Report of the New York trip for the United Nations (UN) 2023 Water Conference
This report is on the trip I took to attend the UN 2023 Water Conference: Uniting the world on water, that was held in New York City on the 22nd to the 24th of March 2023, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands. It was the first time in 46 years that the UN convened a Water Conference as a mid-term review of the International Decade for Action. Its aim was to continue to raise attention for water, catalyse action, build partnerships to achieve international water goals, make new commitments, pledges and actions by Governments and all stakeholders towards achieving SDG 6 and other water-related goals and targets, compiled in the Water Action Agenda.
Purpose of the Trip
I was granted the opportunity to represent the Blue Deal, Young Experts Program (YEP), and the Joint River Basin Authorities- Project Board (Eswatini) in the UN Conference. The Blue Deal is an important program for the Dutch government therefore had to be present at the UN congress organizing several side events supporting the water week.
Events I Attended
The Blue Deal hosted a couple of side events including the following:
“303030 Youth Target”- contribution for the UN 2023 Water Conference” Water Action Agenda”
From the start, I was part of the team led by Pepijn van Loon of World Waternet organising this event and I moderated the event with Gijs van Nes who was also part of the delegates to the conference. The “303030 Youth Target” was launched during the Youth and Children’s Water Forum at the Second High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028" in Dushanbe, by Noémie Plumier whom we had as one of our guest speakers. Other guest speakers we had included Henk Ovink (Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Government of the Netherlands), Ines Breda (Young water leader at the IWA, the International Water Association), Josh Newton (Independent consultant and the founder of the company, the Josh’s Water Jobs), Luzette Kroon (Head of the Dutch Water Authorities,), Frodo van Oostveen (CEO of World Waternet) and Mina Guli (Founder and CEO of Thirst). The “303030 Youth Target” aims for the inclusion, participation, and representation at all levels, from all sectors and stakeholders, of at least 30% of youth below 30 years old by 2030.
" Intergenerational Changemakers on Water"
This event was about Youth Engagement and Education. It was collaboratively organised by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, YEP Programmes, Wetskills, Wavemakers, and the Valuing Water Initiative. As a YEPer I had the chance to elaborate on how the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) help me for personal development, enlightening to the attendees not privy to the subject area. This event also allowed me a great chance of meeting other young people and share ideas on how we can contribute to accelerate achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.
How small investments in operations and maintenance can accelerate the impact of good governance.
This event comprised of a breakfast session on a boat. We had Blue Deal partners and development banks joining the session which its aim was to facilitate a discussion on how to bridge the gap between the needs and the available funding for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) recognizing that better O&M is crucial for water security for all. The desired outcome was a commonly defined pathway towards more investment in O&M, supported by better financial sustainability and stronger governance of water authorities in emerging markets. Eswatini prepared their case on the need for financial support in O&M areas through a short video message that was shared to attendees. I attended the event to be a strong (structuurvisie ondergrond) and supporting voice for Eswatini and continued to emphasise on the significant need for funding for O&M. The boat set up allowed an interaction with different stakeholders including representatives from development banks willing to take the conversation further and make commitments to assist in the subject matter. The event was for that reason considered a huge success.
Forget about SDG6 without strong water management organizations
At this event that was collaboratively organised by WWX,GIZ/BlueDeal/UNGWOPA the expected outcome included commitments to capacitate and finance professional climate-resilient water service organizations. As a panellist the overarching message to convey was that it is local water and sanitation service providers and water (catchment, planning, management) authorities that are at the forefront of the action. Their work is paramount to SDG 6s’ overall goal of ensuring water and sanitation is available and sustainably managed for all, therefore the importance to come together to solve local organisation’s problems to be be able to accelerate on their mandates to achieve SDG-6 with less cost and greater sustainability. Peer operators and authorities need to be better connected with one another and with supporting organizations, for knowledge sharing, financing, and mentorship to accelerate the urgently needed shifts.
The trip was very fruitful for me. It helped me grow as a person in terms of networking and approaching people. I watched closely the members of the Blue Deal delegates in management positions organise the Blue Deal events, bringing stakeholders on board to make commitments, pledges and support to address issues of water. I had to speak publicly as a panellist which continue to help me articulate myself better and better. I got a chance to voice my opinions, representing the youth, my organisation, my country, YEP Programmes and the Blue Deal which is huge. It was also lovely seeing New York for the first time.
Gcinile L. Dlamini