Recapping the 2023 United Nations Water Conference - Waterkeeper

Recapping the 2023 United Nations Water Conference

By: Thomas Hynes

The United Nations held its first Water Conference since 1977. Waterkeeper Alliance had an international delegation, including Mbacke Seck of Hann Baykeeper in Senegal, Rashema Ingraham of Waterkeepers Bahamas, Liliana Guerrero Ramirez of Bocas de Ceniza Waterkeeper in Colombia), Gidon Bromberg of Jordan River Waterkeeper in Israel, Hugh Carola of Hackensack Riverkeeper, as well as members of Waterkeeper Alliance staff, on site for this historic conference. 

On the first day of the conference, Waterkeeper Alliance CEO Marc Yaggi spoke on a panel entitled, “A New Era in Water Intelligence Driving Collective Action.” Marc was joined by Kimberly Nelson of True Elements, David Lehrner of Arava Institute, Christiaan Morssink of Global Water Alliance, and the talk was moderated by Faith Sternlieb of Lincoln Institute. Hear the panel discussion here. 

The next day Rashema Ingraham of Waterkeepers Bahamas, participated in a side event entitled, How Education Can Shift the Weight of Water From Girls’ Shoulders. The following day Gidon Bromberg of Jordan River Waterkeeper discussed transboundary waterways. Concurrent with these presentations and panels, Waterkeeper Alliance also delivered a declaration to the United Nations on behalf of a global coalition calling for the protection of natural water systems as a human right.  

Scroll down for photos as well as some observations from members of Waterkeeper Alliance staff who were in New York for the conference.  

2023 United Nations Water Conference
2023 United Nations Water Conference

“The UN Water Conference was an important opportunity to connect important aspects of water protection movement with global decision making and finance. The Natural Water Systems Declaration that we submitted to UN Water on behalf of more than 100 organizations in 25 countries calls on the UN to better prioritize the protection of natural waterbodies like rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes and bays, as wells as water dependent communities, and ecosystems as an integral part of the human right to clean water. We hope the UN will heed this call.” – Chris Wilke, Global Advocacy Manager

“The UN Water Conference was an inspiring and ambitious event.  It showed the world that water is a universal element that is central to not only our survival, but in also realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The lofty goals set out in the Water Action Agenda requires an all hands on deck approach.  Political will is needed by governments and access to financial resources is required by the private sector to make the voluntary commitments a reality and to ensure global water security.” –Nadia Rivera, Special Assistant to the CEO

“It was rewarding to see so many thousands of people come together in pursuit of solving the world’s water crisis at the UN Water Conference. However, there were far too many voices not included in the conversation and while important and laudable, the voluntary commitments made aren’t going to get us to universal access to clean water and sanitation. More action and resources for community leaders are needed now to foster a sustainable water future for all.” – Marc Yaggi, CEO

“Let’s not manage the water crisis the way COVID crisis was handled, whether is resource allocation or communication among each others.” – Min Zheng, Senior Organizer Asia

“I was inspired by my experience attending the first UN Water Conference in more than four decades, and by what seemed like unanimous recognition from rights-holders and stakeholders around the globe that: (1) the global climate crisis is a water crisis, and (2) we are woefully behind in addressing these crises, and that meaningful, effective water action is required NOW. But we know from experience that talking is the easy part, and that we all must hold ourselves and one another accountable for the vital commitments we have made to ensure that people, communities and ecosystems will have the clean water they require to survive and prosper.” – Daniel Estrin, General Counsel and Advocacy Director

“It was great to see the United Nations hold their first water conference in my lifetime. It’s a welcome, and maybe even long overdue development. It is also proof that the brightest minds in the world are taking this situation seriously. However, while planning, meetings, and discussions are a crucial first step in addressing this crisis, it is imperative that action quickly follows.” – Thomas Hynes, Staff Writer