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UN calls for game-changing action to stem global water crisis

With mounting pressures on water from rising consumption demands, increased pollution and climate change, world leaders, civil society, businesses, youth and other stakeholders are gathering at the UN 2023 Water Conference from March 22 to 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York to make bold commitments to address the global water crisis.

UN 2023 Water Conference
United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, speaking at the opening of the UN 2023 Water Conference

“This is more than a conference on water. It is a conference on today’s world seen from the perspective of its most important resource,” said United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his opening remarks. “This conference must represent a quantum leap in the capacity of Member States and the international community to recognise and act upon the vital importance of water to our world’s sustainability and as a tool to foster peace and international co-operation.”

Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic human need for health and well-being, and a declared human right. But some two billion people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water. More people have access to mobile phones than toilets and sanitation, with 80 per cent of wastewater discharged untreated into the environment. More than 90 per cent of disasters are water-related, with climate change adding to the pressure. And humanity’s demand for water keeps growing, with pressure on freshwater projected to increase by more than 40 per cent by 2050.

Despite these challenges, a breakthrough to a water-secure planet is still possible. But urgent action is needed now. With this at the top of their minds, world leaders, together with over 6,000 registered civil society, business leaders, young people, and experts are attending the three-day Conference to present innovative solutions and bold commitments to accelerate transformational change for water. Coming from all sectors, the Conference is an opportunity to unite the global community around a common goal and trigger real action.

“During this conference, we want to get the water wheel spinning,” stated His Highness Willem-Alexander, the King of the Netherlands in his opening statement. “We won’t rest until water is given the place it rightly deserves on global agendas and policy programmes. We will bring all our commitments, pledges and actions together in a Water Action Agenda.”

The key outcome of the UN 2023 Water Conference will be the Water Action Agenda, a collection of commitments from Member States and other stakeholders that aims to present game-changing solutions to accelerate progress on SDG 6. To date, more than 500 commitments have been registered from Governments, UN agencies, business leaders and civil society, ranging from targeting open data sources and improving education around water, to scaling effective water management practices and mobilising funds to drive action towards water. While many commitments are already available online here, key announcements will be made throughout the three days of the Conference.

Co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan, the Conference has been described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance the Water Action Agenda that seeks to deliver the internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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