UN Water Conference and Key Takeaways

Prelims level : Environment Mains level : GS-III Environment & Biodiversity |Climatic Change Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia
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Why in News?

  • The UN 2023 Water Conference was held in New York from March 22-24.
  • It was the first such meeting on water in 46 years.
  • The conference aimed to identify game-changing ideas and make recommendations to policymakers on how to speed up and scale up change in the water sector.

What is the UN Water Conference?

  • The UN Water Conference is an international conference that aims to better align activities by governments, companies, NGOs, and funders around a few grand challenges in the water sector.
  • It serves as a platform for countries to learn from the experiences of others, transfer technology, and invest.The last UN Water Conference was held in 1977.
  • It resulted in the first global ‘Action Plan’ recognizing that all people have the right to access safe drinking water and sanitation.
  • This led to several decades of global funding and concerted effort to provide drinking water and sanitation for all.

Themes of the conference:

The Conference has five themes that support the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework:

  • Water for Health: Access to ‘WASH’ (Global Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene) including the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
  • Water for Sustainable Development: Valuing water, the water-energy-food nexus and sustainable economic and urban development.
  • Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment: Source to sea, biodiversity, climate, resilience and disaster risk reduction.
  • Water for Cooperation: Transboundary and international water cooperation, cross sectoral cooperation and water across the 2030 Agenda.
  • Water Action Decade: Accelerating the implementation of the objectives of the Decade for Action, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Action Plan.

Purpose of the conference

  • International conferences on water aim to better align activities by governments, companies, NGOs, and funders around a few grand challenges.
  • They help countries learn from the experiences of others, transfer technology, and invest.
  • Water problems tend to be local and need local solutions, so there is a challenge of mobilizing globally to solve local water problems.

Water challenges discussed:

  • While access to safe drinking water and sanitation is challenging, extending services to underserved populations is relatively uncontroversial.
  • However, improving access to water and sanitation no longer translates directly to sustained access.
  • The water problem is no longer about access to water and sanitation; the remaining SDG 6 targets address the need to sustain agriculture, industry, and natural ecosystems.

Outcomes of the 2023 Conference

  • The conference’s proceedings resulted in a lot of talk, fragmented discussions, and no binding commitments.
  • There were 713 diverse voluntary commitments by philanthropic donors, governments, corporations, and NGOs, with 120 relevant to India.
  • Commitments included a $50-billion commitment from the Indian government to improve rural drinking water services under its Jal Jeevan Mission.

Examples of Commitments:

  • Technology: Specific innovations in wastewater treatment or solar treatment of water in remote areas, and a number of proposals for incubation platforms.
  • Data and Models: Cost-effective approaches to data-generation included sensors and satellite data. Other efforts offered data analysis tools.
  • Knowledge Sharing: One useful tool was the W12+ Blueprint, a UNESCO platform that hosts city profiles and case studies of programs, technologies, policies that addresses common water security challenges.
  • Capacity Building: Efforts offered to help marginalized communities and women understand how to exercise their rights.
  • Civil Society: Platforms for collective action by civil society groups lobbying for changes in regulations.
  • Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance: The conference concluded that effective water governance hinges on these broad areas, and weaving them into the Water Action Agenda is a step.
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