Cross-cutting Issues

Five cross-cutting issues underpin SIWI’s work. Each contributes to our overall mission to build a more water wise world. The cross-cutting issues are Environmental Sustainability, Gender, Human Rights and Democracy, Poverty Reduction and Water Integrity.


As women and girls are those most adversely affected by water related issues, the consideration of gender in SIWI's work ensures greater focus on the most vulnerable. Working with women’s and men’s attitudinal beliefs is important to ensure equitable rebalancing of rights and societal roles.

What is Gender?

Gender is defined as the roles ascribed to men and women based on cultural and social norms and values. Gender roles are dynamic; they change over time and vary based on location and cultural context. Gender equality means that all men and women, boys and girls, and transgender people have access to the same opportunities and resources. Gender is not the same thing as sex, which is defined biologically. 

Gender mainstreaming is the process of ensuring that women and men have equal access and control over resources, development benefits and decision-making, at all stages of the development process including projects, programmes and policy.

How We Work

Gender inequality can result in participation in programme work being unrepresentative of all water users, managers and stakeholders. Hence, project objectives and activities may be created without the full needs of the target communities in mind, leading to insufficient and unsustainable impacts.

SIWI therefore encourages the integration of gender tools in projects and looks for opportunities to contribute to overcome gender inequality in relation to the water sector. SIWI is also involved in ongoing internal capacity building in this area.



SIWI proactively promotes gender equality in all its work, including:

  • Supported 11 development programmes for increased economic and democratic governance in the water and sanitation sector through a knowledge management initiative.
  • Based on this work, carried out a study on the programmes’ challenges and best practices from working with gender mainstreaming in water governance projects.
  • Collaboration with UNESCO on the promotion of gender-disaggregated indicators and gender sensitive methodology for the World Water Assessment Programme. The institution also supported the development of a toolkit on Gender, Violence and WASH.
  • Supported the first Gender and Water conference, hosted by the Water Research Commission in South Africa in 2014. Actively contributing to the programme, SIWI sponsored delegates and sought new opportunities and partnerships through which to develop and extend gender work within water and environmental field.

For more information on gender issues, please contact Elizabeth Yaari.

Corruption is one of the biggest challenges to the sustainable management of water resources, hydropower, irrigation and the provision of water services. SIWI works to build strong water governance systems that resist corruption and its harms to economic growth, human dignity and health.

What is Water Integrity?

Water integrity can be defined as the adherence of water actors and institutions to the water governance principles of transparency, accountability, and participation, based on core values of honesty, equity and professionalism. Ultimately it is one of the most important means to achieving a water wise world resistant to corruption.

How We Work?

SIWI proactively promotes water integrity in all its work. Externally we participate in various global platforms to raise water integrity on the water policy agenda. By supporting nationally owned water integrity assessments and developing anti-corruption tools and approaches, SIWI contributes to global knowledge on water integrity. Through capacity development programmes knowledge is translated into actual pro-integrity changes on the ground. Internally, SIWI is in the process of developing an anti-corruption policy aimed at strengthening credibility and accountability both within the organisation as well as to partners, consultants, funders and most importantly, the beneficiaries.


SIWI proactively promotes water integrity in all its work, including:

  • Participation in global platforms to raise integrity on the water policy agenda and contribute to global knowledge.
  • Implementation of regional capacity building programmes for the Middle East and North Africa region, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in collaboration with regional and local partners.  
  • A founding member of the Water Integrity Network (WIN) formed to respond to increasing concerns among water and anti-corruption stakeholders over corruption in the water sector.
  • Assessed water integrity risks, including through support of nationally-owned water integrity risk assessments at country level. 
  • Developing an anti-corruption policy to strengthen credibility and accountability within the organization, partners, consultants, funding partners and most importantly, beneficiaries.

For more information on water integrity issues, please contact Pilar Avello.

Water can determine the livelihoods, health and vulnerability of all human beings, notably those living in poverty; and is crucial for economic growth. The relationship between water and poverty is often determined by decision making on water allocation, rather than by actual water scarcity.

What is Poverty Reduction?

Poverty reduction is the overarching goal of development, in accordance with the principles of human rights and social justice. SIWI subscribes to the widely accepted view that poverty is a multidimensional concept, identifying how humans are deprived of the fundamental capabilities that are needed to live a worthy life. These capabilities encompass material and non-material aspects, including power and security.

SIWI’s promotes principles of transparency, accountability and participation; all crucial to achieving more equitable and efficient use of water resources. The largest proportion of people in extreme poverty is found on the African continent. It is also where 70 per cent of the population live in transboundary river basins. SIWI’s work on transboundary water management is therefore highly relevant to poverty reduction.

A key dimension of poverty is vulnerability, notably to climate change. SIWI believes water plays an important role in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, and is actively involved in global efforts to address this challenge.


How We Work

SIWI’s strength is in its position between policy and practice, working through both policy dialogue and participatory approaches. The institute works with a range of partners to create long-term partnerships enabling dialogue on equitable and sustainable water use. It strengthens the capacity of organisations and professionals to apply inequality reduction tools and principles, and generates and disseminates knowledge on the role of water for socio-economic development. SIWI also advocates for water in international policy processes, thereby also influencing public policies and corporate strategies.


SIWI proactively seeks to address poverty in all its work, including:

  • Ensures multi-stakeholder cooperation on water for its productive uses in the water, food and energy nexus, setting the context to livelihood opportunities and welfare in each society.
  • Assists partners and clients to understand the relationships between water, development and economic growth and analyses how costs and benefits of water management options impact on various groups in society.

For more information on poverty reduction, please contact Johanna Sjödin.

Regarding Cross-cutting Issues ? Please contact us.
Unsustainable production and consumption patterns are degrading ecosystems as well as causing climate change impacts. Sustainable use should ensure the protection, restoration and sustainable management of our ecosystem and the services they provide for today and future human well-being.

What is Environmental Sustainability?

Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Our Common Future/The Brundtland Report). Environmental sustainability should ensure the indefinite use of natural resources meeting human needs without compromising the health of ecosystems.  

At the Rio Summit in 1992, the three pillars of sustainable development, environmental protection economic development and social development were agreed. The responsibility to ensure our decisions today do not undermine the well-being of future generations were also reassured.

Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems rapidly and more extensively in any comparable period of time in human history largely to meet rapidly demand for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel with irreversible loss in diversity, ecosystems and the services they provide. Increasing loss of forest, decline in the quality and quantity of freshwater and land degradation are causing severe stress to ecosystems. Scientific evidence is pointing to a number of planetary boundaries that either have or are dangerously close to being exceeded.

How We Work

Sustainable management, protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration of ecosystems and the services they provide are fundamental to SIWI’s work. They also support and implement sustainable development pathways. SIWI applies a precautionary approach to environmental protection and reviews our activities to ensure they do not cause unintended negative environmental effects, or avoidance is not possible, minimize and mitigate potential impacts. 


  • Mainstreaming of environmental sustainability into programmes and projects
  • Promoting climate resilient activities and low carbon emissions.
  • Support and strengthening to partner environmental dimensions, environmental management and protection of operations.
  • Contributes to knowledge on freshwater ecosystem protection as key for sustainable development e.g. through enhancing the concept of Environmental flow allocation and Ecosystem based adaptation.

For more information on environmental sustainability, please contact Anna Forslund.

The work towards a water wise world must be based on democratic principles, non-discrimination, and respect for every person’s human, civil and political rights. Everyone has a human right to safe drinking water and sanitation – yet, it has been estimated that 1.8 billion people use unsafe water!

What are Human Rights and Democracy?

Today’s international human rights law reflects age-old norms and moral ideas of rights and liberty, of everyone’s equal value, dignity, and right to life. Closely linked to these principles are those of accountability, freedom of speech, participation and local involvement, all of which are fundamental democratic cornerstones. Non-discrimination and transparency are other important standards of the Human Rights-Based Approach to development cooperation.

In 2010 the United Nations explicitly recognized the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation (HRWS). The HRWS is an individual entitlement limited to personal and domestic use, derived from the right to an adequate standard of living.

The importance of this human right was reinforced in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, whose goals and targets seek to realize the human rights of all.

How We Work

While it falls primarily on state governments to incorporate human rights into national law, and progressively realize them through concrete steps, SIWI contributes by strengthening the capacities of governments and other duty-bearers to meet their obligations, and of citizens to claim their rights. Our activities often take place in countries where democracy is fragile or non-existent, and where the human rights of groups and individuals are discriminated against.

SIWI works to raise awareness and build knowledge through publications and at conferences and workshops. We also provides targeted policy support, technical advice and capacity development programmes to assist governments, organizations and companies to realize the human rights.


SIWI mainstreams human rights and democracy into programmes and projects. Targeted activities include:

  • cooperation with Swedish corporations that endorse the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate in the textiles sector.
  • advice to the Swedish FAO Committee on food security and nutrition as linked to the right to water,
  • co-authored the Manual on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Integrated Water Resources Management. The Manual comes with a training package including an online course.
  • Working with UNICEF to develop tools and guidance on water, sanitation, hygiene and health,
  • Contributed to the development of an international standard for democratic governance of water, The OECD Recommendation on Water Governance.
  • In Tajikistan we assisted the water services provider to raise the transparency towards customers and expand the collaboration with the water users in their capacity of rights-holders. Training of almost 800 people in Kyrgyzstan in the application of the HRBA meant that the local community could themselves vote for organization of the water supply services.

For more information on human rights and democracy issues, please contact Dr. Jenny Grönwall.