UNESCO Chair Mariele Evers takes a look back at the UN Water ConferenceThe UN Water Conference, held at the United Nations headquarters in New York March 22-24, was attended by Mariele Evers, who is the UNESCO Chair for Human-Water Systems at the University of Bonn Department of Geography. Dr. Evers was there as a member of the German government delegation, joined by members and partners of the BonnWaterNetwork.
The UNWater2023 Conference was the first time such a conference has been held since 1977, thus representing an important opportunity to discuss contemporary challenges relating to water supply. As Professor Evers reported: "This was a special UN water conference because all the key players were actually there, gathered around the table together." "To me it is especially important for the complex of interrelated issues around water, climate and biodiversity to be recognized and addressed. This conference is a major step in efforts to study water problems and devise sustainable solutions that can secure our water resources over the long term, rather than merely assuring short-term supply."
Dr. Evers noted how more frequent and more intense droughts and flooding threaten the water supply, and how the water outlook will have to be focused on in order to identify solutions. For example, water-conscious urban development could be pursued to make cities more resilient, and wetlands and floodplains could be recovered-which store large amounts of carbon.
"It is shocking, of course, how there are still two billion people on this planet who are without access to clean water. This has public health, economic and other quality-of-life impact, such as limiting access to education. The representatives attending were urged to tackle this problem on a broad front in their respective countries. There were of course calls for increased funding for this," relates Dr. Evers, who found the closing statement by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to be highly important, in which he emphasized the crucial role of scientific research in these efforts, which requires support if we are to find answers and close data gaps.
"I thought the Team Europe initiative promoting transnational water management in Africa was particularly of interest," Dr. Evers commented. "This alliance of several EU countries is important because transboundary water management involves major challenges, whether in Africa or elsewhere."
The slogan for this year’s International Water Day, which coincided with the opening of the conference, was Accelerating Change-referring in part to how national and international cooperation are critical in order to realize Sustainable Development Goal 6 per the United Nations Charter.