Collective Positive Water Impact: Reflections and Next Steps from the UN 2023 Water Conference
After nearly 50 years, in March 2023 the UN convened over 7,000 members of the global water community at midpoint of the Water Action Decade. The UN 2023 Water Conference concluded with over 700 commitments from public, private, and civil society actors. Considering these valuable, yet wide ranging ambitions, I see a clear need – and opportunity.
To move forward, the global water community must rally around shared commitments and unite in collective actions to maximize positive impact.
The outcomes of the conference are good news, but they are just a starting point. The billions of dollars in investment pledged separately by the United States, European Union, African Union, and Asia Development Bank are sorely needed. Commitments on governance and the call to appoint a UN Special Envoy for Water can elevate water in the global agenda. To make meaningful progress towards SDG 6, however, action must be unified and must accelerate continuously.
The two major private sector outcomes organized by the CEO Water Mandate push towards the integration of wills to pursue a shared vision. The nearly $140 million Water Access Fund brings together five leading corporations, the US Government’s DFC, and WaterEquity to provide WASH services to five million people. This fund is the first of many foreseen investment mechanisms in the Water Resilience Coalition’s Investment Portfolio. The Portfolio has already identified at least $1 billion dollars in the pipeline, which are an opportunity for public and private actors to come together for water impact.
The launch of the Business Leaders Open Call to Accelerate Water Action likewise unites the business community and continues to build momentum. From 50 initial companies in March, 20 more have since joined the call to take enterprise-wide action on water and contribute to collective positive water impact in 100 basins worldwide by 2030. Rallying around this common goal, we can build water resilience where we need it most at an accelerated pace.
Achieving collective impact requires radical new partnerships. To amplify this message, the Mandate convened the UN HQ session Radical Collaboration for Water Resilience: Action with our Greatest Allies in the Climate Crisis. Bringing together business, government, indigenous communities, youth, and civil society, the event showcased the power of otherwise unlikely partnerships to strengthen water resilience. Our offsite event Raising Our Ambitions for Water Resilience in 100 Basins by 2030 sought to catalyze future collaborations. Discussing examples of collective action, measuring positive water impact, the potential of digitization, and the opportunities of finance, the CEO Water Mandate provided a space for otherwise disconnected actors to join forces.
At the event’s closing reception, Meta Platforms announced they would be joining the Water Resilience Coalition. Veolia, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola FEMSA and HCLTech also announced membership during the conference. Each joined because they recognize that acting in isolation limits our impact, but acting collectively scales it up.
When we reconvene in 2028 for the end of the Water Action Decade, what will we have to show for it? Making progress towards SDG 6 in the face of climate change requires us to scale up impact fast. I want to remember the 2023 conference as the catalyst, the launch pad, for collective water action founded on radical new collaborations. Decisive next steps in the months leading up to the SDG Summit in New York in September will determine our shared trajectory and its success.