Results of UN Water Conference
In 2022 more than 40,000 people died from drought in Somalia. A third of Pakistan was inundated after catastrophic floods. Droughts have caused agricultural yields to fall sharply in parts of Europe and China. According to the IPCC, half the world’s population endures severe water scarcity for at least some part of the year.
Managing water effectively presents one of the greatest challenges humanity faces. As well as increasing droughts, floods and sea level rise, there is widespread lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in many countries.
Recognising these problems, United Nations member states declared 2018 to 2028 as a decade of Action on Water for Sustainable Development. It aims to improve knowledge sharing related to water and water pollution control.
To try to address these issues, over 6000 delegates attended the UN Water Conference, held in late March 2023, which heard how the peoples of many countries are suffering from water disasters linked to human-made global warming. South Africa’s water minister, Senzo Mchunu, said “We seem to either have too much water, or too little. We will fail on climate change if we fail on water.”
So what were the outcomes of this conference?
The main one is the hope that the Water Action Agenda (a non-binding collection of commitments) will produce binding agreements at the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 to be held 30 November to 12 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
As the Conference closed, Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Water Action Agenda commitments cover a wide range of actions, from capacity-building to data and monitoring systems, to improving the resilience of infrastructure. “This is just the beginning. The online platform hosting the Water Action Agenda will remain open for submissions and available for all to view through the Conference website.
“Another key outcome of the conference will be a summary by the UN General Assembly President, capturing the many ideas, recommendations, and solutions to protect and support our world’s lifeblood that emerged during five interactive dialogues, four special events and hundreds of side events. At the 2023 UN Water Conference, a determined global community came together to make a difference not only for the future of water but for the future of the world.”
General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said in closing remarks that the $300 billion in pledges made to buoy the transformative Water Action Agenda has the potential of unlocking at least $1 trillion of socioeconomic and eco-system gains. “The outcome of this conference is not a legally binding document, but it still turns the page of history. You have reconfirmed the promise to implement the human right to water and sanitation for all. That means reaching the millions who are not even aware of this conference”.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “Your dedication to action and transformation is propelling us towards a sustainable, equitable and inclusive water-secure future for people and planet alike. This conference demonstrated a central truth: as humanity’s most precious global common good, water unites us all, and it flows across a number of global challenges. Water needs to 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.”
But the Guardian says that, “Despite the high stakes, there have been few concrete financial pledges, few world leaders and no protesters to point out government and private sector hypocrisies.”