage water resources in a proper way to meet the set (national and international) sustainability objectives.


The Programme's objectives are to:

  • Monitor, assess and report on the world's freshwater resources and ecosystems, water use and management, and identify critical issues and problems;
  • Help countries develop their own assessment capacity;
  • Raise awareness on current and imminent/future water related challenges to influence the global water agenda;
  • Inform -and respond to the needs of- decision-makers and water resource managers;
  • Support anticipatory decision-making on the global water system including the identification of alternative futures;
  • Promote gender equality;
  • Measure progress towards achieving sustainable use of water resources through robust indicators and;
  • Identify the progress made globally as well as by specific regions in the realization of international commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


WWAP is the reporting mechanism of UN-Water. It produces the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR) and related materials, policy papers based on the findings of the WWDR, and a series of side publications. [2] In addition to this, WWAP organizes Trainings and Courses mainly focussing on Capacity Development and aiming to provide tools that strengthen institutional capacity and effectiveness of water and water-related governmental agencies. A current Capacity Development Training focuses on the WWDR 2015 topic “Water and Sustainable Development” and aims to enhance countries’ capacity to deal with water issues in a complex global environment. [3]

Another of WWAP’s objectives is to assist countries in enhancing their national capacity for water resource assessment. One of the ways WWAP does this is by facilitating the development of case studies and including their findings in the WWDRs. These case studies provide an in-depth analysis of the state of freshwater resources and related challenges that directly affect the livelihoods of people around the world.[4]

WWAP is the coordinating organization for UN-Water’s Task Force on Indicators, Monitoring and Reporting.[5]

The ‘From Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential’ (PCCP) program contributes to WWAP and is housed within UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP). PCCP facilitates multi-level dialogue in situations where water users need support to manage their shared water resources in a peaceful and equitable manner.[6]


UN World Water Development Report 2016: Water and Jobs

Report and related Materials:

UN World Water Development Report 2015: Water for a Sustainable World UNESCO Contribution to WWDR 2015: Facing The Challenges - Case Studies and Indicators

Report and related Materials:

UN World Water Development Report 2014: Water and Energy (and Facing The Challenges)

Report and related Materials:

UN World Water Development Report 4: Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk

Report and related Materials:

UN World Water Development Report 3: Water in a Changing World (2009)

Related Materials:

UN World Water Development Report 2: Water: A Shared Responsibility (2006)

Related Materials:

UN World Water Development Report 1: Water for People, Water for Life (2003)

Related Materials:

Other publications[edit]

WWAP Gender Toolkit To address the considerable data gap on gender and water issues at the global level, in 2014 WWAP launched a groundbreaking project to develop and test sex-disaggregated indicators for the collection of global water data. The project has developed a methodology for sex-disaggregated data collection using multi-sectoral gender-sensitive water indicators, with the aim of advocating for the implementation of gender-sensitive water monitoring in the post-2015 agenda and, in particular, in the monitoring framework of the SDGs.

WWAP Gender Toolkit:

Side Publications series These publications provide more focused, in-depth information and scientific background knowledge on the world’s water issues, and a closer look at some less conventional water sectors.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]