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U.S. Releases First Water And Development Strategy; U.N. Recognizes World Water Day

“U.S. officials Tuesday formally unveiled the government’s first comprehensive strategy [.pdf] aimed at integrating water into all U.S. development funding and programs, a step long urged by advocates and development experts,” Inter Press Service reports (Biron, 5/22). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) to release the government’s five-year Water and Development Strategy, which “recognizes the vital role water plays in ensuring the health and economic well-being of people around the world” and “sets out to represent a fundamental shift at [USAID] toward a new model of development — defined by public and private partnerships, use of new technology, and emphasis [on] long-term results,” according to a USAID press release. The strategy includes two strategic objectives, including “Water for Health,” aimed at improving “health outcomes through the provision of sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH),” and “Water for Food,” which aims to “[m]anage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security,” the press release states (5/21). “Notably, the plan puts into action new USAID guidance to emphasize local ownership and sustainability of U.S.-funded aid projects, while offering greatly expanded flexibility on how that funding is to be used,” IPS writes.

“Civil society groups are expressing excitement over the scope and strength of the new strategy, dubbing it a ‘major advance,'” IPS writes, adding, “But many are also calling on lawmakers to ensure that, during the coming implementation phase, U.S. aid is targeted primarily at the poorest communities in developing and middle-income countries.” The news service notes the U.S. Water for the Poor Act, passed in 2005, “requir[es] that water and sanitation be a central priority for U.S. foreign funding” and “requires that water and sanitation-related aid be centered on countries that have the least access to those services, with the aim of having the greatest possible impact on other development goals.” According to IPS, “while the new USAID strategy is not [an] implementation plan, observers are now planning to push lawmakers to ensure that the new strategy is closely aligned with the objectives of the 2005 legislation” (5/22). In related news, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday recognized World Water Day in a statement, noting the day “is dedicated to highlighting the joint efforts necessary to ensuring a fair share for people and planet.” He highlighted the roles of climate change, agriculture, and sanitation in water access, saying, “Water holds the key to sustainable development,” according to the statement (5/22).