The 9th World Water Forum: Paving the way to 2023

Published on Friday 18 March 2022

By Marine Collignon, Head of the Water, Pollution and Transversal Affairs Unit, and Eugénie Avram, Policy Advisor for Water, Sanitation, Integrated Water Resources Management and Transboundary Waters at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs

The World Water Forum, held every three years, is a major event on the global agenda. The 9th edition, hosted by Senegal and set to take place in Dakar in March 2022, will be particularly important: the results of the Forum will lay the groundwork for the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, the first such conference to be hosted by the UN since 1977.

The 9th edition of the World Water Forum is unprecedented in more ways than one. As the first forum to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, it provides an opportunity to highlight the specific challenges facing African countries and to identify appropriate solutions. This edition will also take place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which has made all too clear the consequences of a lack of access to hygiene, sanitation and drinking water—a problem afflicting 30% of the global population, 70% of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. Finally, this Forum is part of a multilateral sequence of events paving the way to the Midterm Review of the Water Action Decade, “Water for Sustainable Development” (New York City, 22-24 March 2023), the UN’s first conference devoted to water since 1977.

The 9th World Water Forum represents the second of five milestones on the road to the UN Water Conference, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands[1]: it follows the Bonn Water Dialogues hosted by Germany in July 2021 and will in turn be followed by the Asia-Pacific Water Summit (Japan), the High-Level Symposium on Water set to take place during the UN Ocean Conference (Portugal, June 2022), and the Dushanbe High-Level International Conference (Tajikistan).

One of France’s main challenges will be to ensure that the international community adopts the accelerated timeline to achieve Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched in 2020 by UN-Water, particularly by further developing and operationalizing messages drafted during the Bonn Water Dialogues. The success of the upcoming UN Water Conference hinges on cross-coordination and complementarity among the various events leading up to it. Bearing that in mind, the theme Senegal has chosen for the Forum—water security for peace and development—and its focus on field solutions seem particularly suited to tackling the full spectrum of water and sanitation issues, which the international community will need to step up and address with appropriate commitments. Because that is the objective of the UN conference: assess progress, make commitments and take action to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, and sustainable resource management by 2030.

Which is why France, in line with its international water and sanitation strategy (2020-2030)[2], is lobbying the international community to seize this unique opportunity to strengthen multilateral dialogues, and is encouraging political decision-makers and all stakeholders and sectors to commit firmly to (a) making the human right to water and sanitation a reality and (b) strengthening integrated and cooperative resource management at the catchment-area level, including cross-border catchment areas. Improving sector governance at every level, safeguarding resources against climate change, and strengthening sector-specific knowledge and resources are some of the key objectives that France is committed to championing at the 2023 conference and beyond.

[1] See Resolution A/RES/75/212 adopted on 21 December 2020 by the UN General Assembly.

[2] https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/eau_ang_cle0ac2e1.pdf (in English)

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