The significance of the UN 2023 Water Conference was apparent as large numbers of participants streamed into the official meetings and numerous side events. The general debate in plenary took place throughout the day and into the night. Delegates shared national plans, policies, and priorities to advance sustainability of water resources and equitable services. Some presented commitments to the Water Action Agenda and achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 including:
- Australia announced commitments including increasing aboriginal entitlements to water and investing USD 150 million in water infrastructure for safe and reliable access for such communities;
- Denmark noted among its commitment to provide more than USD 400 million to enhance transboundary water management and development in Africa;
- Ecuador shared a USD 65 million national plan for irrigation and the establishment of 21 water conservation areas;
- India announced investments, including a USD 50 billion to provide safe and adequate drinking water to all rural Indian households before 2030;
- Jamaica announced joining the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Coalition for Nature;
- Kenya discussed plans to build 100 mega, large and medium dams in the next five years; and
- Saint Kitts and Nevis shared several commitments, including transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Two Interactive Dialogues were held in parallel to the plenary sessions.
The Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment dialogue focused on biodiversity, climate, resilience and disaster risk reduction.
Moderating the dialogue, David Cooper, Acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), drew attention the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which provides a roadmap to halt biodiversity loss and put nature on a path of recovery by 2030.
Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, United Arab Emirates (UAE) informed participants that as host of the the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UAE will seek outcomes that foster investment in water security and share new technologies.
Discussing early warning systems, Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, highlighted the Global Hydrological Status and Outlook System, which provides information on the water cycle.
Other topics raised included technology transfer, financing, climate-smart agriculture, nature-based solutions, and innovative approaches such as desalinization using renewable energy sources. Many stressed the need to strengthen early monitoring and resilience.
The Water for Cooperation dialogue focused on transboundary and international water cooperation, cross-sectoral cooperation, including scientific cooperation, and water across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Co-Chair Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senegal, referred to the commitment to the Water Action Agenda and the Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition as important signals of progress.
Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), called on all UN Member States who have not yet acceded to UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (the Water Convention), to do so, applauding Nigeria in its recent accession.
Danilo Türk, President, Club de Madrid, noted that 153 UN Member States share transboundary waters. He stressed the importance of creating effective legal frameworks and said water cooperation also strengthens peace and security.
Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid spoke about the experience in the management of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and called on countries to adhere to the 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the Water Convention.
Other discussions included the value of joint studies in building relationships for transboundary cooperation; hydropower as a viable source of renewable energy to deliver shared benefits; and need for additional financial resources to unlock the potential for increased cooperation.
After Wednesday’s initial “splash”, delegates resurfaced to reality of the enormity of the water crises and disparities in technical and other capacities among Member States in implementing SDG 6. As the meeting advanced into the end of the day, there remained an emerging sense of determination to achieve tangible outcomes to guide the course of water-related multilateralism.