UN 2023 Water Conference to help unite world around water crisis

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The UN 2023 Water Conference, which will take place at UN Headquarters in New York from March 22 to 24, ‘will be an occasion to unite the global community to take action and address the broad challenges surrounding water,” Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and the Secretary-General of the conference has said.

Formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028), it will be co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands.

Li told a news briefing that the Conference is expected to bring together Heads of State and Government, Ministers and other high-level representatives of governments and the UN system.

A wide range of stakeholders from across different sectors will also take part, as the General Assembly has accredited more than 1,200 organizations representing civil society, youth, women, and the private sector, among others.

A main outcome of the Conference will be a Water Action Agenda that will capture the ambitious new commitments from Member States and other stakeholders.

Billions of people worldwide still live without safely managed drinking water and sanitation, even though access to both services has long been defined as a human right, the UN official said.

Many water sources are becoming more polluted, and ecosystems that provide water are disappearing. Climate change is disrupting the water cycle, causing droughts and floods.

“The important thing for us as co-hosts and indeed for the rest of the world are the outcomes of the Conference,” said Sulton Rahimzoda, Special Envoy of the President of Tajikistan for Water. “We, therefore, do not need a Conference with bold statements. We need a Conference with bold commitments.”

The Water Action Agenda is a platform that collects, displays and follows these commitments at all levels, including from governments, civil society and the private sector from all over the world, he added.

“Water could be a dealbreaker but we are striving to show that water in most cases is a dealmaker and […] water could be a source of peace and development,” he stressed.

Henk Ovink, Special Envoy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for Water, emphasized that without clean water, diseases will spread, and girls will go to school less frequently. Also, no water means no crops. “Investing in water […] trickles down across every Sustainable Development Goal,” he stressed.

“The UN 2023 Conference will be a monumental occasion,” he said, not only for the water agenda but more importantly for sustainable development and climate change action at large.