“The Dakar Forum must be a major political milestone on the road to the UN 2023 Water Conference”

Published on Wednesday 23 March 2022

By Jean Launay, President of the French Water Partnership

“In 2020, around one in four people lacked safely managed drinking water in their homes and nearly half the world’s population lacked safely managed sanitation. COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need to ensure everyone can access good hand hygiene. At the onset of the pandemic, three in ten people worldwide could not wash their hands with soap and water within their homes.” 

This alarming statement is how the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme[1] report summarizes last year’s global WASH statistics. The French Water Partnership (FWP) had these observations in mind, along with the findings of the World Conservation Congress[2] (e.g., 90% of wetlands have dried up over the last 100 years) and the 6th IPCC Report[3], as we rolled up our sleeves in 2021 and set out to plan the 9th World Water Forum.

The Dakar Forum is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa. Postponed from 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will now take place while its host country, Senegal, holds the Chairmanship of the African Union. The international water community is sure to make a solid turnout at this long-awaited event. Thousands of specialists, professionals and elected officials typically attend, and it is our hope that, despite the current context, as many of them as possible will be able to come together and forge vital partnerships. Because it’s time to step up the pace. But don’t take it from me: that is the United Nations’ call to speed up efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on Water and Sanitation. For this to happen, the UN is calling for: 1. optimization of new and existing funding channels; 2. enhanced data; 3. global capacity building; 4. innovation; 5. intersectoral and, where applicable, cross-border governance with clearly defined roles for stakeholders and institutions directly or indirectly involved in water management.

The 200 members of the FWP are mobilized on all of these fronts from within their respective panels: government and public institutions; NGOs; regional authorities and elected officials; economic stakeholders; research and training institutes; and private individuals. Our members have made their ambition clear in joining the FWP, an organization dedicated to promoting the water agenda at the international level. Now, to fulfill the FWP’s mission, we have approached planning the World Water Forum with the same resolve we displayed heading into the other major conferences: the COP26 Climate Change Conference, the COP15 Biodiversity Conference, and so on. We have held regular information sessions to help get French stakeholders on board and promote their expertise. In addition, the FWP team has been involved in all aspects of the preparatory process and has set the following expectations: the Dakar Forum must end on a powerful plea for the operational achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s water targets and for the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more broadly, the aim being to make recommendations ahead of the United Nations 2023 Midterm Review of the Water Action Decade, “Water for Sustainable Development”. Two Heads of State and Government Meetings—one African and one global—are on the agenda in Dakar; both are an opportunity to further champion these ambitions and to pave the way for the 2023 conference. To ensure no one is left behind, messages must be grounded in a pragmatic progress report on the 2030 Agenda’s 20 water-related targets and a political commitment to move more quickly towards achieving these and all other 2030 Agenda targets, while also taking into account those territories subject to crises and vulnerabilities.

Set to take place on the continent lagging the farthest behind in terms of access to water and sanitation, the Dakar Forum must be a major political milestone. Every aspect of the 2030 Agenda must be promoted there. The FWP and its members will stress this urgency, advocate a cross-cutting approach to sustainable development issues and call on all stakeholders to take an active role.

[1] https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/billions-people-will-lack-access-safe-water-sanitation-and-hygiene-2030-unless

[2] https://www.iucncongress2020.org/about/about-iucn-congress

[3] https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

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