UN 2023 Water Conference closes with bold action on new agenda

The UN 2023 Water Conference ended on Friday after adopting the Water Action Agenda, containing almost 700 commitments to protect "humanity's most precious global common good."

The UN 2023 Water Conference ended on Friday after adopting the Water Action Agenda, an action plan containing almost 700 commitments to protect "humanity's most precious global common good."

From making better food choices to reevaluating water as an economic driver and cultural treasure, the agenda lays out a series of game-changing commitments.

In his closing remarks at the conference, which ran from Wednesday through Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it an "ambitious vision."

"Your dedication to action and transformation is propelling us towards a sustainable, equitable and inclusive water-secure future for people and planet alike," he said. "This conference demonstrated a central truth: as humanity's most precious global common good, water unites us all, and it flows across a number of global challenges."

From protecting the spread of disease to fighting poverty, the natural resource also flows through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a time when the world is grappling with climate change, water scarcity, and pollution, said the secretary-general.

"That's why water needs to be at the center of the global political agenda," he said. "All of humanity's hopes for the future depend, in some way, on charting a new science-based course to bring the Water Action Agenda to life."

Doing so translates into such forward-looking actions as developing new, alternative food systems to reduce the unsustainable use of water in agriculture, while launching a new global information system to guide plans and priorities to realize the SDGs, said the top UN official.

New considerations include appointing a special envoy for water ahead of the SDG Summit in September, he said.

The secretary-general pledged UN support "every step of the way," as member states take action through the second half of the Water Action Decade.

"Without water, there can be no sustainable development," Guterres said, thanking all stakeholders. "As we leave this historic conference, let's re-commit to our common future. Let's take the next steps in our journey to a water-secure future for all."

"I am amazed by the ambition and solidarity you show in devising a water-secure future for all," said UN General Assembly President Csaba Korosi at the closing of the conference.

It is "an agenda for which you have pledged more than 300 billion U.S. dollars at this conference, with the potential of unlocking at least 1 trillion dollars of socioeconomic and ecosystem gains," he said.

"The outcome of this conference is not a legally binding document, but it still turns the page of history," he noted. "You have reconfirmed the promise to implement the human right to water and sanitation for all."

"We will keep our ears and minds open to scientific evidence as we move forward to realize the transformation discussed," he added.

Civil society and the private sector are at the heart of this transformation and "key to our success" he said, adding that they must be part of more inclusive partnerships and solutions.

"Today, we hold the pieces of a water-secure and more peaceful world in our hands," he said. "Together, we can launch the transformation for a water-secure world, and these gamechangers can take us there."

Lending multiple perspectives and expertise to navigate the challenges ahead, more than 2,000 government representatives, scientists, academics, civil society groups, indigenous peoples, members of the private sector, and youth delegates attended the conference held at the UN headquarters in New York.

The Water Action Agenda commitments cover a broad range of activities, from capacity-building to data collection and monitoring, as well as improving infrastructure resilience, said Under-Secretary-General Li Junhua.

"This is just the beginning," he said. "The online platform hosting the Water Action Agenda will remain open for submissions and available for all to view through the conference website."

Another key outcome of the conference will be a summary by the UN General Assembly President, capturing the many ideas, recommendations, and solutions to protect and support "our world's lifeblood" that emerged during five interactive dialogues, four special events and hundreds of side events, he said.

"At the 2023 UN Water Conference, a determined global community came together to make a difference not only for the future of water but for the future of the world," he said.

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