Water Matters: Understanding the Significance of the UN Water Conference

The UN 2023 Water Conference is, as the UN says, "the most important water event in a generation."

2 mins read
Villager Caroline stands in a drought-stricken maize field in Kidemu sub-location in Kilifi county, Kenya, March 23, 2022. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)

The 2023 UN Water Conference, co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan, will be held at the UN headquarters in New York from March 22 to 24.

In nearly 50 years, this is the first such conference on water at a time when 3.6 billion people lack enough water for at least one month each year, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

There are 8 billion people on Earth today, and water demand is skyrocketing since the first UN Water Conference was held in Argentina in 1977. The UN 2023 Water Conference is, as the UN says, “the most important water event in a generation.”

This is also the halfway point of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,” adopted by the UN General Assembly on World Water Day, March 22, 2018.

With a lot of efforts, the United Nations is hoping that the UN Water Conference in 2023 will mark “a watershed moment” in the pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

High hopes are placed on the upcoming conference, which will feature high-level, ministerial, multi-stakeholder, and youth events.

The United Nations hopes the meeting could support game-changing solutions for the multifaceted crises of “too much water,” such as storms and floods; “too little water,” such as droughts and water scarcity; and “too dirty water,” such as polluted water.

Among the UN’s goals for the conference are to review and assess the progresses and challenges relating to the implementation of the decade’s objectives, namely those contained in “The United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ (2018-2028).”

The United Nations says that the conference will also mobilize political will, financial resources, and partnerships to accelerate action on water-related issues and contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 as well as other related goals by 2030.

“Without water, there is no life. Water is fundamental to our daily lives and has direct linkages with health, climate, economic development and so on,” Yoka Brandt, permanent representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations, said in February.

“We need a Paris moment for water,” she underscored.

“Our global water system is in crisis. Despite safe water and sanitation being a human right, billions of people lack access to these essentials for life,” according to the United Nations.

Observers believe that the relationship between water and climate change deserves a great deal of attention, which makes the conference even more attracting.

According to the United Nations, climate change affects the water cycle by changing the patterns and intensity of precipitation, melting glaciers and ice caps, increasing evaporation and sea level rise, and altering river flows and groundwater recharge.

These impacts can make water more scarce, unpredictable, polluted or all three. This can threaten sustainable development, biodiversity, human health and well-being, food security, energy production and peace.

At the coming conference, the United Nations is expected to adopt an outcome document that will provide guidance and recommendations for further action on water-related issues at all levels.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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