UN 2023 Water Conference in New York kicks off with a call to accelerate progress towards the UN water goals
The German government is calling for decisive action to tackle the global water crisis at the United Nations (UN) Water Conference in New York from 22 to 24 March. This year’s International World Water Day is about accelerating change. It marks the kick-off of the three-day World Water Conference that will bring together UN member states, international organisations and other stakeholder groups to speed up the pace of progress towards the international goals of the UN Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Federal Environment Minister Lemke is attending the conference in New York on behalf of the German government. The German delegation also includes government representatives from the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The German government has launched many initiatives to bring about a reversal in global water policy.
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke commented: "Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are the three environmental crises of our time. They threaten the natural foundations of life, particularly water as a resource. Sustainable water management, however, is key to solving these global crises as it helps to effectively restore and protect ecosystems. Rapid action is urgently needed. This is why all international voluntary commitments will be complied in a Water Action Agenda so that dedicated support can be provided to our partner countries. To tackle the global water crisis head-on, we also need regular intergovernmental meetings and the appointment of a UN Special Envoy on Water for a single voice and point of contact for this important issue."
Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze said: "Worldwide, more than two billion people have no access to drinking water or adequate sanitation. Climate change is exacerbating the situation. Many of our partner countries are facing water scarcity. This is a burden on women and girls in particular, as in many regions it is they who are responsible for fetching water, which costs them valuable time that could otherwise be spent on education or paid work. It is important to put water on the international agenda again, as water knows no political boundaries. In order to guarantee all people’s right to water, what is needed above all, apart from the requisite funding, is good international cooperation."
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock remarked: "Water is not only life. Water is security. In many parts of the world, wars are looming over access to scarce water resources. The climate crisis is exacerbating the situation day by day. That is why it is so important to distribute water fairly, including across national borders. Germany wants to contribute its expertise in this area. Because we have enjoyed good cross-border water partnerships for decades, whether on the Rhine, Danube or Oder."
Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir commented: "Access to water is inextricably linked to the human right to food: without water, there are no harvests. The climate crisis threatens our water supply, and we have felt the effects in Germany and Europe, too. Fair, sustainable water management is one of the biggest global challenges of our time. We need to ensure across borders that we have enough water for our agriculture and for our natural allies in the fight to combat the climate crisis: forests and peatlands."
The World Water Conference in New York is a milestone in international water policy and the first UN conference for nearly 50 years that is dedicated solely to the important issue of water. Now that we have reached the half-way mark of the UN International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, it is a crucial moment to accelerate progress towards the global water goals of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
Federal Environment Minister Lemke will therefore highlight the important role of water in solving the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and environmental pollution as well as food security in the plenary debate as well as in other events at the conference and in bilateral talks. The German delegation also plans to actively advance the dialogue on ensuring the human rights to drinking water and sanitation (SDG 6), on innovative financing instruments and the positioning of water as the basis for health and nutrition. By the same token, in the context of its feminist foreign and development policy, Germany is committed to empowering women as core stakeholders for the safe and reliable supply and sustainable management of water, sanitation and hygiene.
Better access to and sustainable use of water also requires transboundary cooperation, which is still inadequate in many regions. More than half of water bodies around the world do not stop at national borders. This is why Germany, as a party to the UN Water Conventions (Helsinki 1992, New York 1997), is campaigning for more UN member states to join. As one of the driving forces behind the Team Europe Initiative (TEI), it also supports transboundary water resource management in Africa with more than 145 million euros.
The German government has launched many initiatives to bring about a reversal in global water policy. The aim is to significantly accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through ambitious voluntary commitments by UN member states and policymakers. To this end, all international voluntary commitments will be compiled in a Water Action Agenda. Germany supports its partner countries in the fight to combat the global water crisis in the long term with an average of just over 700 million euros in official development assistance (ODA) annually, making it one of the world’s three largest bilateral donors in the water sector.
For many years, Germany has also been advocating for better international policy dialogue and a system-wide approach to water in the United Nations. With the aim of giving water a stronger voice in the long term and mainstreaming it as a cross-cutting issue in relevant intergovernmental initiatives, the German government therefore supports the call to appoint a UN Special Envoy on Water and the establishment of regular UN meetings to discuss water.