EcoCiv Reflects on the UN Water Conference

In March 2023, the UN hosted its first water conference in nearly 50 years and the Institute for Ecological Civilization was invited to attend! The conference focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensure access to water and sanitation for all. Water security & management is a topic often neglected in global spheres, but setting water as the central theme of this intergovernmental conference shows a growing interest in fulfilling the human right to clean and accessible water for all. The hope for this conference was to get clear commitments, pledges and actions for a water-secure future across all sectors, uniting nations, stakeholders, and professionals.

An important takeaway from the conference was the Water Action Agenda, which includes 700+ voluntary commitments from UN member states, governments, and stakeholders to accelerate progress towards water security – our W12+ Blueprint was one of the registered commitments! The UN will use the political attention and public awareness gained by the conference to mobilize concrete, transformative and unified actions based on these commitments to meet the global water and sanitation related goals and targets. Another important outcome was the creation of a new Special Envoy for Water for the UN, who will facilitate pressing water actions  and oversee the success of future projects.

EcoCiv’s Role:

The Institute for Ecological Civilization is honored to have been invited to the 2023 Water Conference! Our water team managing W12+ Programs, which EcoCiv co-jointly manages with the South African non-profit Save Our Schools, attended the 3-day conference in New York City. Ellie Leaning, EcoCiv’s Program Director, and Dacotah-Victoria Splichalova, the Project Manager for the Water Programs, went with the aim to garner connections with other potential partners and witness international convenings on water in person. What made this occasion especially exciting  for EcoCiv is that the W12+ Blueprint was registered as one of the commitments on the Water Action Agenda! Our Blueprint is an online knowledge-sharing platform home to case studies and city profiles. Water professionals use the Blueprint to learn about successful, solutions-oriented projects from around the world. The platform includes case studies  on innovative finance, stakeholder management, and more.

Ellie was invited to participate as a panelist on C40’s “Water Safe Cities: A Blueprint for Climate Action.” C40 is a global network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities that are united in action to confront the climate crisis. The panel focused on the Water Safe Cities Project, which explores the climate hazards cities face due to the impacts of climate change and water sanitation issues, such as lack of safe and accessible drinking water, decreased water quality, and water conflict. Ellie states, “many great ideas were discussed and there was strong alignment on the need to stop reinventing the wheel, look for co-benefits between water and climate solutions, and prompt replication between cities.”

Our Takeaways:

Ellie wrote a reflection on her time at the UN Water Conference. She notes that the conference was what you would expect from a UN meeting – lots of promises and high-level commitments. However, she also reports that “it felt different.” People seemed energized and ready to implement things they learned or ideas they generated once they returned home. According to her, it felt reaffirming that she didn’t have to convince anyone of the importance of water to the wellbeing of people and the planet.

As an organization aiming to ensure a water-secure future, we feel inspired that people came together to discuss this life source. We hope that there will be definitive changes coming out of this conference, rather than forgotten commitments and promises. Only time will tell the success of the conference, but we can only remain hopeful and motivated to continue our work across the globe.

Many of the conference participants and organizers are happy that an intergovernmental panel came together to speak about the neglected topic of water security and management. However, most feel that definitive changes in the future are required. We agree. Do you feel that this conference is that first step towards a water-secure future?

Written by:
Juliana Arnold
EcoCiv’s Communications and Writing Assistant

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