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UN water conference ends with 700 commitments to protect water resources

The UN 2023 Water Conference convened from March 22 to 24, 2023 at UN headquarters in New York. The event brought together over 6,500 participants.

The focus on the 2023 Conference was the Water Action Agenda, which is composed of voluntary commitments from UN member states and stakeholders. These pledges address a broad set of themes aimed at creating partnerships and cooperation towards shared urgent, immediate, and accelerated action, and to establish a strong international mechanism to prevent the global water crisis from spiraling out of control.

By the close of the meeting, according to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, the Water Action Agenda had received approximately 700 commitments in the form of financial pledges, collaborative projects, and actions to protect the world’s most precious and irreplaceable resource.

The 2023 UN Water Conference came 46 years after the first edition held in Mar del Plata, Argentina. It marked the first global attempt to address the world’s water problems in order to avoid a crisis by the turn of the century.

The situation was dire, and the meeting concluded that water stress was a serious and growing problem threatening a wide range of socio-economic activities such as agriculture, navigation, and fisheries, necessary for human well-being.

Not only that, it also puts biodiversity and ecosystems at risk. The meeting outcome, the Mar del Plata Action Plan, set out decisions to assess water resources, research and develop technologies, address the role of water in combating desertification, engage in technical cooperation, set-up institutional arrangements for international cooperation in the water sector, and build financing arrangements for international cooperation in the water sector.

Today, the situation remains fraught. Despite progress in some areas, the 2023 UN World Water Development Report presents daunting statistics of the global water crisis: 26% of the world’s population, approximately two billion people, do not have access to safe drinking water, and 3.6 billion lack access to safe sanitation services.

Water scarcity in urban areas is expected to worsen as projections show the figure moving from 930 million in 2016 to between 1.7 and 2.4 billion people, in 2050.

During the closing plenary, in response to frequent calls by member states to elevate water on the UN agenda, came the announcement that a special UN envoy for Water would be appointed by the UN secretary-general.



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