News.Mar 22, 2023

The world must unite for water

Water governance is finally rising on the global agenda, as the world meets for the first United Nations conference on freshwater in almost 50 years. SIWI is cautiously optimistic that the UN 2023 Water Conference could set in motion a process towards a new economics of water and stronger international collaboration.

The UN 2023 Water Conference comes at a critical time. New research indicates that the global water crisis is worse than previously believed, and aggravates the triple threat of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. This was made very clear in the synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued just two days before the water conference. 

The UN 2023 Water Conference will not result in a negotiated new agreement but should fast-track progress on earlier agreements, like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and inspire actors to present new commitments as part of the Water Action Agenda. 


“The UN 2023 Water Conference can be very important if we use this opportunity to discuss how water can be a tool for change. It is encouraging that the Water Action Agenda has resulted in hundreds of commitments and that such a diverse range of water-related topics will be discussed at the conference.”

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, SIWI

Torgny Holmgren will be addressing the conference on 24 March as a lead discussant in the concluding Interactive Dialogue 5 which will look to the future, a role he is very honoured to have been given. SIWI’s commitments to the Water Action Agenda also revolve around what the next steps should be after the UN 2023 Water Conference, so that its impact will be felt in coming years. 

“The Sustainable Development Goals can play a very transformative role but achieving them requires collective action. I look forward to important discussions during the conference where many voices are heard and where new forms of collaboration can be fostered. This is of course something SIWI will continue to champion, including by offering World Water Week as an arena to implement the Water Action Agenda,” Holmgren says. 

SIWI experts are also involved in some 30 sessions related to the UN 2023 Water Conference and its sister event New York Water Week. The activities should influence discussions on topics like climate change, water and sanitation, source-to-sea management, transboundary cooperation and inclusion. What they all have in common is that they demonstrate the importance of good water governance, which suddenly is a hot topic thanks to the UN conference. 

Credit for the new interest should also go to the newly formed Global Commission on the Economics of Water which was launched last year to rewrite the economics of water and which will share some of its first findings with the UN conference today 22 March. The report Turning the Tide: A Call to Collective Action is the first output from the commission and argues that all sectors of society will need to profoundly change how water is managed to cope with fast-growing environmental challenges. 

22 March - a look at the agenda

Opening of the UN 2023 Water Conference 

Interactive Dialogue 1: Water for Health: Access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation;  

Interactive Dialogue 2: Water for Development: Valuing Water, Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Sustainable Economic and Urban Development;  

SIWI hosts the event A new generation of urban climate solutions | SIWI – Leading expert in water governance 

Follow SIWI to New York

On 22-24 March, the United Nations headquarters in New York will host a historic conference on freshwater. SIWI will play an active role to ensure that countries finally tackle the urgent water crisis and deliver on commitments already made.

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New York City skyline over the water. With the logo of the UN 2023 Water Conference on top.