20 July 2022
SDG 6 Event at HLPF 2022 Reviews Themes and Inputs for UN 2023 Water Conference
Photo Credit: Joshua Lanzarini
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Delegates were briefed on the outcomes of the 2021 Bonn Water Dialogues for Results, the 9th World Water Forum, the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit, the High-Level Symposium on Water at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, and the Dushanbe Water Conference, as well as on the upcoming Cairo Water Week.

Proposed themes for the UN 2023 Water Conference include water for health, water for development, water for climate, water for cooperation, and the Water Action Decade.

Several speakers supported the proposal to establish a post for a UN Water Envoy.

Delegates gathered on the sidelines of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) for the SDG 6 Special Event to discuss inputs to the UN 2023 Water Conference. The Conference will take place from 22-24 March 2023 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It will be co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands and will represent the first time in 46 years that water policy will be discussed at the summit level.

The SDG 6 Special Event, which took place on 13 July 2022, was co-chaired by the Chair of UN-Water, Gilbert Houngbo, and the Secretary-General of the UN 2023 Water Conference, Liu Zhenmin.

Kelly Ann Naylor, UN-Water Vice-Chair, opened the event, recalling that the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework was launched during an SDG 6 Special Event during the July 2020 meeting of the HLPF. She noted that there was a decision during that event to hold SDG 6 Special Events at subsequent HLPF sessions. Naylor noted that the 2022 SDG 6 Special Event was the first in-person event and the last one before the UN 2023 Water Conference, and looked forward to the discussion on preparations for the March 2023 Conference.

UN-Water Chair Houngbo noted that COVID-19 has taught us that society depends on public health and those with access to water, sanitation, and healthcare are better able to cope. He said we need to work four times faster if we are to reach our water and sanitation targets in the next eight years, and stressed that the Global Acceleration Framework shows us how to get there.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the UN 2023 Water Conference Liu stressed the need to act urgently and decisively and welcomed the recent coordination between the freshwater and ocean policy communities. He recalled that a one-day meeting to be organized by the President of the General Assembly (PGA) would select the themes for the UN 2023 Water Conference, and stressed that the Conference should be inclusive, action oriented and cross-sectoral, and should include voluntary commitments as a key part of the outcome.

Csaba Kőrösi, President-elect of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), encouraged delegates to consider where the Conference could aspire for breakthroughs. He noted the need to treat water and climate as global public goods.

Bettina Hoffmann, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), Germany, reported on the outcome of the 2021 Bonn Water Dialogues for Results. She noted the need for a paradigm shift to close the gap in financing for the water sector and stressed the need to use funds more efficiently. She also noted that water does not stop at national borders, and emphasized the importance of coherent water governance and a stronger UN coordination role in the water sector. She encouraged others to support the call to appoint a UN Water Envoy.

Presenting the outcomes of the 9th World Water Forum, Cheikh Niang, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Senegal, noted the Dakar Declaration is structured around five points: the right to water and sanitation for all; ensuring availability of resources and resilience; ensuring adequate funding; ensuring inclusive governance; and enhancing cooperation. He supported the call for a Water Envoy to address fragmentation.

Kimura Tetsuya, Ambassador of Japan to the UN, discussed the outcomes of the 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit. He highlighted that 5,500 participants from 30 countries came together for this meeting. He also identified the importance of data sharing and cooperation among countries, including in sharing experience with water disasters.

Paulo Graça, Acting Deputy Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN, discussed the High-Level Symposium on Water at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference. He noted the growing interest of the salt water and freshwater communities to work together, stressed the need to pay attention to coastal wetlands, and highlighted the decision to negotiate a treaty on global plastic pollution given the threat that marine litter poses to human health.

Heba Mostafa, Charge d’affaire Permanent Mission of Egypt to the UN, discussed the upcoming Cairo Water Week and Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 27). She noted that access to water affects a range of rights, and stressed the need for holistic cooperation on water and climate issues. She also noted the importance of water diplomacy, as it can contribute to regional security and stability.

On the Dushanbe Water Conference, Sulton Rahimzoda, Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan on Water Affairs, noted that the meeting had given a platform to youth, women, and local communities. He noted the meeting had highlighted the role of the 2023 Conference in making a change and reiterated their determination to achieve the objectives of the Water Action Decade.

Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Netherlands, briefed participants on the themes under consideration for the interactive dialogues and the preparatory process that will lead to the UN 2023 Water Conference. He noted that water needs to be the lever for sustainable development across the 2030 Agenda, and reported that the draft themes are: water for health; water for development; water for climate; water for cooperation; and the Water Action Decade. He noted that the themes would be adopted at the one-day PGA meeting in late October or early November.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), noted that the impacts of climate are felt through water. He said the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are short-term challenges while climate mitigation is a long-term challenge on a different scale from the shorter-term crises.

Several representatives of governments offered inputs. Switzerland suggested the themes should focus on links between water and climate, food, health, and peace, and supported the call for a special UN Water Envoy to carry forward the results of the 2023 Conference.

The Czech Republic, for the EU, called for diplomacy and dialogue to get SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) back on track, and welcomed the ambition called for by the PGA and the co-hosts. He also stressed the “source to sea” approaches and noted linkages with the biodiversity agenda.

Slovenia called all countries to adopt the human right to water, stressed that effective water governance does not stop at borders, supported the inclusion of transboundary water cooperation as a theme for the 2023 Conference, and supported the call for a UN Water Envoy.

Finland stressed the consideration of financing and governance, welcomed the launch of the Water for Action Agenda, and emphasized the need for multi-stakeholder cooperation.

The SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, which was launched in July 2020, aims to deliver on the SDG 6 targets while strengthening system-wide collaboration at the country level, with a focus on five accelerators: financing; data and information; capacity development; innovation; and governance. [SDG 6 Special Event at HLPF 2022 webpage] [UN 2023 Water Conference website] [SDG Knowledge Hub summary of SDG 6 Special Event launching the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework at HLPF 2020]

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