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United Nations: The world must prepare for a water crisis

Governments, business, and civil society will meet this week at the United Nations headquarters to seek answers to the water crisis as part of an expected international meeting that will set plans in the field for the next two decades. The 2023 Water Conference is the first summit of its kind to take place since 1977 and will culminate in the creation of a new Water Action Agenda, which will bring together hundreds of voluntary commitments already announced or to be made public in the coming days. The meeting will take place in New York from Wednesday to Friday, with several plenary sessions and discussions on specific topics, but, in parallel, around 550 events will take place both inside and outside the UN headquarters. The world body expects at least 12 heads of state and government, around 80 ministers and senior government officials, and more than 6,500 representatives of civil society to attend the event, the first Water Conference since the inaugural one held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, almost half a century ago.

The summit comes at a time when the UN considers there to be a “global water crisis”, with billions of people without adequate access to water and more than 800,000 deaths attributed to water-related diseases each year. contaminated, either by sanitation problems or poor hygiene practices. As demand continues to rise, more and more people suffer from water shortages, but at the same time, many countries are regularly hit by torrential rains and floods. ” It is clear that we need to rethink our approach regarding the best way to allocate and valorize water, and this is the purpose of the conference. “How can we share the cost of preventing or mitigating droughts and floods aggravated by global warming?”, he explains in a joint article with Henk Ovink and Sulton Rahimzoda, the special representatives for water in the Netherlands and Tajikistan, who are co-organizers. The impact of the climate crisis on water and vice versa is one of the central issues that will be addressed at this meeting. According to the UN, both floods and droughts have multiplied with this phenomenon, with a 134% increase since 2000 in water-related disasters as a whole. At the same time, the organization emphasizes that water can play a key role in the fight against global warming, for example by developing more sustainable agricultural practices or by protecting wetlands, which contribute to the absorption of carbon dioxide. The UN wants this conference to be for water what the 2015 climate summit was for climate, when the Paris Agreement, the most important in this field, was agreed. “We hope it can result in a ‘Paris moment’ for water,” admit Ovink and Sulton. However, unlike then, what is now sought is not a grand agreement among all states but rather voluntary commitments from governments, international organizations, and the private sector. To date, the United Nations has already received 360 pledges and expects many more during the three days of the summit.

By Sara Colin

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