Water and climate change: towards a strategic framework for megacities

By 2030 urban settlements are projected to house 60% of the global population, whereas by the same time Megacities, urban zones with over 10 million inhabitants, will host 14.6% of the total inhabitants worldwide. It is estimated that, in the same period, the number of megacities will grow from 33 in 2018 to 43[1].

In line with the urban sprawl, climate change and growing demand for quality of life, megacities face specific challenges and vulnerabilities not only in terms of managing service capacity, such as drinking water or wastewater treatment, but also prevention and mitigation to the growing risks, ranging from extreme weather, water scarcity and floods to sea-level rise. They are therefore on the frontline for climate action and are regional pivots that call for water stakeholders’ collaboration at different levels to respond with sustainable solutions.

The Megacities Alliance for Water and Climate (MAWAC) was proposed in 2015 as an international collaboration forum to enable megacities to learn from each other’s experience and share best practices to address these specific challenges. Today, the Alliance is working towards a Strategic Global Framework to propose a model of cooperation and sustainability and outline the future modalities of action, while taking into account the great diversity in governance and financial capacity of megacities around the world.

To formulate the Strategic Global Framework of the Megacities Alliance for Water and Climate, the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) recently activated a Working Group with official nominations from 10 countries and 11 Megacities around the world: Bangkok, Bogota, Ho Chi Minh City, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Lagos, Lahore, Lima, Mexico City, and Paris.

Current progress and next steps

The modality and milestones of MAWAC were discussed during initial Information Webinars on 16 and 24 April 2020,as well as a proposed work plan towards the First Draft of MAWAC’s Strategic Global Framework. The Working Group members shared the most up to date information on water management in their cities. The MAWAC cooperation platform facilitates pooling and sharing collective knowledge and creativity for climate solutions.
The Working Group members, main conductors of the intergovernmental working process, are now working with UNESCO to develop the first proposal of the Strategic Global Framework for the MAWAC. It integrates their expertise, practical experiences, and city perspectives into a tools package by UNESCO.

Their inputs were synthesized and discussed in a virtual meeting (the first drafting meeting) in June. Two more rounds of consultation, collection and synthesis will be organized over the next two months, in order to finalize the first draft of the Strategic Global Framework by September 2020. The consultation and review of the final draft will take place from October to November 2020. This process aims to involve validation by diverse Megacities.
The final Alliance’s Strategic Global Framework will be launched at the Second International Conference “Water, Megacities and Global Change” (EauMega 2020), which will be held from 1 to 4 December 2020 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.


The idea for establishing MAWAC was brought forward during the COP 21[2] climate conference through a Declaration resulting from the 1st International Conference on Water, Megacities, and Global Change held at UNESCO in 2015 (EauMega 2015). This Declaration requested UNESCO to create the platform for MAWAC. In the effort to complete this task UNESCO aims to build the future platform of the alliance with the cooperation and active participation of the megacities and their inclusion in the drafting process of the Strategic Global Framework.