Ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference scheduled for March 2023, scientists, representatives of the private sector and civil society discussed on October 22 at the organization’s headquarters in New York potentially game-changing ideas related to water and sustainability, the United Nations said.
It is time to “transform from reactive water management to proactive, science-based solutions to the water crisis,” General Assembly President Csaba Korosi said at the opening session, stressing that the world stands at a watershed moment. He urged participants to discuss game changers from the perspective of “solidarity, sustainability and science”, the motto of the 77th session of the General Assembly.
Joining by video message, World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warned that climate action failure, including water inaction, is the biggest global risk. He stressed the need to invest more in early warning systems, and to fill in the gaps in meteorological observing systems on the African continent, among Small Island Developing States and the Least Developed Countries.
Janos Ader, a former president of Hungary and a member of the Water and Climate Leaders, said greater emphasis is needed on collecting and sharing information. “We cannot stop this water crisis. We have to adapt. And to adapt, we need data and information,” he said.
Calling for greater engagement with the public sector, UN Global Compact Chief of Staff Melissa Powell discussed the CEO Water Mandate, which is a global initiative to align business principles with water, sanitation and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Speaking also on behalf of the private sector, Matthias Berninger, who works in Public Affairs and Sustainability at Bayer, said more and more companies are engaging in water because it is important for their businesses.
The Netherlands, along with Tajikistan, are the co-hosts of the UN 2023 Water Conference, which will take place in New York on March 22-24.
Addressing the roundtable on governance, Hank Ovink, Special Envoy for Water from the Netherlands, said that to really have an impact, the international community will need to change “quite a log about what we’re used to, in combination with political will, societal will, a whole of society approach in a radically inclusive way”.
According to the UN, one of the issues discussed in the roundtable on capacity development is the establishment of a mechanism like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which could provide policymakers with science-based knowledge. “That knowledge has to be translated to change water culture,” UNESCO Water Sciences Division Director Abou Amani said, noting that too many people are taking water for granted.
Some participants highlighted unconventional water resources, noting that in some countries, water reuse cannot be part of the solution because there is no water to reuse.
In the roundtable on financing, one of the topics discussed was the importance of linking water to the resilience and climate change agenda.
According to the UN, close to 80% of natural disasters so far this century are water-related; 40% of the world’s people are affected by water scarcity; 80% of wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment, and more than 90% of disasters are water related.