DES MOINES, WA — In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the launch of GlobalWaters.org, a platform for collaboration between water and development partners. Vice President Kamala Harris launched the first White House Action Plan on Global Water Security in 2022, which laid the foundation for the USAID Global Waters program. This program aims to achieve the goals outlined by Vice President Harris, focusing on enhancing stability, well-being, wealth and resilience through sustainable and equitable management of water resources, clean drinking water access, sanitation services and good hygiene practices.
Targeted Approach and Prioritization
The USAID strategy prioritizes geographic areas with the greatest needs and those where engagement will most effectively advance US national security interests, as stipulated in the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014. To identify these high-priority regions, USAID developed the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Needs Index, which guides the allocation of resources. In 2023, 22 countries in Central America, Africa and Asia have been identified as high-priority regions for intervention.
Three Pillars of USAID Global Waters
Each country in the program has a customized profile and plan designed to align with the goals of the US Global Water Strategy. These plans are organized around three key pillars:
- Advancing US Leadership in WASH Services: The program aims to achieve universal and equitable access to sustainable, climate-resilient WASH services while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. This pillar emphasizes the importance of US leadership in this domain.
- Promoting Sustainable Water Resource Management: USAID works to protect ecosystems, support economic growth, enhance resilience and reduce conflict risks through sustainable water resource management. Cooperation and collaboration are crucial in fostering these outcomes.
- Facilitating Multilateral Action for Water Security: The program actively promotes cooperation and water security through multilateral initiatives. Recognizing the interconnected nature of water-related challenges, USAID engages with various stakeholders to drive collective action.
USAID Global Waters Initiatives
Global Waters has completed 8 initiatives with 10 currently active initiatives. These initiatives involve partnerships, alliances, coalitions and support. Here are three of the completed initiatives:
- The Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP): Launched in 2016, SWP has actively addressed water security risks in El Salvador, Pakistan, South Africa and Uzbekistan. Over five years, SWP provided support through field-based pilot activities, the development of tools and guides and generated valuable recommendations for water security programming.
- Water For Africa Through Leadership and Institutional Support (WALIS): Over six years, WALIS successfully enhanced the capacity of African leaders, donors and stakeholders to use data and analyses in shaping national water, sanitation and hygiene policies, plans and budgets to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative conducted numerous trainings, developed enabling environment policies and plans and provided capacity development and support to multiple institutions.
- Women + Water Alliance: Launched in 2017 by USAID and Gap Inc., the Women + Water Alliance aims to improve the health and well-being of women, families and communities affected by the global apparel industry. They aim to achieve this by enhancing water, sanitation and hygiene services, managing water resources and empowering women, who make up the majority of garment workers. The garment industry’s significant water usage and pollution adversely impact surrounding communities, particularly women and children, who bear the brunt of these effects. Noteworthy accomplishments include empowering more than 2.4 million people with improved access to clean water and sanitation, training more than 13,000 women and youth on water quality testing and providing financial support for water and sanitation projects while assisting 260 women entrepreneurs in selling bio-based fertilizer and pesticide to farmers.
USAID Global Waters continues to actively reduce poverty by improving water and sanitation services in developing countries. The program recognizes the integral connection between clean water access and poverty eradication, resulting in improved health outcomes, expanded education opportunities and enhanced economic productivity. To date, Global Waters has provided sustainable water services to more than 5.4 million people and sustainable sanitation to 6.3 million people, with women accounting for 50% of these beneficiaries. The program’s ongoing and future initiatives will further expand water and sanitation services in developing nations, continually increasing these numbers.
USAID Global Waters demonstrates the transformative impacts achieved through targeted interventions in eliminating poverty and fostering a more equitable future for all.
– Clara Swart