At the special event on SDG6 in the framework of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York, UN-Water Chair Gilbert Houngbo referred to the second anniversary of the Global Acceleration Framework for SDG 6 .
According to Houngbo, a painful but very useful lesson of the Covid 19 pandemic was that a safe and prosperous society depends on public health. Another painful lesson of the pandemic in his view was that there are deep global inequalities in access to water and sanitation, and those with better access to basic services were better equipped to cope with the pandemic.
As we strive to build more resilient societies, he stated, water and sanitation must be at the heart of these efforts. Current estimates show that the rate of service delivery needs to increase fourfold in order to achieve the SDG 6 goals.
Mr Liu Zhenmin, UNDESA Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs emphasised the importance of the upcoming UN Water Conference in New York in March 2023 at which the progress during the first half of the SDG implementation period will be reviewed. He stated that voluntary commitments towards SDG 6 are expected as a key outcome of the UN water conference outcomes, which will be registered in the SDG 6 action space hosted by UNDESA.
At the time of the HLPF, 128 activities had already been announced within the UNDESA action space. However, the ‘voluntary’ nature of the commitments stands in contrast to the notion of a ‘Blue Deal’ sought in the context of the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal in March 2022.
During a keynote intervention, Mr Csaba Körösi, Director of Environmental Sustainability in the Office of the President in Hungary, emphasised that the world does not have another 45 years (the time that has elapsed since the last UN Water Conference in Mar del Plata in 1977) to wait given the mounting water crisis, and in his opinion a breakthrough on SDG6 implementation can be achieved on two fronts.
The first area is the improvement of procedures: in Körösi’s opinion, it is important that the event on water chaired by the President of the General Assembly in late October or November should be built on the same logic as the structure of the upcoming UN conference.
Also, other key global events can support the outcomes of the UN water conference: the adaptation chapter of COP 27 should contain the same strategic direction as that which the water community is aiming to achieve during the coming year. Also, the UN water conference, which will pull together voluntary commitments and synthesise discussion so far, is an important lead up to the midterm review of the Sendai strategy in May 2023.
A second area for breakthrough in Körösi’s opinion is a package of activities at the interface between water and climate: the Integration of climate and water policies and actions, putting integrated climate-water data management at the centre of priorities for the next 7-8 years, increasing disaster prevention capabilities, significantly improving forecasting capability, and launching a global water-climate climate campus.