Remarks at the Virtual Consultation on Key Messages for the Arab Region in preparation for the UN 2023 Water Conference

Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the Secretary-General of the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, I am delighted to speak to you at this timely Consultation on Key Messages for the Arab Region.

Water is crosscutting for many of our common development priorities. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the current conflict in Ukraine have highlighted that water is imperative for sustainable development and is a basic human right.

Today, 40 per cent of the world’s people are affected by water scarcity; 80 per cent of wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment; and more than 90 per cent of disasters are water related.

These problems are further exacerbated in the Arab Region. The 2021 Status Report on the Implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management in the Arab Region indicates that your region witnesses one of the highest rates of water scarcity and a very critical freshwater situation. More than 200 million people live under conditions of water scarcity and 160 million under absolute water scarcity.

In addition, over 74 million people in the region are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, owing to a lack of access to basic handwashing facilities. The risk is higher for nearly 87 million people in the region who lack access to an improved drinking water source on premises and are required to collect water from public standpipes and sources, particularly women and girls.

The UN 2023 Water Conference is expected to tackle these imminent challenges and propel much needed action towards the achievement of the objectives of the United Nations Water Action Decade and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Distinguished participants,

The Conference will allow for both intergovernmental discussions and multistakeholder engagement. It will comprise an opening and a closing ceremony, six plenary meetings, and five interactive dialogues.

In January, I invited all Member States to propose possible themes for the interactive dialogues of the Conference. Since then, 61 themes have been proposed by 17 Member States. I thank those Member States who have submitted their proposals and encourage others to do so. Your contributions will further enrich the conversations ahead of us.

The most common themes identified by Member States can be broadly classified under the following five clusters:

  • Water, climate change and disaster risk reduction
  • Water and peace and security
  • Water for agriculture and food security
  • Nature and water quality
  • Universal access to water and sanitation.

In parallel, DESA conducted a global online stakeholder consultation on possible themes. Inputs from 146 organizations in 46 countries, including NGOs, academic entities, businesses, science communities and youth, have been received. Most stakeholders recommended themes on:

  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Transboundary cooperation
  • Interlinkages between water and climate change
  • Impact of COVID-19 on water access; and
  • Data collection and sharing.

UN-Water has also suggested four options for organizing dialogue themes:

  • Under option 1, dialogue themes would be organized around the four workstreams of the Plan of the Water Action Decade.
  • Option 2 would organize the dialogues around the five “accelerators” of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.
  • Option 3 focuses on SDG 6 and other water-related targets of the 2030 Agenda and highlights its links to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • Under option 4, dialogue themes would be organized around major water challenges across sectors.

The proposals from Member States, stakeholders and UN-Water are posted on the Conference website. The themes of the interactive dialogues will be finalized at a one-day preparatory meeting, to be convened by the President of the General Assembly by November 2022.

During the Conference, high-level special events, side events, exhibits, and other activities will be organized by participants at and around UN Headquarters.

I encourage you to bring forward the key messages from your consultation to the Conference. You may wish to have dedicated side events on these issues, and also encourage your Governments to participate at the highest level and bring these messages to the plenary meetings of the Conference.

More information on participation, registration, side events and other matters will be posted on the dedicated website as we come closer to the Conference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The UN 2023 Water Conference is expected to bring about a transformative effect, with concrete actions and commitments for a greener, safer and better future. We look forward to the participation of all Member States and a wide range of stakeholders.

DESA, with the support of UN-Water, stands ready to assist the co-hosts, Tajikistan and the Netherlands, to achieve the internationally agreed water-related goals and targets through the outcomes of the Conference.

I thank you.

File date: 
Friday, May 27, 2022

Mr. Liu