25 March 2023, New York: On the last day of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) welcomed the outcomes of the three-day meeting and reaffirmed its commitment to actively follow up agreed actions in the new Water Action Agenda.
“At the critical point of the 2030 Agenda, all sectors must work together in an efficient, effective and coherent manner to co-create, co-design and co-advocate solutions, and to accelerate action on data and information, innovation, finance, capacity development and governance to implement the Water Action Decade”, Director-General QU Dongyu said while moderating a high-level dialogue at UN headquarters in New York.
The Water Action Decade, designated by the UN General Assembly from 2018 to 2028, was created to complement the process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, moving away from silos and integrating efforts at the global level. The meeting moderated by the FAO-Director General aimed to take stock of the advancement in the objectives for the Decade formulated by the UN Secretary-General’s Plan.
The event was co-chaired by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies of Singapore and Monica Medina, Assistant Secretary for Oceans, International Environment and Scientific Affairs of the Department of State, United States.
Shamugaratnam underscored that the UN 2023 Water Conference has demonstrated the potential to expedite and mobilize concerted efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), while also utilizing water as a catalyst for advancing progress across all other SDGs.
Medina emphasized that the Conference represents a watershed moment, and global leaders cannot afford to delay action to safeguard water resources. “We have a responsibility to future generations, and to the millions of people today who continue to face water insecurity,” she underscored.
The main panelists were Tanja Fajon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovenia, Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister of Public Works and Public Housing of Indonesia, Zulfiya Suleimenova, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan, and Usha Rao-Monari, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). They shared insights into their countries’ and organizations’ endeavours to expand access to drinking water services, mitigate water scarcity, and respond to water-related natural disasters. They also called for more robust international cooperation to achieve the objectives of the Water Action Decade
Meanwhile, Mina Guli, Founder and CEO of the Thirst Foundation, Sivan Ya’ari, Founder &CEO of Innovation: Africa, and Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), emphasized the crucial need to translate commitments into action. They underscored the urgency of the dire water scarcity already affecting many communities around the world, as well as the significance of innovative technologies and strategic investments to address this challenge effectively.
More than 20 member states also took the floor to deliver national statements underscoring how water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger.
FAO’s commitment at the UN 2023 Water Conference
For Qu, the 2023 UN Water Conference provided great opportunities to discuss, collaborate and collectively identify solutions for efficient and effective action to realize water-related goals and targets to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
“Through our new FAO Water Journey we are raising attention on the crucial importance of water for agriculture and food security, as well as to all other SDGs”, he emphasized.
The conference was a call to action for every single person on the planet to accelerate change to solve the water and sanitation crisis around the world.
Currently, 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries, of which more than 733 million people – approximately 10 per cent of the global population – live in countries with high and critical water stress. Water scarcity, drought, floods, pollution and other impacts of the crisis are key challenges to sustainable agriculture and rural development.
During the three-day meeting, FAO provided support to two high-level Interactive Dialogues, organized a side event on National Water Roadmaps, and co-partnered three Special Events and over 20 side events.
The Water Action Agenda that emerged from the conference is comprised of voluntary commitments, some of which are transformative in nature.
FAO has engaged in seven commitments, in the framework of the Agenda:
- The initiative on the National Water Roadmaps towards the 2030 Agenda, a tool to foster collective action at the national level to improve cross-sectorial coordination on water management and governance in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- A “Global Dialogue on Water Tenure” within the framework of Water Governance to define principles on the Responsible Governance of Water Tenure through an inclusive and consultative process, to ensure access to water is guaranteed for all people and ecosystems.
- Enabling the implementation of National Drought Plans, supporting access to finance for Integrated Drought Risk Management and promoting a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach of the issue.
- Irrigation needs & potential mapping with the aim to create a common platform for mapping the need and potential for irrigation development, providing a country-specific decision-support system to help countries secure food supplies and support their economic development.
- The development of a Global Water Data Portal, an integrated one-stop shop for the water-related information available over different existing portals and platforms.
- The Global monitoring of actual evapotranspiration, biomass production and water productivity through Remote Sensing through WaPOR – Water Productivity through Open access of Remotely sensed information.
- FAO’s initiative on Addressing Water Scarcity in Agriculture and the Environment (AWSAMe) with the ambition to develop a global programme on water scarcity that will enhance the resilience of countries to climate change in order to achieve food security, nutrition and a better environment. It builds on results of the Near East and North Africa’s Water Scarcity Initiative that will be expanded to the Asia and Pacific Region.
These commitments support integrated water resources management to ensure the 4 Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, in line with the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31.
Water is essential for food production, enabling the production of over 95 per cent of the food on land. By 2050, to meet future demand, the global production of food, fibre and feed will need to increase by 50 per cent compared to 2012. To meet this goal, 35 per cent of additional water resources are needed.
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