UN Water Conference raises awareness of global water crisis
By Edoardo Giribaldi
The United Nations General Assembly has come together in New York to host the 2023 Water Conference. The event, which will take place from March 22 to March 24, is co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan and is committed to creating “a global momentum for accelerated implementation and improved impact to advance the broad challenges surrounding water.”
The Conference comes just two days after the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body dedicated to evaluating climate science, 2023 report.
As underlined by IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, the report “underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”
However, the latest data highlighted by the United Nations show that half of humanity, 3.6 billion of people, live “without safely managed sanitation,” while one in three people, that is 2.3 billion, “lack basic handwashing facilities at home.”
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, remarked how the Water Conference must “result in a bold Water Action Agenda that gives our world’s lifeblood the commitment it deserves.”
The Agenda will serve as the propulsor to accelerate progress and commitment in the second half of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Specifically, its sixth goal, aims at ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Parallel to the Plenary sessions, the Conference will feature five Interactive Dialogues on the five main themes agreed upon by Member States at the Preparatory Meeting, which took place in October 2022: Water for Health, Water for Sustainable Development, Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment, Water for Cooperation, and Water Action Decade.
During the first day of the Conference, the focus will be on equalitarian access to drinking water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and the role of water in sustainable economic and urban development.
This latter follows up on the WHO and UNICEF joint monitoring program for “water supply, sanitation, and hygiene,” which underlined how “eight out of ten people who lack even basic drinking water service live in rural areas, and about half of them live in least developed countries.”
The example of Pakistan
One example of concrete action carried on in such context comes from the Gilgit-Baltistan region, situated in Northern Pakistan, with the project of a water infrastructure network built thanks to a multimillion-dollar investment between the local government and the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The construction, which comprehends 75 irrigation and land schemes, was defined as a “dream for our ancestors” and essential for the “food security issue of the village” by the local farmers, forced to work in a “highly mountainous area with only 2% of the land being considered as arable,” as remarked by Fida Muhammad, IFAD’s Country Programme Officer for Pakistan.
Pope Francis’ message
Pope Francis himself, in his message to mark World Water Day, expressed his prayer "for the successful outcome of the work" of the Conference, and the hope that the event "will accelerate initiatives in favour of those suffering from the scarcity of water, of this primary good."