Foundations laid for reversal in global water trends

The World Water Conference in New York was a milestone in international water policy. The central outcome is a global action agenda for water, which includes over 660 voluntary commitments so far.

UN World Water Conference ends in New York with ambitious agenda and over 660 voluntary commitments for better water protection

According to Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, the United Nations (UN) Water Conference, which ends today in New York, was a huge success for global water policy. From 22 to 24 March, representatives of UN member states, the scientific community, industry and civil society met to discuss more ambitious goals for protecting global water resources. A wide range of measures were agreed to accelerate progress towards the international goals of the UN Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The main outcome of the conference is a global Water Action Agenda, which has so far received more than 660 commitments from member states and other stakeholders. Federal Environment Minister Lemke has pledged five far-reaching commitments for Germany.

Federal Environment Minister Lemke commented: “The UN Water Conference in New York laid the foundations for a reversal in global water policy. Numerous, ambitious and far-reaching commitments were made in New York by the world’s nations, international organisations and many other stakeholders, including from civil society. The international community is not only sending an important message with these commitments, it is also setting a clear agenda. Sufficient water and healthy water bodies are one key to solving the existential crises of climate, biodiversity loss and pollution. Water is vital for the survival of current and future generations and for nature. What is clear is that we need to act faster than in the past to protect our water resources around the world and ensure the water supply for the long term. This was a view widely shared in New York. We must now take resolute action and focus on rapid implementation. I am committed to these efforts. In Germany, we will swiftly implement the National Water Strategy adopted by the Cabinet, which is our plan for modern water management in the climate crisis.”

The World Water Conference in New York was a milestone in international water policy and the first UN conference for nearly 50 years dedicated solely to the important issue of water. To mark the halfway point of the UN International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, agreement was reached to accelerate progress towards the global water goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Federal Environment Minister Lemke clearly highlighted in the plenary debate, at other events and in many bilateral talks that the proper management of water is crucial to combat the three planetary crises (climate, biodiversity loss and pollution).

The global Water Action Agenda includes specific commitments to address the global water crisis and achieve the international water goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By the end of the World Water Conference, the Water Action Agenda had already registered over 660 commitments. More are likely to be added, and the Water Action Agenda will remain open for further commitments after the conference.

One hundred and fifty UN member states supported the call for the appointment of a UN Special Envoy on Water by the UN Secretary-General. It is therefore expected that the resource water will gain a voice and a stronger lobby in the UN before too long. Federal Environment Minister Lemke submitted five commitments for the German government:

  1. Implementation of the National Water Strategy: The new National Water Strategy was adopted by the Cabinet on 15 March 2023. It aims to make the German water sector viable for the future, ensure the water supply for the long term in light of the challenges posed by the climate crisis and improve the protection and sustainable management of our national water resources and water bodies.
  2. Bilateral project with the Democratic Republic of Congo under the International Climate Initiative: The new water-energy-ecosystem nexus project will support the Democratic Republic of Congo starting in August 2023 to promote integrated water resource management to ensure the conservation of ecosystems, including large carbon sinks, adaptation to the climate crisis and the multiple uses of water for the country’s development.
  3. Regional project with the Niger Basin Authority under the International Climate Change Initiative: The new project supports the Niger Basin Authority in promoting integrated water resource management among the countries that border the Niger Basin. The project will start in September 2023 and aims to enable member countries of the Niger Basin Authority to improve regional implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
  4. Bilateral project with South Africa under the International Climate Initiative: The new project promotes low-carbon and climate-resilient water and wastewater management in South Africa. Germany is helping South Africa to make its water and sanitation sector more resilient to the climate crisis and thereby ensure the long-term supply of drinking water and sanitation, particularly for the poor.
  5. Willingness to co-finance the UN Special Envoy on Water: If appointed, Germany has expressed its willingness to contribute financially to funding the position of the UN Special Envoy on Water.
24.03.2023 | Press release No. 043/23 | Water & Waste & Soil
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