In New York, World Water Day 2023 was marked this year with the three-day UN 2023 Water Conference co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. At the same time, New York Water Week hosted various events and meetings. 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.
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,”
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."
Reaffirmation of commitment to Valuing Water Initiative
Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Mark Harbers, reaffirmed the Dutch government’s commitment to the Valuing Water Initiative. This means the Netherlands will continue to advocate systematic change in the way water is valued in policy, practice, finance and behaviour throughout the world.
The Initiative was founded in 2019 following the five valuing water principles set out by the UN High Level Panel on Water together with international partners including the governments of Bangladesh, Mexico, Peru and South Africa.
In his opening speech for the Valuing Water session, Minister Harbers said: “It’s our responsibility to place water at the core of our economic debates and policies, on top of our agendas, in boardrooms, parliaments and in local councils.”
“It’s our responsibility to place water at the core of our economic debates and policies."
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.