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In the context of the next World Water Forum, which will kick off on 18 March in Brazil, Céline Gilquin, Head of AFD’s Water and Sanitation Division, gives details about the key challenges concerning a vital and increasingly scarce resource.

It seems to flow easily for some, be cruelly lacking for others, and is set to be a major challenge for all in the years ahead : water, this vital resource, will be at the center of the debates of the international community, which will be gathering for the 8th World Water Forum (WWF) organized in Brasilia (Brazil) from 18 to 23 March.


The situation is urgent : over 2 billion men, women and children live with limited access to drinking water and 4.5 billion do not have toilets connected to wastewater treatment systems. Access to drinking water and sanitation services for all is, unsurprisingly, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. 


In Brasilia, the international community will be called on to make real headway, as with the previous forums, such as for the recognition of the right to water and sanitation and the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on transboundary basin management. AFD will be promoting its vision of water at this new summit : that of a common good, a resource which needs to be protected and shared for the benefit of all.

Eau, Céline Gilquin, Gouard“Adapt to climate change”

With the World Water Forum in March 2018, water will be at the center of the global climate agenda. What is AFD’s approach to this crucial issue ?

Céline Gilquin, Head of AFD’s Water and Sanitation Division : Water is intrinsically linked with climate issues and is the major challenge of the 21st century. It affects health, gender equality, the economy and the environment. Today, 2.1 billion people still do not benefit from a drinking water service at home. 

Tomorrow, climate change will exacerbate inequalities : two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in areas lacking water and three times more people than today will be affected by floods.

Financing actions to adapt to the consequences of climate change is a priority in addressing this challenge. AFD promotes a sustainable and concerted management of water resources, for example, via an economical use of water in the largest consuming activities – agriculture, industry and drinking water – and the development of wastewater treatment and reuse systems. This preserves resources in terms of both quantity and quality.

“ 4.5 billion people without toilets at home ” 

What about sanitation issues ? 

Water is often only treated from the perspective of access to drinking water. Yet today, 4.5 billion people do not benefit from a sanitation service, meaning toilets at home connected to a wastewater treatment system.

It is for this reason that AFD seeks to provide quality, sustainable and affordable water and sanitation services to the most vulnerable populations. This is a public health issue which is too often overlooked. We would like decision-makers to call on us more to help them improve wastewater treatment systems. 

In Brazil, for example, we are financing the ambitious sanitation program of the public company Casan in 12 cities of the State of Santa Catarina. In this same State, AFD’s private sector financing arm, PROPARCO, has allocated financing to a private operator to renew and upgrade the sanitation network in four other municipalities.

“ Water is less scarce than its good governance ”

How important is governance in water-related issues? 

The absence of efficient governance is the main cause of the lack of access to water and sanitation services, more than the lack of water resources or technical issues. There are high rates of access to water in certain areas where there is a serious water shortage, whereas in certain areas where there are abundant water resources, access rates are extremely low and there is poor service quality.

The establishment of a clear institutional framework, regulation and capacity building for actors are central concerns for AFD. It is for this reason that 50 % of our financing comprises a component to improve governance.


Photo credit Céline Gilquin: © Alain Goulard / AFD