Reconvening for a dialogue on the UN 2023 Water Conference, participants reflected on the question: is the current international governance structure equipped to deliver on SDG 6?
Many participants said “water is not a sector” and water should be treated as an underpinning theme in all sectors. Some expressed optimism, noting that “we are doing our best with what we have” and “fragmentation” can also be framed as an opportunity to reinforce messages across sectors. Participants cautioned against “preaching to the converted,” with one identifying water as a “mode to build bridges.”
Several participants called for better communication and using more accessible language that is relevant to all stakeholders and underlines the importance of water as an underpinning theme. One participant urged “creating a consistent drumbeat” to raise attention for water and seek connections. Another stressed that water commitments should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART), calling for guidance to be developed . She said if commitments are not government-owned and planned, and embedded in already existing programmes, they are not likely to be achieved.
Addressing an agenda item on global campaigns, participants took note of reports on World Water Day 2022 and the UN World Water Development Report 2022, both of which focused on groundwater. They also heard an update on the planning for the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022, which will be the first-ever summit on groundwater. They then addressed the process and timeline of the UN World Water Development Report 2023 and created a Task Force for World Water Day 2023 and World Toilet Day 2023, which will present its work plan for approval at the 37th UN-Water Meeting.
Under the same agenda item, participants discussed options for the themes of the World Water Days and UN World Water Development Reports 2024 and 2025. Suggested themes included water and: a sustainable economy; coastal zones; human health; gender; a new world order; and small islands. Participants expressed their preferences, with some: objecting to themes focusing on particular regions or groups of society; asking that “health” be extended to include the health-and-environment nexus; and suggesting the phrase “a new world order” be avoided, favoring “water as leverage for peace” instead, with some adding “justice” as well. In summary, UN-Water Chair Houngbo noted a general preference for the themes peace, health, and gender, and said they could be adopted as themes in consecutive years in that order.
During a discussion on monitoring and reporting, participants were briefed on the Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6, including its work to contextualize gender data. Thirty countries have assembled their SDG 6 data monitoring teams based on the work of this Initiative, and its SDG 6 Data Portal, SDG 6 website, and baseline and progress report updates have provided a solid basis on which to build. Challenges were reported with creating national ownership and increased capacity in countries for intersectoral monitoring and coordination and analysis of data for decision making.
Participants also discussed the timing and content of the SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2023, given that the UN 2023 Water Conference will take place in March and the HLPF will review SDG 6 in July. Participants also noted that the messages in other reports to be published in 2023, including the World Water Development Report, should be consistent, and agreed that the Synthesis Report should be a short document that informs and builds on the UN 2023 Water Conference and contributes to the HLPF.
Bruce Gordon, World Health Organization, in his role as Chair of the afternoon discussions, closed the open session of the 36th meeting of UN-Water at 2:46 pm.
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