At the 35th UN-Water Meeting held in October this year, UN- Water Members, Partners and observers began the planning for the UN Water Conference to be held in New York from 22-24 March 2023. It will the first such gathering since the 1977 Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
The 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) (midterm review) has been mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) which has also set a broad outline of content:
- An opening and closing session, six plenary sessions, and five interactive dialogues, as well as side events organized by participants; and
- Result in a summary of proceedings from the UNGA President that will feed into the 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
UN-Water and its partners will work to determine the themes of the five interactive dialogues, which themes will be finalized at an additional preparatory meeting in November 2022. Regional preparatory meetings for the midterm review will take place in the first half of 2022, and feed into the 2022 HLPF session.
In preparing for the 2023 Conference, UN-Water Vice-Chair Kelly Ann Naylor emphasized that the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework is part of the UN Secretary-General’s work to deliver the SDGs by 2030. This framework fosters collaboration to address gaps, develop new initiatives, and focus on country- driven results. In this connection, it has been suggested to bring Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on water into the process as early as possible, and to engage with a youth cohort as partners and not just beneficiaries.
Co-hosts for the 2023 Midterm Review are Tajikistan and the Netherlands.
“Expectations are high” for the review conference, according to Tajikistan’s representative at the recent UN-Water meeting. Sulton Rahimzoda, Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), Co-Chair of the Dushanbe Water Process, and Special Envoy of the President of Tajikistan to the High-level Panel on Water and Climate said the organizers are striving for concrete commitments that create impact and set a clear agenda for 2023-2030.
Rahimzoda has emphasized the need for interaction between the formal and informal processes. The Conference must be inclusive as well as build momentum to create broad ownership of its outcomes.
Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, the Netherlands, has stressed the need for other sectors to recognize that water is an enabler of respective agendas and that people need to value their water.
Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the UN 2023 Water Conference, linked UN-Water’s initiatives to the UN Secretary- General’s report, ‘Our Common Agenda.’ He said the Agenda is designed to accelerate implementation of existing agreements and initiatives. On SDG 6, such initiatives are the Decade of Water Action 2018-2028 and the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.