The fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit is the first in a series of events slated for the second quarter of 2022 that seek to promote focus on water and sustainable water governance in preparation for the UN 2023 Water Conference.
The Conference is expected to help “create a consistent drumbeat” to raise attention to water by offering a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to catalyze action and build partnerships to achieve international water goals, including SDG 6 and its targets.
‘Water for Sustainable Development: Best Practices and the Next Generation’ is the theme of the fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit, which kicks off next week in Kumamoto, Japan. As we prepare for the Summit, the SDG Knowledge Hub shines the spotlight on the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, provides an overview of the UN-Water process, and updates on the preparations for the UN 2023 Water Conference – arguably “the most important water meeting in a generation,” expected to catalyze action on SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation).
The 2023 Conference is expected to deliver a Global Water Pact and a roadmap for the second half of the 2018-2028 Water Decade and the SDGs.
Water is “a fundamental part of all aspects of life.” Due to its crosscutting nature, water underpins all three dimensions of sustainable development and supports the achievement of many SDGs through intimate linkages with climate, the environment and health, among many others. The UN 2023 Water Conference vision statement, for example, acknowledges that “[w]ithout a functioning, resilient water cycle for all people everywhere,” human health, environmental integrity and a sustainable, equitable future “will remain out of reach.” Yet today, two billion people rely on unsafe drinking water sources, and half of the world’s population lack safely managed sanitation. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated – and exposed – these vulnerabilities.
International Water Decade: Towards Mid-term Review
In 2017, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution (A/RES/71/222) proclaiming the period from 2018 to 2028 the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development.’ The Decade’s objectives are “a greater focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives and on the implementation and promotion of related programmes and projects, as well as on the furtherance of cooperation and partnership at all levels in order to help to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
In 2019, the UNGA decided (A/RES/73/226) to convene, in New York, US, from 22-24 March 2023, a Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action – what is now known as the UN 2023 Water Conference. In a 2020 resolution (A/RES/75/212), the UNGA decided that the Conference shall:
- Assess implementation progress in the first half of the Decade;
- Identify possible challenges and obstacles related to the achievement of the objectives of the Decade;
- Exchange views and develop actions and initiatives needed to accelerate progress;
- Support further action and initiatives, and enhance means of implementation, partnerships, and cooperation at all relevant levels;
- Share ongoing efforts, best practices, and experience;
- Involve all relevant stakeholders from governments, the UN, intergovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), academia, the scientific community, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, and others;
- Invite States and other relevant stakeholders to announce voluntary commitments contributing to the implementation of the objectives of the Decade; and
- Contribute to the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by providing input to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
In March 2021, the UNGA President convened a one-day High-level Meeting on Water to demonstrate political support for the Decade and highlight priority areas for accelerated action. The main messages from the event included the need for:
- Including all people, particularly indigenous groups and young people, in innovative water solutions;
- Connecting efforts on water to the need to preserve land integrity, and to prevent desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD);
- Closing gaps in data and observation systems, particularly by strengthening the role of UN-Water as coordinator, and better engaging the private sector;
- Scaling up financing and innovations; and
- Creating an international panel on water, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The recently concluded 36th UN-Water Meeting, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 7-8 April 2022, highlighted recent preparatory steps towards the UN 2023 Water Conference, including: the ninth World Water Forum, held in Dakar, Senegal, in March 2022; World Water Day 2022, marked on 22 March, and the World Water Development Report (WWDR), both focused on the theme, ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’; and ongoing regional preparatory meetings for the UN 2023 Water Conference taking place in a virtual format.
UN 2023 Water Conference: Creating a “Consistent Drumbeat”
With the HLPF set to review SDG 6 in July 2023, and 2023 having been named the year of water ambition, the upcoming UN 2023 Water Conference, as the UN-Water Briefing Note by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) notes, is expected to help “create a consistent drumbeat” to raise attention to water. It will offer a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to catalyze action and build partnerships to achieve international water goals, including SDG 6 and its targets.
The UN 2023 Water Conference will be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. At the 36th UN-Water Meeting, the co-hosts confirmed that the event’s modalities will involve:
- six plenaries during which Member States will have space to make their statements;
- five dialogues, the themes for which will be agreed later in 2022;
- three to five special events;
- side events; and
- cultural elements such as exhibitions and marathons that will lead to a global focus on water during the week of the meeting.
Proposals for the event’s themes are currently under consideration and will be selected during a meeting at the end of 2022. At the 36th UN-Water Meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General for the UN 2023 Water Conference, Liu Zhenmin, noted that most proposals fall into one of five themes: 1) water, climate, and disaster risk reduction (DRR); 2) water and peace and security; 3) water for agriculture and food security; 4) nature and water quality; and 5) universal access to water and sanitation.
While the Conference will not result in a negotiated outcome, it is expected to deliver a set of voluntary commitments in the form of a Global Water Pact, a summary of the proceedings, and a roadmap for the second half of the 2018-2028 Water Decade and the SDGs, which are set to be achieved two years after the Decade concludes.
Fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit: A Springboard to the UN 2023 Water Conference
The fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit, taking place from 23-24 April, is the first in a series of events slated for the second quarter of 2022 that seek to promote focus on water and sustainable water governance. The Summit’s focus on best practices and the next generation supports one of the priority areas identified by the March 2021 High-level Meeting on Water – that of including all people, particularly indigenous groups and young people, in innovative water solutions.
The Sanitation and Water for All 2022 Sector Ministers’ Meeting from 18-19 May 2022, the seventh Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction from 23-28 May, the second High-Level International Conference on Water Decade from 6-9 June, and a Geneva Water Dialogue on 22 June will keep water in the limelight over the course of the coming months. Together with the fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit, these meetings will build momentum towards the “watershed moment” that the UN 2023 Water Conference hopes to become.