What is the UN Water Conference and what are its themes?


A minor takes water from a cattle dip in Moyale in Marsabit County where drought has adversely affected the pastoralist’s community due to failed rains. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Since the first UN Water Conference was held in Argentina in 1977, the Earth’s population has doubled to 8 billion people and demand for water is skyrocketing. The UN 2023 Water Conference is, as the UN says, the most important water event in a generation.

It also marks the halfway point through the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, adopted by the UN General Assembly on World Water Day – 22 March 2018 – to help put a greater focus on water.

Officially titled the "The United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action 'Water for Sustainable Development', (2018-2028)," the Conference aims to raise awareness of the global water crisis and decide on action to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals.

Co-hosted by the governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan, it will be held in New York on 22-24 March and support game-changing solutions for the multifaceted crises of “too much water”, such as storms and floods; “too little water”, such as droughts and water scarcity; and “too dirty water”, such as polluted water.

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

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