Blog.Jun 01, 2023

Inclusivity at the Water Diplomacy Symposium and UN Water Conference fostered by the Women in Water Diplomacy Network

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Sharon B. Megdal, Ph.D.
Arizona Water Resources Research Center

It is hard to believe that it was less than nine months ago that I became part of the strong and exciting Women in Water Diplomacy Network (Network). Connecting with the Network has already led to multiple fruitful personal and professional experiences.

Deb Haaland
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland addressing the Water and Tribes side event at the UN Water Conference.

The Global Network Forum at Stockholm and official session at Stockholm World Water Week, as discussed by others, were amazing. It was wonderful interacting with Network members at the December 2022 UN-Water Groundwater Summit, which was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. It was great to see some of the North American members that same month at the Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference. What was truly exceptional was the partnering in organizing the March 21 Water Diplomacy Symposium and the presence of the Network at the UN Water Conference. My own ability to participate in the UN Water Conference, along with that of others who registered for the conference through my university’s accreditation, was facilitated by Elizabeth Koch’s unwavering commitment to full inclusion.

March 21, 2023, Water Diplomacy Symposium provided an opportunity to connect some Colorado River water leaders with the Network. Two Indigenous leaders from Arizona spoke at the Symposium – Governor Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community and Chairwoman Amelia Flores of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. They are the top elected leaders of their respective sovereign nations and water leaders in the Colorado River Basin. They spoke about the meaningful ways in which their Nations’ have mitigated the impacts of low Colorado River Flows. At the symposium, I spoke about the Water & Tribes Initiative | Colorado River Basin (WTI), with whom I had the great pleasure of partnering on an official UN Water Conference side event, The Role of Indigenous People in Governing Shared Waters. The Water Diplomacy Symposium also provided an opportunity to engage with Commissioners Adriana Resendez (Mexico) and Maria-Elena Giner (United States (U.S.)) of the International Boundary and Water Commission. This is the first time that the Commissioners, appointed by their respective Presidents, are both women! This critically important Commission addresses key matters related to water and wastewater along the border shared by the two countries, including the Colorado River and the Rio Grande.

At the Role of Indigenous People in Governing Shared Waters side event, WTI co-directors Daryl Vigil and Matt McKinney, Chairwoman Flores, Governor Lewis, and Indigenous water leaders from other parts of the globe shared their knowledge and insights. It was a shame that this session, heralded by some as “the best session ever”, was held in a relatively small room without broadcast or recording capabilities. Notably, the governing shared waters side event was launched by remarks by Deb Haaland, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the first Indigenous member of a U.S. President’s cabinet.  As can be seen in the photo showing the overflow crowd at the session, Secretary Haaland and Assistant Secretary of Interior Tanya Trujillo (to her left), who participated in the Network’s official Stockholm session, both wore the Network’s signature clip!

The governing shared waters session was held immediately before the Network’s side event, Elevating Critical Voices in Water Diplomacy – in the same room!  So, there was a significant overlap of participants. Clearly there was so much that was elevated by the inclusive programs and processes of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network, with which I am so grateful to have become affiliated.  I very much look forward to future events, including those related to expanding the presence of the Network in North America.

To view the recorded webinar from the University of Arizona’s Water Resource Research Center ‘ Impressions and Takeaways from the UN 2023 Water Conference’ please visit:

About the network

The Women in Water Diplomacy and Water Management promotes promotes women water professionals’ participation in decision-making in the water sector and gender mainstreaming in water governance, inthe Nile region and Central Asia and Afghanistan.

The Women in Water Diplomacy network in the NileWomen in Water Management in Central Asia and AfghanistanA Path Forward for Women, Water, Peace, and Security