UN Member States discussed a plan of action for an International Decade focused on water for sustainable development.
Vladimir Smakhtin, UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, noted that the planned activities for the Decade will closely align with the work on water-related SDGs and other global agreements.
The Netherlands and Finland expressed hope that during the Decade, Member States will establish a regular place to review progress on SDG 6.
8 December 2017: UN Member States recently discussed the plan of action for an International Decade focused on water for sustainable development. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), UN-Water, and the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan organized the briefing that was held at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 8 December 2017.
In Resolution 71/222, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed the period from 2018-2028 the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ to further improve cooperation, partnership and capacity development towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Decade will commence on World Water Day, 22 March 2018, and conclude on World Water Day 2028.
The Resolution requests the UN Secretary-General, with the support of UN-Water, the UN specialized agencies, the Regional Commissions and other UN entities, to facilitate the implementation of the Decade in cooperation with governments and other relevant stakeholders. The Secretary-General asked DESA to carry out the mandates requested by the Resolution and to plan and facilitate activities for the Decade, with inputs and support from UN-Water.
At the briefing, Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov, Permanent Representative of Tajikistan, provided welcoming remarks, noting that the ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ resolution has 177 co-sponsors. František Ružička, Chef de Cabinet to the UNGA President, presented updates on plans for the Decade’s launch. He said the event will take place on 22 March 2018 and will be the UNGA President’s first high-level event.
Vladimir Smakhtin, UN University Institute for Water Environment and Health, explained that UN-Water created a Task Force to support the Secretary-General to plan and organize the Decade, from February 2017 until the launch of the Decade in March 2018. He presented the draft action plan for the Decade, which was developed by the Task Force and outlines current activities and capabilities of the UN system, as well as initial thoughts on the operational setup planned to support Member States’ implementation.
Three objectives for the Decade aim to: advance sustainable development; energize implementation of existing programmes; and inspire action to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
Smakhtin said that three objectives had been defined for the Decade: advance sustainable development; energize implementation of existing programmes and projects; and inspire action to achieve the 2030 Agenda. To that end, he noted, the support to Member States in reaching the Decade’s objectives should be pursued, inter alia, by the following four work streams: facilitating access to knowledge and the exchange of good practices; improving knowledge generation and dissemination, including new information relevant to water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); pursuing advocacy, networking and promoting partnerships and action; and strengthening communication for implementation of the water-related Goals.
Smakhtin added that the planned activities will be closely aligned with the work on water-related SDGs and other water-related global agreements, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
Juwang Zhu, DESA, explained that 31 UN entities and 39 international partners contributed to drafting the action plan. He added that the action plan has built in flexibility so that it can be refined over time and incorporate ongoing feedback.
In the ensuing discussion, Japan called for underlining the importance of preparedness in water-related disasters, both in the action plan and in the annex that provides a mapping of existing partnerships. He also suggested: convening a forum on water-related disasters; including disaster risk reduction (DRR) in both the communications and follow-up and review sections of the action plan; and emphasizing the link between water and health. Germany called for stronger emphasis on fragility and conflict and their impact on water management.
The Netherlands said the Decade should be used for further strengthening the review of SDG 6 and other water-related goals and targets by building a more regular review process by Member States, beyond the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The Netherlands also recommended building on the example of the UN Ocean Conference and creating an online registry of water-related voluntary commitments. She also inquired: how UN-Water can be strengthened given its crucial role in the Decade’s implementation; who is going to be leading the Task Force; and what other UN agencies will put forward resources. Finland also expressed hope that during the Decade, Member States will establish a regular place in which to review progress on SDG 6.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that it will hold a Global Conference on ‘Prosperity through Hydrological Services’ from 7-9 May 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland. Hungary stressed the need for more concrete points of action and clear information about how UN-Water will be provided with the needed resources to implement the Decade. He recommended the use of already available coordinating mechanisms.
Ethiopia emphasized that the Decade needs to be considered within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, explaining that “ultimately what matters is SDG implementation.” The focus needs to be on how Member States are supported to implement the SDGs, he added – how resources, capacity building, and technology transfer will be mobilized for SDG implementation.
The Russian Federation said the role of DESA needs to be clearly defined in the action plan. He added that the Decade’s third objective – inspire action to achieve the 2030 Agenda – is not ambitious and action-oriented enough, thus it should be rephrased in stronger words and not limited to distributing fact sheets. [UN-Water Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]