ICPDR Joins Fellow International Water Actors at the United Nations Water Conference in New York City

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Seat of the ICPDR at the Water Conference

The UN 2023 Water Conference took place at UN Headquarters in New Yor City this past 22-24 March 2023, the midterm of the International Decade for Action on "Water for Sustainable Development" (2018-2028). It was the first conference dedicated to freshwater since 1977.

As of this year, over 2.2 billion people around the world still lack access to safely managed drinking water, contributing to a primary cause of death: poor hygiene and sanitation. The UN Water Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Tajikistan and the Netherlands, sought to bring attention to these water-related challenges. The conference featured an opening and closing ceremony, six plenary meetings, and five multi-stakeholder interactive dialogues. In addition, various high-level special events and side events organized by Member States, the UN system, and other stakeholders were held, including the UNDP flagship side event titled "Accelerating Sustainable Development through Water Innovations and Solutions." The event was co-organized by the UNDP, Global Environment Facility, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Global Water Partnership, and the ICPDR, and featured a high-level panel discussion on national water challenges and the necessary solutions to achieve sustainable water development, including insights from ICPDR Executive Secretary Birgit Vogel.

Water Action Agenda

During the UN Water Conference, the Water Action Agenda was adopted, representing the voluntary commitments of nations and stakeholders to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to water. The Water Action Decade goals, which are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG6 dedicated to water, were also reviewed. The commitments aim to meet SDG6 by 2030 and encourage Member States and stakeholders across all sectors to come together to address global water challenges. The voluntary commitments will continue to be added to the Water Action Agenda up until the end of the Water Action Decade in 2028 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development.

As part of the voluntary commitments, the European Union (EU), one of the 15 contracting parties of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), announced 33 commitments to ensure water security for all and build resilience to water stress worldwide. The commitments draw upon several policy actions, EU laws, leading water technologies, and extensive support to partner countries on water and sanitation.

A “watershed moment” for SDGs

Overall the conference has played a crucial role in expanding the Water Action Agenda, generating commitments through official sessions and side events. Some commitments have been significant, mobilizing millions, and in a some cases billions, of dollars for water action. In his closing remarks, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted, “The commitments at this Conference will propel humanity towards the water-secure future every person on the planet need.” He emphasized that water is required for health, peace, and sustainable development and thus needs to be at the center of the global political agenda. As UN-Water chair and Director General of ILO, Mr.Gilbert F. Houngbo, aptly put it, “Water is and shall remain everyone’s business.”