2023 Water Conference,
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Stressing Risk of More Suffering, Death, Speakers Say Financing, Infrastructure, Policy Changes Crucial to End Global Water Crisis, as Conference Concludes

As they wrapped up the final day of the 2023 United Nations Water Conference, global leaders painted a grim picture of a global water crisis that if not addressed with financing, infrastructure and policy changes will lead to more suffering, deaths and could even spark conflicts and mass migration patterns around the globe.

The 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the United Nations Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) — co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands — led to a summary of proceedings from the General Assembly President that will feed into the 2023 high-level political forum on sustainable development.  Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) is essential to reaching the Organization’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  

The natural disasters emanating from the changing climate will only exacerbate the worries of the 2 billion people that lack safe drinking water along with the 3.6 billion people without access to safe sanitation, Government ministers, delegates and civil society representatives agreed during the third day of talks.

“Water is at the heart of most crises,” said the representative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, adding that since the last United Nations Water Conference held in the late 1970s, water rests at the centre of nearly three quarters of all recent disasters.  Climate change has only exacerbated food and water insecurity.  He urged accelerated action on the Water Action Agenda to ensure sustainable access to water for all and the development of  public health and sanitation projects.

The representative of the International Organization for Migration said that the critical resource of water, when unsustainably managed or polluted, poses a threat.  People on the move are at the heart of a water and sanitation crisis and 700 million people could be displaced by severe water scarcity by 2030.  Stressing that the international community “cannot continue to take water for granted”, she said that the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved without addressing the unique challenges faced by migrants and displaced persons

Peter Szijjarto, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said humanity faces complex challenges in security, the economy and health care.  As the climate crisis threatens more people’s access to water, this critical resource could become a real security risk that could lead to armed conflicts and large patterns of migration in the future.  The international community must take water-related challenges seriously or international conflicts will break out and migration will place enormous stresses on countries.

Echoing that concern, Arduen Karagjozi, Director of the Water Resources Management Agency of Albania, said water can be a potential source of conflict if States do not respond to its nature to be everywhere and for everyone.  Albania’s Government has the willingness to join international initiatives to improve water resources management for the country and for the Balkan region.  “Think[ing] out of the box is the right approach to strengthen the role of everyone who can play a role in the management of water resources,” he encouraged, adding that “we are sure together we can be the change”.

Speakers also touched on the importance of financing for developing nations intent on moving the Water Action Agenda forward by improving their water and sanitation systems.

Philip Karimu Lansana, Minister for Water Resources of Sierra Leone, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the bulk water supply infrastructure in Freetown has been largely rehabilitated with help from development partners.  He called on the United Nations to engage developed countries and donor partners to consider several options, such as increasing grants and providing interest-free loans for water and sanitation projects along with imposing a debt ceiling on developing countries to address restrictions on the type of loans available for water and sanitation projects.

The representative of Rwanda said that African country’s water resources are under pressure as its population grows.  Good hygiene practices are essential for the health of children and the Government is working with partners, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to deliver more supplies to communities.  Yet funding gaps continue in the country’s efforts to strengthen its water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, he said, stressing the need for more funds.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said small island developing States have notably found themselves classified as “water scarce”, with climate change exacerbating pre-existing structural vulnerabilities.  The global advancement of water issues is long overdue.  Recent support from the Inter-American Development Bank is but a drop in the bucket to achieve water-related targets and objectives.  With more than $100 billion needed annually to achieve Global Goal 6 between now and 2030, it is imperative to expand international finance, especially for infrastructure, capacity-building, information and data and technology transfer to support developing countries’ efforts to achieve a sustainable water supply.  “Access to water turns poverty into possibility and together we are going to make every drop count,” he declared.

Evelyn Wever-Croes, Prime Minister of Aruba of the Netherlands, introducing the outcome of the Conference, said 689 voluntary commitments have been registered in the Water Action Agenda.

The Conference adopted its draft report presented by Catalina Velasco Campuzano (Colombia), Rapporteur-General of the Conference.

In closing remarks, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the 2023 Water Conference demonstrated a central truth:  water — as humanity’s most precious global common good — unites all and flows across a number of global challenges.  Pledging the full support of the United Nations system, he urged all to recommit to a common future.  Without water, there can be no sustainable development.  “Let’s take the next steps in our journey to a water-secure future for all,” he encouraged, adding that “now is the time to act”.

Additional closing remarks were delivered by Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), President of the General Assembly; Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO); and Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.

Also speaking were ministers and representatives of Oman (for the Gulf Cooperation Council), Algeria, Kiribati, Latvia, Cyprus, Belize, Liechtenstein, Seychelles, New Zealand, Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, Jordan, Peru, Nauru, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Costa Rica, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Ireland, Iran, Mauritius, Venezuela, Zambia and Kuwait, along with observers for the League of Arab States and the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Representatives of the International Union for Conservation of Nature,  University for Peace, European Public Law Organization, Inter-Parliamentary Union, International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, International Atomic Energy Agency, United Nations World Tourism Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Meteorological Organization, Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization also spoke, along with representatives of Madvi4EcoEthics, Bayer AG, Youth Climate Movement NL, International Science Council, Girl Rising and the Pawanka Fund.


PETER SZIJJARTO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said humanity has been faced with complex challenges in areas such as security, the economy and health care.  These challenges have a close relationship with nature.  He referred to the huge floods in Pakistan and droughts around the world that have affected food supplies.  About 1.2 billion people are living on territories endangered by flooding and 5 billion people are living with a shortage of water at least one month a year.  Moreover, some 2.2 billion people face challenges with full access to healthy drinking water and 1,000 children die each day because of consuming polluted water.  Water is a real security risk and could lead to armed conflicts and large patterns of migration in the future, he stressed.  Illegal migration has created many problems for Hungary, which has made enormous efforts in the last seven years to protect its borders. He noted that Hungary has developed water management solutions and technologies and offers these options to other countries, frequently providing them with aid.  The international community should take water-related challenges seriously.  Otherwise, international conflicts will break out and migration will place enormous stresses on countries.

MOHAMED AL HASSAN (Oman), speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council and aligning himself with the Group of 77 “developing countries” and China, stressed that the 2023 United Nations Water Conference presents an opportunity for the international community to take practical and tangible measures for the preservation of water resources in safe, sound and sustainable ways.  Countries in the Gulf region — which is among the driest and most water-stressed regions of the world — have been able to provide water in a sustainable manner; at the lowest feasible costs while meeting the needs of present and future generations; and in line with steady population growth, rapid urbanization and comprehensive development.  Those States notably account for 40 per cent of the global desalination capacity and are therefore classified among the highest in the world in terms of providing water supplies and sanitation services.  Gulf States have been able to achieve 100 per cent of Sustainable Development Goal 6, he pointed out.

In light of this progress, he spotlighted a number of Gulf States’ initiatives to strengthen environmental ecosystems, meet the growing demand for water, achieve efficient water supply and use, recycle and reuse water, reduce water network leaks and increase societal awareness of water’s importance.  These States support the ideas and initiatives aimed at enhancing cooperation and scientific and technical exchange on water, he said, echoing the Secretary-General’s call to intensify international cooperation in this field.  He then reiterated the support of Gulf States for the Conference and for reaching practical outputs that meet countries’ aspirations.

ARDUEN KARAGJOZI, Director of the Water Resources Management Agency of Albania, stressed that water has a special importance to his Government since his people strongly depend on this resource for their social life and economy’s development, especially its energy, agriculture and tourism sectors.  Since Albania notably shares its rivers with its four neighbouring countries, water serves as a connecting bridge that unites all in the management of common interests and activities at the cross-border level.  However, water can also be a potential source of conflict if States do not respond to its nature to be everywhere and for everyone, he warned.  In that regard, Albania’s Government has shown concrete efforts and willingness to join international initiatives to improve water resources management for the country and for the Balkan region.  “Think[ing] out of the box is the right approach to strengthen the role of everyone who can play a role in the management of water resources,” he encouraged, adding that “we are sure together we can be the change”.

PHILIP KARIMU LANSANA, Minister for Water Resources of Sierra Leone, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the bulk water supply infrastructure in Freetown has been largely rehabilitated with help from development partners.  The Government has completed water infrastructure projects in three regional headquarter cities, he said, detailing ongoing construction of water supply facilities.  In addition, 22 gravity water supply systems and 150 solar powered boreholes have been completed for rural communities nationwide and 200 more boreholes are planned for this year.  As most of these activities will not be sustainable if the environmental degradation that adversely affects the water catchment areas remains unchecked, an Interministerial Task Force was established for the protection of the water catchment areas.  He called on the United Nations to engage developed countries and donor partners to consider increasing grants and providing interest-free loans for water and sanitation projects; cancelling debts for least developed countries with savings used to finance water and sanitation projects; reviewing non-concessional loan schemes; and imposing a debt ceiling on developing countries to address restrictions on the type of loans available for water and sanitation projects.

NACIM GAOUAOUI (Algeria) cited a United Nations study indicating that water shortages in Arab countries will reach 127 billion cubic metres by 2030, which — compounded by decreasing rainfall — will raise the cost of water elevenfold compared with other countries.  To respond, Algeria has made water a national priority in its development strategy and has already implemented policies that have resulted in an improved Human Development Index.  In 2022, more than 97 per cent of the population had access to drinking water, while more than 95 per cent were covered by sanitation networks.  This has allowed Algeria to achieve certain development goals five years earlier than planned, also facilitating progress towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation).  He also detailed Government efforts to increase national water-security capacity, further increase the availability of drinking water, regulate the use of water resources and address leakage and waste of the same.  He added that the Government has worked to increase national desalination capacity and has increased surface water storage through the completion of five new dams.

CLAVER GATETE (Rwanda) said this Conference comes at the right time as the international community celebrates international water week and confronts the water and sanitation crisis in order to achieve Global Goal 6.  The Rwandan Government has adopted a road map to implement these Global Goals, including Global Goal 6.  The country’s water resources are under pressure as its population grows.  Good hygiene practices are essential for the health of children and the Government is working to ensure more households are aware of these practices.  It is working with partners, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to deliver more supplies to communities.  Yet funding gaps continue in the country’s efforts to strengthen its water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, he said, stressing the need for more funds.  Climate change is another threat to its water supplies as the country experiences extended droughts and flooding, and pollution creates an additional risk.  More funding is vital for water, sanitation and hygiene programmes as the Government establishes new frameworks.  Rwanda is also in the process of studying transboundary water issues, which are critical, with neighbouring countries.  Stressing that water and sanitation are a basic right and necessary for life, he urged the international community to embrace the water and sanitation challenges and increase their investments in water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives in order to help achieve the 2030 Agenda.

TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Small Islands Developing States, underscored the necessity for collective commitment, cooperation, partnership and bold action at all levels to find an effective solution to all water-related challenges.  Every family member in Kiribati is expected to use water well and sparingly, with children — traditionally vested with the responsibility of collecting water on a daily basis — quick to learn from a very young age that water storage, conservation and hygiene are critical for life, health and well-being.  However, electrically powered pumps have brought about a new mindset over water’s use and conservation, shifting the responsibility towards the Government and resulting in greater water misuse by the population.  Turning to climate change’s adverse impacts on water availability and potability, he spotlighted several of his Government’s mitigating measures.  “Waging a war on two fronts simultaneously to address water issues and climate change is no mean feat,” he said as he pointed out that his country is ill-equipped for natural disasters.  Given the gravity of the looming global water crisis, the world must come together as a human family and learn from each other and integrate the wisdom of the past, he stressed.

ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), deploring the Russian Federation’s unprovoked, large-scale aggression, condemned Moscow’s deliberate attacks against critical infrastructure and civilian objects which have devastated Ukraine’s water system.  As a country with some of the richest surface and underground water resources in the world, Latvia has more than 2,000 lakes, over 12,000 rivers and almost 500 kilometres of coastline.  However, periods of extreme weather are becoming more frequent and prolonged due to climate change, negatively affecting both water quality and availability.  Against that backdrop, Latvia has prioritized water protection in its environmental policies and is starkly aware of the importance of international cooperation.  Since more than half of Latvia’s river run-off originates outside of the country, river basin management plans are useful tools for international cooperation, water resources protection and sustainable use.  He then encouraged parties to join the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.  “The rich agenda of these three days demonstrate that the world is thirsty to discuss water at the UN,” he pointed out, voicing his support for regular intergovernmental meetings on water within the Organization and for the appointment of a Special Envoy for Water.

ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus) called for more inclusive and comprehensive water governance with a strong focus on human rights.  States must scale up their consciousness on the interdependencies and complexity of water challenges across sectors and find ways to integrate the rights to a healthy environment and to water and sanitation.  At the global level, the United Nations must play a central role in addressing water-related challenges, undertake a system-wide approach and appoint a Special Envoy for Water.  Since water scarcity has always been a major challenge for Cyprus, his Government has undertaken a water policy for sustainable management; promoted the use of non-conventional water resources such as desalination and water reuse; and put in place water pricing incentives to contribute to its optimum use.  Cyprus is also supporting other countries on water managemffffent and sanitation through bilateral assistance programmes and regional initiatives.  He then underscored the importance of technological innovation as well as the urgency to secure financial resources to implement the 2030 Agenda.  To ensure a water balance in drought affected regions, there must be more effective and climate-resilient water and sanitation management solutions, he added.

CARLOS FULLER (Belize) said that despite being water rich, the toll of climate change, the demands of a growing population and a developing nation are threatening the availability of water in his country.  To address these problems, the Government is taking measures by developing a National Adaptation Plan for the water sector with support from the Green Climate Fund; introducing the use of geophysics for aquifer investigation with support from the Interamerican Development Bank; and designing the country's first groundwater monitoring network in the Orange Walk district with assistance from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), he said, detailing its other partnerships to that end.  However, more data is needed to ensure that the right solutions are employed holistically and efficiently.   Noting that his country’s water resources availability and variability data are outdated, he said a comprehensive water resources assessment is required for better implementation of water resources planning and allocation and development of his country’s water vulnerability profile.  “Technology, data, and science must be at the centre of our efforts, at all levels, to achieve a sustainable and just water future,” he said, echoing the call for enhanced international cooperation and finance, capacity-building and transfer of environmentally sound technologies to achieve efficiency in water management.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) pointed out that Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 14 are not only ends in themselves but also a precondition to the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a whole.  With less than 10 years to implement the Global Goals, the Water Conference must be a wakeup call for all to take responsibility and action.  For its part, Liechtenstein attaches importance to General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment; is part of a core group requesting an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice; and has supported the multi-stakeholder partnership to donate the money that individuals and organizations save from not buying bottled water to partners which invest in clean water projects around the world.  He also voiced his continued support for the International Law Commission’s efforts to clarify aspects of international law relevant to sea-level rise.  For low-lying atoll States, one of the first manifestations of sea-level rise will be the intrusion of saltwater into groundwater, placing extreme pressure on people to migrate.  The international community can assist those most affected in the medium-term by recommitting itself to people’s right to self-determination, he said.

IAN MADELEINE (Seychelles) said that the global water system is under immense stress due to the needs of increasing populations, development and industrialization, and that the link between water and climate change must be balanced to ensure that States’ vulnerabilities are not compounded.  For small island developing States — like the Seychelles — that do not have large water reserves, climate consequences are more acute, as severe droughts and water-related disasters aggravate water scarcity.  Further, higher temperatures and rising sea levels will destroy coastal and low-lying settlements and contaminate freshwater stores, and biodiversity loss and degraded water resources threaten the functionality of societies.  Against that backdrop, he underlined the need to strike the right balance between development and protecting the environment.  For its part, the Seychelles is committed to investing in sustainable solutions and conserving ecosystems and, to that end, he reported that his country has placed 50 per cent of its limited land — and over 30 per cent of its oceanic space — under protection.

DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago), stressing that the global advancement of water issues is long overdue, pointed out that the impacts of climate change and effects of water scarcity on the poorest and most vulnerable compel the international community to deepen its understanding of the synergies between water, sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity.  Small island developing States have notably found themselves classified as “water scarce”, with climate change exacerbating pre-existing structural vulnerabilities whereby long drought conditions and reduced rainfall have placed significant strains on communities, economies and livelihoods.  He then spotlighted a number of his Government’s efforts in response which included the transformation of its water sector, revised national integrated water resources management policy and partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank.  Such support however is but a drop in the bucket to achieve water-related targets and objectives.  As over $100 billion is needed annually to achieve Global Goal 6 between now and 2030, it is imperative to expand international finance especially for infrastructure, capacity-building, information and data and technology transfer to support developing countries’ efforts to achieve a sustainable water supply.  “Access to water turns poverty into possibility and together we are going to make every drop count,” he declared.

CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand), stressing that water is the “life-giver” of all things, said that her Government has worked closely with its partners in the Pacific to improve water resilience and sanitation systems.  Since that region faces some of the lowest levels of access to safe and reliable water and sanitation in the world, there is an urgent need for action to reach the most vulnerable communities.  Addressing pivotal water issues such as saltwater intrusion in that regard must be a priority, she underscored, before noting that climate change has degraded ecosystems’ abilities to conserve water.  As any failure to effectively respond will have devasting global effects for people, peace and the planet, she called on the international community to strive for greater action; voiced her support for a Special Envoy on Water; and urged all to listen to and learn from all voices with a stake in water.  Traditional knowledge embodies a wealth of wisdom and experience of nature gained over generations that offer valuable insights on access to and the protection of water resources.  Spotlighting several of her country’s initiatives and legislation in that regard, she expressed her hope that the Conference can serve as a much-overdue catalyst to accelerate water action for all.

STAN ODUMA SMITH (Bahamas), noting that water scarcity continues to have a significant impact on his country’s economic and social development, spotlighted his Government’s legislation, regulations, programmes, plans and policies to address water equality, quantity, conservation, infrastructure maintenance, management, education, area protection and restoration and supply expansion.  Water cycle production has real costs, he stressed, especially since the Bahamas spends most of its water services revenue on purchasing water and drastic little on the maintenance of its water infrastructure.  Water losses — including unaccounted for water losses — as well as financing for innovation and development are also a significant challenge not just for his Government but also for developing States.  In this connection, a multi-dimensional vulnerability index can capture the unseen economic dynamics of the Bahamas — whose economic profile is informed by gross domestic product (GDP) metrics of a tourism economy flanked by super wealth enclaves throughout the territory — and other small island developing States with acute deficiencies in basic services provision.  He then stressed the importance of the water, biodiversity and climate nexus for water-insecure Caribbean islands.

MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Small Island Developing States.  Noting that Papua New Guinea is a country facing extremely high water related vulnerabilities — compounded by capacity constraints, high population growth, infrastructure challenges and data gaps — he said its rural communities in particular often lack access to safe, clean drinking water, as well as proper hygiene and sanitation facilities.  The Government is working to meet the goal of ensuring that 70 per cent of the population has access to clean, safe, and sustainable drinking water in rural areas, and 95 per cent in urban areas.  Those targets are enshrined in the national Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy (2015-2030) and the Fourth Medium Term Development Plan (2023-2027), he said, noting that under the latter, more than $260 million in investments is projected, with support from the European Union, Australia, UNICEF and other United Nations entities.

KATHERINE ANAS AHMAD AL-HALIQUE (Jordan), detailing her Government’s water action programme, said that the recently launched fourth national strategy for water — covering the period of 2023 to 2040 — aims to facilitate health, prosperity and growth.  It has established concrete initiatives to, among other things, increase access to drinking water, dedicate a greater share of water to agriculture and improve desalinization capacity.  Also spotlighting the need to limit water waste, she said the Government strives to save each square metre of water by modernizing institutions to better manage water resources.  She went on to underline the importance of raising awareness, noting that the Government is working with academia and the private sector to facilitate access to more-detailed data, which will assist decision-making at both the public and consumer levels.  This strategy to improve decision-making is being carried out in parallel with other initiatives to modernize the economy and the public sector, she said.  She also supported the appointment of a Special Envoy for Water and expressed hope that commitments adopted during the Conference result in tangible action.

Luis Ugarelli (Peru) said the recent torrential rains and mudslides that affected his country highlight the fragility of ecosystems and the severe impacts of climate change.  About 70 per cent of Peru’s population lives along the coastline and their access to water and sanitation is being affected by climate change.  In 2011, Peru changed its Constitution and recognized that access to water is a fundamental right.  State policy now holds water as a national heritage, and access and availability of water go hand-in-hand with protecting resources in an environmentally sustainable way.  The Government is strengthening its public policy to carry out infrastructure projects, such as improving rainwater drainage systems in cities and developing plans to resettle populations living in zones at risk.  Noting that Peru has made 10 voluntary commitments, he said it is improving its management of waste water, such as the circular use of water in certain industries.  It is also developing policies that help manage the effects of flooding, mudslides and torrential rains.  Also noting the need for preventive measures, he said Peru shares 34 water basins with five neighbouring countries and is working to develop integrated mechanisms alongside them.

JOSIE-ANN DONGOBIR (Nauru), associating herself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said access to safe, reliable, affordable, secure and sustainable water supply is enshrined in her country’s National Sustainable Development Strategy (2019-2025).  “Unfortunately, water scarcity is a daily, lived reality for the people of Nauru,” she said.  Freshwater sources are limited and unsustainable, and those challenges will be further exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.  Currently, 60 per cent households in Nauru are without adequate rainwater capture and storage systems.  Outlining steps being taken by the Government to reverse that trend — including the distribution of 200 freshwater storage tanks to communities — she also called for bolder international action, emphasizing that the link between water and climate change is clear.  She joined others in calling on the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on Climate and Security and to immediately undertake an assessment of the United Nations capacity to respond to climate and water-related disasters.

KARLITO NUNES (Timor-Leste), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said his Government is striving to ensure that every household has access to safely managed water sources.  So far, progress has been uneven, with rural households not benefiting to the same extent as those in urban neighbourhoods, which underlines the need to improve water quality testing and data collection.  As in other small island States, climate change, drought, deforestation, land degradation, sea level rise, pollution and other natural disasters are among the most pressing environmental issues in Timor-Leste.  Those challenges have resulted in water scarcity and diminished water quality, and have also impacted agriculture, food insecurity, malnutrition and other health issues.  Against that backdrop, he stressed the need to invest in climate adaptation and explore the beneficial synergies between climatic resilience and environmental and resource management, which includes ecosystem-based adaptation and other nature-based approaches.

SARAH SAFYN FYNEAH (Liberia) stressed that the Water Conference is a defining moment for collective action.  For its part, Liberia has implemented bold policy measures to improve water equality while ensuring equitable sanitation and access to safe and affordable drinking water.  It has launched several hygiene projects, developed a regulatory framework and conducted studies on improving access and strengthening delivery.  Her Government has also led a joint review of the sector and its second Liberia compact has brought stakeholders to the table to demonstrate their commitments.  “Water is life, sanitation is dignity and hygiene is health,” she stressed, calling for enhanced cooperation and partnerships which prioritize assistance for developing countries through financing, skills sharing and capacity-building.  The international community must keep the spotlight on water issues and take intentional, bold efforts to turn the Conference’s political momentum into tangible and ambitious actions, she emphasized, underscoring that the world cannot afford to wait another 50 years.

MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica), noting that water has begun to become scarce due to population growth, rapid urbanization and climate change, spotlighted a range of Government initiatives.  Those include investing in and promoting integrated water resources management, encouraging behavioural changes and maintaining the health of Costa Rica’s aquifers.  However, there must be greater political will, strengthened transboundary cooperation and increased development cooperation at the global level.  States must ensure greater financial and logistical support, with an emphasis on the development of water and sanitation infrastructure.  She also called for better instruments to monitor water use and climate change impacts, avoid pollution and guarantee equity in water distribution, along with knowledge development and public-private and public-community partnerships.  Investing and improving water governance cannot be postponed anymore, as water is a global public good, she stressed, adding that water must be a tool for peace, gender equality and intergenerational justice.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said the world’s water security challenge is escalating, bringing new urgency to ensure human access to drinking water, food production, livelihoods, sanitation and other domestic uses.  In Myanmar, the elected civilian Government had strived to implement Sustainable Development Goals through community-driven development projects in road transport, telecommunications, water and sanitation and electricity.  It achieved significant progress on those fronts.  Regrettably, those promising developments were thwarted by the illegal military coup in February 2021, whose impact on the population has been devastating.  The military has been waging a campaign of violence and brutality, including using arbitrary detention, torture, summary execution and repeated massacres.  Due to such atrocities, over 1.6 million people are internally displaced and over 17.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, most lacking access to food, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.  Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 — or any of the Goals — will remain impossible “until the end of this military dictatorship”, he stressed.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the importance of raising awareness on the global water and sanitation crisis, supporting developing countries on their national policies, increasing international financing and promoting technology development and capacity-building for good water management and infrastructure.  As “the land of lakes and volcanoes”, Nicaragua has enshrined the right to water in its Constitution.  As part of its national plan to combat poverty and promote human development, his Government has reduced coverage gaps; ensured safe, quality and decent sanitation to all Nicaraguan families; and facilitated sustainable investments in coordination with local Governments and communities.  As a result, it has notably achieved drinking water coverage in 93 per cent of urban areas, with a goal to achieve 95 per cent by 2023; increased sewerage coverage in the country from 54 per cent to a projected 70 per cent in 2023; and has been working on sanitary sewerage systems and treatment plans to serve 90 per cent of urban families by 2026.  However, these efforts are being seriously affected by the interventionist policies of imperialist Governments, which impose illegal sanctions as well as unilateral coercive measures.

FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) said he is honoured to be facilitating negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals Summit Political Declaration with the Ambassador of Qatar, working closely with Member State representatives and key stakeholders and the United Nations system.  The water agenda truly illustrates the interdependence of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, stressing that water must not be viewed in isolation given its fundamental relevance to the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.  Member States must use the impetus from the Conference to accelerate the measures necessary to remove remaining roadblocks to delivering on Sustainable Development Goal 6, he said, emphasizing the need to take a human rights-based approach to water management starting with the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services in health care and public facilities and schools.  Managing, protecting and restoring water and water-related ecosystems is a prerequisite to mitigate and manage the triple crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, he added.  Voicing support for the urgent strengthening of water governance at all levels, he said accelerating the water action agenda needs the effective and equitable participation of civil society and stakeholders in the policy and law-making dialogue.  An inclusive approach is a foundation for peace, security, conflict prevention and stability.

AMIR SAEID IRAVANI (Iran) said his semi-arid country with limited water resources is experiencing the impact of climate change with profound consequences, including persistent droughts, heat stress, sand and dust storms, among others. It has made great efforts and will continue to ensure that everyone has access to clean, safe, and reliable water as well as sanitary facilities.  Its National Water Management Plan and Strategy aims to promote sustainable water use and management, improve water efficiency, address water scarcity and pollution, reduce water waste, promote water-saving technologies, improve irrigation systems, and increase climate resilience, he said, detailing his country’s other priorities.  The Government has established the Water Supply Campaign so that the rural water network can serve 100 per cent of the rural regions by 2030, he said, adding that today access to drinking water facilities is available in 86 per cent of villages and 99.9 per cent of cities.  He highlighted the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on his country, particularly on people's access to food, water, and health care.  Noting that Iran is the fifth-largest refugee-hosting country, he underscored the need for immediate international assistance to fulfil the needs of more than 5 million Afghan refugees living in his country.

VANDANA SEGOBIN MAULLOO (Mauritius) said that, while progress has been made towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6, the trends and current status of access to water and sanitation remain a cause for concern.  There is an urgent need to devise solutions that accelerate progress and ensure that no one is left behind.  As a small island developing State, Mauritius faces many challenges linked to climate change and global warming, which have serious impacts on water systems, with the rapid shifts between wet and dry, flood and drought combined with severe weather events.  Those, in turn, impact the availability of freshwater resources.  Calling for more rapid adaptation to environmental changes and efforts to slow down greenhouse gas emissions, she outlined a range of concrete measures taken by her Government, from infrastructure projects to reinforced legislation to the country’s Water Quality Surveillance Programme.  Mauritius is also building its resilience against water-related natural disasters by aligning its policies with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, she said.

JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela) called for the full, effective implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate change, along with strict adherence to the principle of shared, but differentiated, responsibility.  Also underscoring the need to “change the system and not the climate”, he said that the current model of predation — with its unsustainable patterns of consumption and production — has resulted in a devastating impact on vulnerable countries.  The international community must urgently act to preserve water resources — vital for every living being — and recognize the right to water as an inalienable human right that is essential for a suitable standard of living.  For its part, Venezuela’s Constitution and humanist vision seeks to make social justice a reality for all and, therefore, this vital liquid is considered a public good in that country.  He went on to reject, in contrast, the commodification and securitization of water elsewhere in the world.

REGINA CHAMA BOMA (Zambia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said Zambia aspires to be a middle-income country by 2030 and the Government has been working to implement its national development plans as building blocks towards Vision 2030.  It seeks to attain universal access to clean and safe water and 90 per cent access to sanitation services, which is in line with Global Goal 6.  The Government is implementing its Eighth National Development Plan, which includes economic transformation and job creation, human and social development, environmental sustainability and good governance.  Economic development and improvements in water can be an enabler of sectors such as agriculture, energy and mining, she said, stressing that investments in these areas are critical and will help diversify the country’s economy.  Moreover, investment in water and sanitation will improve health outcomes and increased productivity and investment in water will help to create jobs.  Improvement in water can help reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of people as well.

TAREQ M. A. M. ALBANAI (Kuwait), noting the last Water Conference was 46 years ago, said that this issue needs to be foregrounded much more.  The water sector is crucial for the entire world, including advanced and developing States and the least developed countries, he said, highlighting the plight of those nations that are suffering from climate challenges, such as floods and heavy rains that have increased by 134 per cent since the year 2000.  The Conference comes halfway through the Water Action Decade, he said, expressing solidarity with all those countries that recently suffered weather-related disasters.  Around the world, 2 billion people face difficulties accessing drinking water sources while 3.6 billion people lack the basic elements of sanitation.  This undermines the living conditions of people around the world, he said, highlighting the Middle East as one of the regions that suffers the greatest water scarcity.  Citing the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Arab Human Development Report, he said 13 of the 19 Arab States deal with water insecurity and called on the international community to redouble efforts to strengthen its collective ability to overcome such challenges.

The representative of the League of Arab States said the current Conference is being held in a sensitive international context, characterized by heightened geopolitical tensions and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.  The Arab region is facing those pressures along many other challenges, such as occupation and conflicts.  Noting that ensuring water security is one of the region’s top priorities, she spotlighted the creation of a dedicated regional council for that purpose.  “All Arab countries are doing everything they can to achieve [Sustainable Development Goal] 6,” she said, stressing that its attainment is not optional, but a “matter of survival” for the region.

Outlining a range of technological innovations currently in place — especially in rainwater use and management — she said many Arab States face colossal financial challenges, contrary to popular perceptions of the region as a wealthy and oil-rich one.  In fact, many Arab States are developing nations, and overall the region shoulders a great deal of debt.  Noting that rainwater levels are very low there, she said the region is working alongside the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to manage its water resources and has established the Arab Initiative for Climate Finance.  Among the top priorities going forward are the collection of better data to inform decisions, the implementation of science-based policies and the creation of knowledge networks.  Arab States have also adopted policies for the use of non-traditional water management methods, such as groundwater use.  “We need to forge ahead, go beyond what we’ve done to date, and lock up what we still need to do,” she said.

PETER DAVIDSON MCGUIRE, observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta, echoed Pope Francis who said:  “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”  In taking up this cause, the Sovereign Order of Malta has been an active member and contributor to the Group of Friends on Water and Peace in Geneva.  It has also implemented a number of projects to realize this right for all by facilitating good hygiene practices by working with decentralized authorities; expanding access to safe water and sanitation; applying a strong gender-based lens; focusing on menstrual hygiene management; and promoting water and sanitation systems that use solarized water pumps and other sustainable technologies.  Only through the use of partnerships and the pooling of resources can the world find itself in a position to fully succeed on the 2030 Agenda and achieve universal, equitable and safe access to water for all, he stressed.

The representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature said water as a natural resource is embedded in almost all economic transactions and is critical for food production, human health and energy security. “We will not achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] without making progress on water,” she emphasized, underscoring the need for determined action to secure equitable access to water resources and associated ecosystem services, including for the most vulnerable.  Decisions around water governance, investment and law must consider the multiple values of nature, including indigenous knowledge and spiritual and cultural values.  In addition, the international community must protect, restore and protect healthy freshwater habitats, targeting better connectivity, quality, pollution control and systems integrity.  Those actions are increasingly gaining traction at the highest level, she observed, recalling that the last Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognized the critical role of water systems and ecosystems in delivering climate benefits.  Both the climate change and biodiversity agendas are inextricably linked with the water agenda, she pointed out, adding that nature-based solutions, which are actions that address societal challenges by protecting, sustaining, managing and restoring ecosystems, can play a critical positive role.

The representative of the International Organization for Migration said that water not only constitutes a resource, but — when unsustainably managed or polluted — also poses a threat.  People on the move find themselves at the heart of a water and sanitation crisis, and she stressed that its unprecedented scale could see 700 million displaced by severe water scarcity by 2030.  Pointing out that environmental degradation is shaping patterns of water availability and human mobility, she underscored that concerted, timely adaptation to water extremes is crucial for preventing adverse impacts on human mobility in current and future at-risk areas.  She went on to state that migrants and displaced persons grapple with unique challenges and have specific needs, as they often face discrimination and legal or administrative barriers to accessing water and sanitation services.  Further, drinking-water scarcity has forced many women and girls to search for water deep in jungles or the desert, increasing the risk of sexual violence.   Stressing that the international community “cannot continue to take water for granted”, she also said that the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved without addressing these unique challenges faced by migrants and displaced persons.

The representative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said since the late 1970s and the last Water Conference, water-related emergencies have escalated.  Water is now at the centre of nearly three-quarters of all recent disasters and climate change has exacerbated food and water insecurity.  “Water is at the heart of most crises,” he said.  These disasters affect water quality.  People can live in dirty, stagnate water and risk deadly disease.  Water is at the heart of water and sanitation emergencies, he said, pointing out that after natural disasters, the spread of water-borne diseases, such as cholera, creates secondary emergencies. Water is also at the heart of the climate crisis.  He stressed the need to accelerate action on the Water Agenda to ensure sustainable access to water for all and develop public health and sanitation projects.

The representative of University for Peace, stressing water’s key role in food security, energy production, ecosystem development, economic growth and social stability, said:  “water is humanity’s lifeblood”.  Though water is a human right and a common development denominator for a better future, the international community is draining this lifeblood through overconsumption.  About three out of four natural disasters are linked to water, he said, adding that one in four people lives without safely managed water services.  Millions of women and girls spend hours every day fetching water.  Also highlighting the role of proper hand hygiene in containing COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, he noted that one in four people still lack access to hand-washing facilities.  Authorities at the local and national as well as regional and international levels must coordinate their efforts with a view to implementing integrated water resources management, he stressed, noting that the University of Peace offers education on this.

IOANNIS KATSOGIANNIS, European Public Law Organization, said the organization’s Institute of Sustainable Water Management and Water Law for which he serves as Director was founded to help find and implement solutions to the global water crisis.  Highlighting that there are still millions of people without access to safe drinking water and billions of people without improved sanitation, he stressed the need for further actions that are based on experience and tailored to the needs of each of the affected populations.   Water scarcity will very soon affect whole societies and might cause whole countries to be abandoned, he warned, stressing the need for urgent action, including quicker implementation of water reuse within Europe and globally.  There are countries that have not yet begun to use appropriate technologies to achieve the legislative limits for water reuse either for agriculture or for groundwater recharge, he added.  Spotlighting water pollution and its threat to biodiversity, among others, he said further actions should be centrally coordinated to arrive at holistic global solutions.  His organization is willing to contribute to the United Nations and offers its highly scientific personnel assistance in accomplishing set targets.

PATRICIA ANN TORSNEY, Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, stressed that all action on water and sanitation must be grounded in the recognition that these are public goods and fundamental human rights.  Since their provision to the billions who are currently going without or at risk of deprivation will require huge infrastructure investments, Governments must drastically spend more money in water conservation and provision; use a mix of taxes and subsidies to ban unsustainable water use practices; and promote healthy ecosystems.  Where the private sector is involved as an investor or a service provider, there must be strong guarantees that water and sanitation are not mere commodities to be sold at the highest possible price.  Water and sanitation policies must be mainstreamed more consistently across all departments and sectors and must also include all communities and groups, she added.  She then underlined the need for more precise and disaggregated data and analyses at local and national levels.

The representative of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, delivering a joint statement on behalf of the Central Asian States, reaffirmed the group’s commitment to achieving sustainable development and expressed their willingness to implement collective activities to that end.  Among other things, those include attracting foreign investments, putting in place sustainable policies, prioritizing the conservation of glaciers, building a low-carbon economy and employing renewable resources.  The Central Asian States are working jointly to resist the current Aral Sea crisis and its consequences on the region’s people, and address related challenges.  He went on to underscore the region’s commitment to the joint use and management of natural resources, as well as environmental protection and researching new technologies.  In addition, Central Asia considers water diplomacy to be an important form of multilateral cooperation, he said, pledging that the group will work to implement the outcomes of the Conference at all levels. 

DAVID COOPER, Acting Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, said that biodiversity, “in a word, is life”.  It provides critical services that keep the planet alive, and depends on water-related ecosystems including wetlands, rivers, peatlands and forests.  However, biodiversity is being lost, and ecosystems are being degraded, with freshwater ecosystems particularly impacted.  The consequences are often most severe for those who rely directly on these ecosystem services for their livelihoods — especially Indigenous peoples, family farmers and fisherfolk.  “The effects will be catastrophic if these trends are not reversed,” he warned, noting that the urgent need for transformative actions drove the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity to adopt the ambitious Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, in December 2022.  Calling for its full implementation, he also noted the need to galvanize actions “beyond our usual constituencies” and leverage strong cross-sectoral synergies through the Water Action Agenda.

The representative of the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, declared:  “We must work for water, for water to work for us.”  Water can provide the essential solutions needed to tackle climate change, he said, noting that it provides a significant carbon sink and serves as the basis of many mitigation and adaptation solutions.  Slowing climate change by cutting emissions eases pressures on water.  At the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, countries will assess progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and look ahead to next steps.  He called for a tangible road map to 2030 which provides recommendations across all sectors and areas — including water — to deliver on the commitments made, but not yet delivered upon.  To that end, the United Nation Climate Change Secretariat will be establishing an “action pledge” based on the pillars of knowledge, innovation and action, aimed among other things at supporting national adaptation plans that reflect the climate-water-nexus.

The representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), underlining the importance of scientific data for effective resources management, noted that nuclear techniques — such as stable and radioisotope tracers — have been widely used in large-scale hydrological studies as powerful tools to assess the quality, sustainability and origins of water.  As part of the Water Action Agenda and to further support Member States on achieving Global Goal 6, the Agency has launched a global water analysis laboratory network which aims to increase developing countries’ self-reliance in generating national water data.  It not only aims to make water projects more sustainable and impactful but will also establish, enhance and coordinate national technical capacities in water analysis while partnering with States, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other organizations.

The representative of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) said that in 2019, tourism represented 10 per cent of global GDP, providing 1 out of 10 jobs. Detailing the negative impact of COVID-19 on tourism, she said the WTO forecasts that international tourist arrivals will be back at 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.  Tourism depends on a healthy planet and on clean and reliable water, she underscored, noting that it is essential to almost all tourism activities, including as part of a tourism attraction, or in accommodations, food, gastronomy, and transport, among others.  Waste management remains a key concern in many tourism destinations, she added.  In some world regions and in areas of desert or encroaching desertification, the responsible use of water by the tourism industry is especially important, she said, detailing the direct and indirect water footprint related to tourism operations.  Urging collaboration across borders, sectors and stakeholders to address water challenges, she cited a joint report by the WTO and UNEP on integration of Sustainable Development Goal 12 on responsible consumption and production into tourism policies, detailing progress in that regard as well as areas for action.

The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) underlined the need to value water as a global public good, urging those present to protect, sustainably use, reuse and replenish this resource.  He went on to point out that agriculture accounts for over 70 per cent of global freshwater withdrawals, stating that, through increasing efficiency, reducing negative impacts and reusing wastewater, “agriculture holds the solution to the global water crisis”.  Water is essential for food production on land and in water and, as no one-size-fits-all solution exists, all stakeholders must engage in the process of finding innovative solutions to interconnected challenges.  For its part, the FAO, since early 2022, has worked to encourage integrated water-resource management, including through initiatives and platforms relating to national water road maps, integrated drought management, global irrigation mapping, global water data, remote sensing for water productivity and water scarcity in agriculture.  “Water is food and food is water,” he observed.

The representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that the water crisis, exacerbated by climate change, is one of the most pressing challenges that the world is facing today.  More and longer droughts, frequent and severe floods and other extreme weather events are placing enormous pressure on water resources.  “However, water can be a part of the solution,” he said, adding that smart water management can help capture greenhouse-gas emissions, increase climate and disaster risk resilience and support biodiversity.  The World Meteorological Congress has endorsed his organization’s Water Declaration to accelerate implementation of Goal 6, he said.  As the United Nations’ specialized agency on weather, climate and water, his organization facilitates global weather observation networks in real time to enable countries to monitor and prepare for weather changes.  Expressing concern that only half of its members report having an operational multi-hazard early warning system in place, he said this is crucial to support water-related sectors such as food production.

The representative of Madvi4EcoEthics said she is a 12-year-old climate activist and has been a climate warrior since she was five years old.  She said she fights every being’s fundamental right to clean water, clean soil, clean air, clean food and health, both for her generation and future generations.  She urged a ban on polyfluoroalkyl substances in consumer products.  Unseen pollutants, especially polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of human-made, non-biodegradable forever chemicals, that bioaccumulate and are used to make products heat-, water- and grease-resistant.  They pose a great risk to people’s health by making food and water non-consumable.  “We can’t eat money,” she said, adding it is time to work together to ban polyfluoroalkyl substance use from all products.

The representative of Bayer AG, said the water crisis is a dire reality for many people around the globe, and is closely linked to food insecurity.  “This crisis will only get worse if we don’t act now,” she said, noting that companies have a major role to play through corporate water stewardship, generating positive impact and reaching those most in need.  Citing one example, she said rice crops are responsible for 43 per cent of irrigation-water withdrawals around the globe.  Bayer is committed to improving water use per kilogramme of irrigation water.  In 2021, it launched a project with smallholder farmers in India, successfully cultivating a variety of rice known as “direct-seeded rice”, which requires up to 40 per cent less water to grow.  Bayer is also working to integrate water sustainability decisions into all its business models, she said.

The representative of Youth Climate Movement NL offered her vision for 2050 in which the 2023 Water Conference was the moment that water management changed globally to become more sustainable, equitable and just than ever before.  In that vision, the Conference succeeded only because delegates, representatives and companies decided to join forces with, rather than side-line young generations because they knew that youth were the future.  “This is the future speaking — don’t forget to listen,” she stressed.

The representative of the International Science Council underscored the need for strong commitment and implementation across science, policy and practice.  Since the water cycle transcends national and sectoral boundaries, multi-level coordination and multisectoral coherence are essential for enabling real and long-lasting progress on the people and planet agenda, she said.  Among other things, water and sanitation facilities must be drastically improved; solutions must be developed with and for local communities; the water-energy-food-resource nexus must be better understood and governed; and robust, agile scientific advisory systems must inform anticipatory action and prevention on new and emerging issues while building bridges across institutions and sectors.

The representative of Girl Rising said that, for centuries, women and girls in Uganda have had to walk up to 10 kilometres daily to fetch water for their home, often at considerable personal risk.  Noting that she comes from a farming village in the Lake Victoria Basin, she recounted the loss of her family’s plantation due to heavy rainfall, “which made it really hard to survive”.  She also reported that her community is currently battling with French oil giant TotalEnergies, which wants to construct a pipeline through her backyard.  A third of that pipeline will pass through the Basin, she noted, stressing that an oil spill — “which always happens” — will threaten 40 million people.  Urging those present to consider women’s needs and experiences in every water project, she added that “change will happen at the speed of empathy”.

The representative of the Pawanka Fund said the world could not exist without water and he rejected all attempts to commercialize water.  All Indigenous Peoples understand that water is a global good.  Its use, and the areas in which it is found, should be used to contribute to the global good and help humankind.  Indigenous Peoples have the right to clean drinking water, he stressed, adding that international mechanisms on water should include the participation of all stakeholders, including Indigenous People, youth and women.  He urged Member States and international organizations and financial institutions to support all initiatives driven by Indigenous People.

The representative of the Convention on Wetlands, said water is too often seen as a commodity, without consideration of the ecosystems that provide it.  Water is the defining feature of wetlands, she said, noting that almost all water used for human consumption is drawn directly or indirectly from wetlands, which also help ensure human well-being by buffering water extremes.  However, wetlands are degrading at alarming rates, with between a fifth and a third of all wetlands around the globe lost since 1977.  Climate change exacerbates those risks, with flooding and drought events becoming stronger, longer and more frequent, and water insecurity spreading.  “We cannot address our water needs without wetlands,” she stressed, describing the Water Conference as an opportunity for change.  “We have to harness the opportunity to radically scale up protection and restoration of nature,” she said, citing the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and calling for wetlands to be recognized in national climate change plans, as well as nationally determined contributions.

The representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said industry is a major consumer and a polluter, and like many other sectors, is highly dependent on water availability — the higher levels of industrialization, the higher the share of water consumed.  Globally, industry uses 19 per cent of freshwater today and that figure is much higher in some of industrialized countries.  Water requirements will exceed the supply of freshwater resources, he warned, noting that developing countries are particularly affected by water stress and risk of water scarcity.  Underscoring the need for improved water management, he said UNIDO supports countries to decouple industrial development from higher levels of water consumption and water body pollution.  It also seeks to harness the role of industry as a solution-provider, he said, highlighting the importance of the private sector in that regard.  To protect water resources for future generations, UNIDO policy, advisory and technical cooperation services support both the institutional and firm level.  It also supports Governments to implement circular economy approaches to reuse water and recycle, and shift towards resource efficiency in general, he said, detailing UNIDO’s other efforts.

Outcome of Conference

EVELYN WEVER-CROES, Prime Minister of Aruba of the Netherlands, noted that a summary of proceedings will be shared by the President of the General Assembly with participating States and others next week, included in the Conference’s final report and will feed into the discussions at the 2023 high-level political forum on sustainable development.  She said 689 voluntary commitments have been registered in the Water Action Agenda, congratulating all States, stakeholders and their coalitions on this massive achievement.

She then highlighted several crucial messages which emerged from the Conference’s broad preparatory process, its interactive dialogues and the commitments in that Agenda.  The world must radically change the way it understands, values and manages water; recognize this resource as a global common good; and strengthen the food-health-cities-energy-water nexus as the catalyst for sustainable and just development, she stressed.  Water — as a health catalyser instead of a risk — can be the lever for curbing biodiversity loss and scaling up climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience.  However, there must be the right financing and governance; innovative public-private partnerships across geographies, borders, cultures and sectors; and a human rights-based approach.  The world looks forward to the implementation of all Water Action Agenda commitments and the appointment of a United Nations Special Envoy on Water, she added.

As of today, water can never be left out of any of the Organization’s agendas, strategies and plans of action, she declared.  The Conference’s messages imply a follow-up that is as inclusive, cross-sectoral and action-oriented as its lead-up, she pointed out, before noting that a concrete follow-up will occur through the Sustainable Development Goal Summit in 2023, the Summit of the Future in 2024, the World Social Summit in 2025.  There are further opportunities through the annual high-level political forum on sustainable development, the conference of parties and other United Nations processes as well as the Dushanbe Water Process.  “We broke the hydrological cycle and at the same time it needs to be recognized that water is our gamechanger — two sides of the same coin,” she underscored.  In extending the registration of commitments for the Water Action Agenda until 1 May 2023, she urged all to take concerted action now.

Draft Report of Conference

CATALINA VELASCO CAMPUZANO (Colombia), Rapporteur-General of the Conference, introduced the Conference’s draft report (document A/CONF.240/2023/L.1).  Providing an overview of the draft report’s seven chapters, she said they will be finalized to include, respectively:  information relating to organizational matters; a summary of statements made during the general debate; a summary of each of the five interactive dialogues; consideration of the report of the Credentials Committee; a summary of the Conference’s discussions; and the proceedings relating to adopting the report and closing the Conference.  She also noted that a list of documents before the Conference will be incorporated as an annex to the final report.

The Conference then adopted the draft report and authorized the Rapporteur-General to finalize the text in conformity with United Nations practice.

Closing Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the 2023 Water Conference demonstrated a central truth:  water — as humanity’s most precious global common good — unites all and flows across a number of global challenges.  Since water is about health, sanitation, hygiene, disease prevention, peace, sustainable development, poverty eradication, food systems, jobs, prosperity, human rights and gender equality, it must be at the centre of the global political agenda.  “All of humanity’s hopes for the future depend, in some way, on charting a new science-based course to bring the Water Action Agenda to life,” he emphasized.

To realize the game-changing, inclusive and action-oriented commitments made by Member States and others at the Water Conference, the world must reinforce water’s place as a fundamental human right; reduce the pressures on hydrological systems; and ensure good decision-making and smart policies, he said.  It must also develop alternative food systems to reduce water’s unsustainable use in food production and agriculture; design and implement a new global water information system to guide plans and priorities by 2030; and integrate its approach on water, ecosystems and climate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This notably includes resilient infrastructure, water pipelines, wastewater treatment plans and early warning systems against natural disasters to protect every person by 2027.  States must continue to press for climate justice and global action to limit global warning to a 1.5°C rise.  The world must drastically accelerate investment for countries to reach sustainable Development Goal 6, he added, noting that a number of other follow-up steps are under consideration — including the appointment of a Special Envoy on Water.

Pledging the full support of the United Nations system, he urged all to recommit to a common future.  Without water, there can be no sustainable development.  “Let’s take the next steps in our journey to a water-secure future for all,” he encouraged, adding that “now is the time to act”.

CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, thanked Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon and Aruba Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes and the teams of Tajikistan and the Netherlands for guiding the international community to this historic moment. “Yesterday and today, you have laid the foundation to acknowledge that future generations can value water and benefit from its bounty,” he said, commending all those who reaffirmed the hydrological cycle that linking all through space and time is finally considered as a global common good.  

“We all have our share of responsibility for it,” he added, noting the ambition and solidarity in moving away from trying to quench the thirst of the world’s economies and ecosystems at unbearable cost and with catastrophic impact towards an inspiring, cooperative, transboundary, transformative water action agenda for sustainable development and resilience.  More than $300 billion has been pledged toward this agenda at the Conference, with the potential of unlocking at least $1 trillion of socioeconomic and ecosystem gains.  “The outcome is not a legal and binding document, but it still turns the page of history,” he stressed, noting the international community’s reconfirmation of the promise to implement the human right to water and sanitation for all.

GILBERT HOUNGBO, Chair of UN-Water and Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), noted that the Conference created a bold water action agenda with clear, voluntary commitments that will adapt and grow to meet global challenges through 2030 and beyond.  Stressing the importance of cooperation across sectors, stakeholders and borders, he said that cooperation and partnership can guide the way towards a “culture of deliberation for sustainable solutions in solidarity”.  All have a role to play, he emphasized, stating that “we can be the change we want to see”.  He went on to say that inclusivity will be key to success, and youth, Indigenous people, women, Governments, the private sector and “all of us” must work together towards the collective water action agenda — on equal terms with equal rights.  Highlighting the United Nations role in bringing the international community together to one place for debate, consensus and action, he said that water can flow into all other relevant inter-governmental processes “because water is — and shall remain — everyone’s business”.

EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, stressing that water is life itself, pointed out that the world came together because of the urgency and opportunity for water.  “These three days were empowering — we brought the world to New York and now we can bring water action to the world,” he emphasized.  Inputs and reflections in the Conference’s five interactive dialogues and its hundreds of events have shown that its principles were not empty ambitions but rather inclusive, cross-sectoral and action-oriented.  He then highlighted several of the Conference’s main messages, reiterated the need for follow-up and underscored the importance of early warning for all to revolutionize how countries are best equipped to respond.  This Conference however is only the beginning.  “I am more inspired today to take action on water — together, we can,” he said.

For information media. Not an official record.