Kibae Park - Water and Sanitation in developing countries - Photo -UN

Bold commitments made at UN Water Conference

The World Water Day 2023 was marked last year with the three-day UN 2023 Water Conference co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. Together delegates discussed some of the most pressing issues of our time ─ too much, too little and too dirty water. The conference promised to be a watershed moment and ended with over 700 commitments to advance the water agenda. In the meantime, and not even after a year, the number of actions on the UN-Water Action Agenda, has risen to 832.

Some 10,000 delegates including world leaders, civil society, business leaders, young people, scientists, academics, and experts across the agriculture, energy, environment and water sectors attended the conference in person and online.

To scale up water action, address the water crisis and ensure equitable access to water for all, governments pledged millions of dollars. By advancing the water agenda in all sustainable development programmes, we can collectively set the world back on track to achieving  Sustainable Development Goal 6 – On Clean Water and Sanitation.

Why is SDG 6 ─ safe, clean and accessible water for all so important? That’s because water is at the heart of achieving all the other SDGs and it is key to mitigating climate change. The United Nations hopes that by addressing water-related challenges the international community can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Ground-breaking commitments included:

  • the reaffirmation of water as a fundamental human right,
  • the reduction of pressures on the hydrological system,
  • the development of novel food systems to reduce the water use in food production and agriculture
  • the design and implementation of a new global water information system to guide plans and priorities by 2030.
  • protecting communities with early warning systems to natural disasters.
“The commitments at this Conference will propel humanity towards the water-secure future every person on the planet needs.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres

The Netherlands contributed to around 90 of the commitments together with its international partners. Here is a selection of such commitments:

International Panel for Deltas, Coastal Areas and Islands

The Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Deltares, the Global Center on Adaptation and the Delta Alliance joined forces to launch the International Panel for Deltas, Coastal Areas and Islands’ (IPDC) with policymakers, academics, investors and practitioners worldwide. By connecting multiple layers of policy and decision-making, financing, knowledge development and practice, the IPDC aims to leverage the power of multi-actor collaboration. 

Blueprint for a Circular Water Smart Society

At New York Water Week, the Circular Water Expert Group presented a Blueprint for a Circular Water Smart Society to King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Mark Harbers.

The Blueprint provides tangible solutions and applications for the practical application of circular water and a vision for water use in the built environment.

The conference also marked the launch of the Global Expert Group on Circular Water itself - an international collaboration of partners including Dutch organisations the Water Alliance and NWP Netherlands Water Partnership (Netherlands).

International and Dutch enterprises pledge millions for R&D

Seventeen international and Dutch companies, including international water technology company Xylem and Dutch water recycling company Hydraloop have committed $11 billion dollars to research and development for water innovation in the next five years. The money will be invested in start-ups with innovative ideas for water management and water technology.

Xylem CEO, Patrick Decker, stated: “The UN 2023 Water Conference is a timely reminder that water challenges are intensifying around the world. The organisations making commitments today recognise these are challenges we can and must solve. Many of the essential technologies already exist, but as climate change progresses, we need more innovative solutions and accelerated implementation to increase the resilience and water-security of communities everywhere.”

"We need more innovative solutions and accelerated implementation to increase the resilience...of communities everywhere."
Patrick Decker - CEO of Xylem

Dutch commitments to the UN Water Action Agenda presented at Stockholm World Water Week

81 actions of the 832 involve Dutch organisations. At the Stockholm World Water Week in 2023, several of the Dutch organisations presented an update on their support and contribution to keep the momentum going. The main takeaways of five of them are:

More support for river basin management. This programme includes long-term agreements that were signed several years ago with partners in fifteen river basins in countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The Dutch regional water authorities contributed to the UN Water Action Agenda by doubling their efforts to meet the objectives of integrated river basin management. 

Helping WASH entrepreneurs. The Dutch NGO WASTE was present in Stockholm to draw attention to the FINISH Mondial consortium that works on establishing self-supporting WASH sectors in Bangladesh, India, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.

Raising youth awareness. Twelve youth organisations combined their efforts in the UN Water Action Agenda to raise more awareness among young people on the importance of water. The partners of the Wavemakers Initiative committed to reaching one million youngsters yearly mainly through giving guest lessons and encouraging students to come up with new solutions. 

Network for Water Education. In Stockholm, IHE Delft showed its support for the launch of the Global Water Education Network This network, coordinated by UNESCO and the Alliance of IHE Delft, Cap-Net UNDP and SIWI, seeks to stimulate information exchange between many regional water training centres. 

Kidneys of the earth. The Netherlands-based Wetlands International, run in the East Africa office, is involved in projects to stop the degradation of wetlands every day. The organisation is part of an initiative that aims to restore at least 300,000 km of rivers and 350 million hectares of wetlands by 2030. 

“We want to be a game-changer and drive impact for lasting water conservation. For this, we want to engage young people and professional athletes such as swimmers and sailors."
Tilly Schoo - Program Lead Wavemakers Initiative

Water as a dealmaker

The UN 2023 Water Conference appealed for water action throughout the world. Now the conference has ended it is up to national and local governments, entrepreneurs and water experts and all of us to make sure we implement the commitments made to the water agenda, so that there is a trickle down effect on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing climate change. Let’s hope water can become a dealmaker for collaborative and cross-boundary solutions for a water-secure world for all.

Read more about Scaling-up Water as Leverage Globally for worldwide urban climate resilience | United Nations

Minister Harbers presented with Blueprint for a Circular Water Smart Society

Water Alliance Blueprint for a Circular Water Smart Society

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Want to know more about how you can work together with the Netherlands to achieve your goals? Or how you can help contribute to or spread the word on campaigns, events and initiatives? Contact us directly at info@nlplatform.nl so we can help you connect to the right people.