Second International High-Level Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028
Globally, the pressure on water resources is increasing from rapidly growing demands and climate change. Sustainable management and use of water could reduce some of that pressure, but actions towards improvement of existing practices are lagging. Meeting the water needs of a growing population is largely associated with the need for water to grow food, alongside with access to safe water supply and sanitation being increasingly recognized as an essential element of human capital contributing to public health, which became even more evident in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The shortage of clean drinking water – a current challenge for population across the globe, is not a pure function of the physical scarcity of water, as a combination of factors, such as “business as usual” practices in the use and management of water and water pollution undermine the achievement of poverty eradication, posing a threat to human well-being, economic growth and national security. Furthermore, climate change is exacerbating water security, by contributing to increasing variability in the water cycle, thus inducing extreme weather events (floods, droughts), altering regimes of rainfall and intermittent streams and reducing the predictability of water availability, decreasing water quality and threatening social, economic and environmental achievements worldwide and having an increasingly adverse impact on demographic and migration patterns.
Today, per capita freshwater availability is diminishing. Over the past four decades, it dropped by one-third. According to UN-Water’s World Water Development Report (2018), by 2050, between 4.8 billion and 5.7 billion people out of 9 billion will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today, while the number of people at risk of floods will increase to 1.6 billion, up from 1.2 billion today.
Depletion and degradation of freshwater supplies, driven by population growth and mobility, impacts of economic development, lifestyle changes and unsustainable production and consumption patterns can only be reversed by deliberate and comprehensive interventions. Water resources and services are compromised due to lack of appropriate water institutions, inadequate capacity and investments, ambiguous jurisdictions, overlapping functions, fragmented institutions, lack of transparency and accountability, and deficiencies in necessary gray and green infrastructure. Solving the problem of the poor management and weak governance of water is a top priority. Despite huge progress over the past thirty years in water-related science and technology, the capacity to implement these solutions, particularly in developing countries, is lagging behind.
Water is a powerful tool for cooperation and dialogue in support of sustainable development and safer and resilient societies. However, there is a need for more effective, integrated and coordinated actions, coupled with strong political will. All stakeholders, including those in government, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and academia, should be engaged, paying special attention to the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people, leaving no one behind.
Today, humanity is in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, which requires rethinking of the value of water, as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) become essential to combat the public health threats. In the Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 report, the United Nations Secretary General reminds that more than 50 percent of the world’s rural population and more than 20 per cent of the urban population lack legal health care coverage, while 2.2 billion lack access to water and 4.2 billion to basic sanitation, depriving people of frequent handwashing, which is the most basic and effective preventive measure against many viral and communicable diseases. This crisis urges to ensure sustainable access to basic handwashing for the 40 percent of the world’s population currently with no access to water and sanitation, who are among the poorest and the most vulnerable.
To bridge the achievement gap, the United Nations launched the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework. The Framework emphasizes that there are many examples from around the world which prove that dramatic gains are possible and that some of the solutions are inexpensive, effective and can be quickly deployed. The Framework aims at delivering fast results at an increased scale. Coordinated by UN-Water, the Framework is driven by country demand and will unify the international community’s support to countries to achieve SDG 6. Action is driven by five accelerators: financing, data and information, capacity development, innovation, and governance.
Mobilizing political will and commitments to address water issues worldwide plays a crucial role. Equally important are forward-thinking and a willingness to promote innovative ways to approach local, national, regional and international water cooperation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. Open discussions about the issues shaping water resources management today and public participation in decision-making, including, among others, of women, youth, minorities, migrants, refugees and persons with disabilities, can stimulate cooperative solutions and actions. Promoting a culture of consultation and dialogue, increasing participatory engagement and partnership will help to deliver benefits for all.
Water Action Decade and the Dushanbe Water Process
In December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly declared the period 2018-2028 as the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development” (hereinafter Water Action Decade), which aims at supporting sustainable development and integrated management of water resources, while promoting cooperation and partnerships to support achieving internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On 22 March 2018, the United Nations Secretary General’s Plan for the Water Action Decade was released during a High-Level Launch Event, convened by the President of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. The plan outlines current activities and capabilities of the UN system and international organizations and the operational setup envisaged to support Member States in the implementation of the Water Action Decade.
In this connection, the Government of Tajikistan, committed to continue providing a platform for policy dialogue, partnership and action at the global, regional and national level, is organizing, with the support of the United Nations and other partners, high-level international conferences throughout the Water Action Decade. This series of events constitutes the so-called “Dushanbe Water Process”. As part of this process, the First High-level International Conference on the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028 (First Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference) was held in Dushanbe on 20-21 June 2018. The outcomes of the Conference included recommendations to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that took place in 2018, for its in-depth review of the implementation of SDG 6. The Final Declaration of the First Dushanbe Conference confirmed the focus of the next conference to be on “Catalyzing water action and partnership at the local, national, regional and global levels” to achieve the goals of the Water Action Decade and other water-related SDGs and targets. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemics, the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference had to be postponed to 2022. Taking into account the rapidly evolving development challenges, and the fact that the coronavirus disease demonstrated a crucial role of the safe and affordable drinking water, and adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene which should be available, accessible, and affordable to all, as well as importance of water for economic recovery the Conference planned for 2022 will have a renewed focus on “Catalyzing water action and partnership at the local, national, regional and global levels” for the water-smart recovery path in the post-COVID world.
The importance of the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference was further reaffirmed at the global level through the adopted UN GA resolution 75/212, indicating it as the key preparatory event for the United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028. The Midterm Review Conference will take place from 22 to 24 March 2023 in New York and will be co-hosted by the Governments of Tajikistan and the Netherlands. The resolution calls on the offer of the Government of Tajikistan to use the Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference in 2022 as a platform to support an effective preparation for the Midterm comprehensive review. The Conference in Dushanbe shall also ensure linkages with other water-related meetings that may serve to provide input for the preparatory process of the Midterm Conference, e.g. high-level symposium on water during the UN Ocean Conference, Bonn Water Dialogue for Results, Asia-Pacific Water Summit and the ninth World Water Forum.
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference is co-organized by the Government of Tajikistan and the United Nations and planned to be held from (date to be confirmed) to (date to be confirmed) June 2022. The Conference will be co-chaired by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Tajikistan and the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will focus on how governments, the United Nations and its entities, other international and regional organizations, international financial institutions, the private sector, civil society organizations, academia, communities, local governments and other stakeholders can catalyze water action and partnerships to contribute to the implementation of water-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the New Urban Agenda at all levels, while supporting the global response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will also serve as a platform for soliciting and consolidating inputs in preparation of the United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028 in 2023 in New York and will feed the upcoming UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
In particular, the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will focus on:
- Providing an update on the activities and actions indicated in the Final Declaration, the Co-Chairs’ Summary and the Call for Action and Partnerships of the First Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference, co-organized by the Government of Tajikistan and the United Nations;
- Accelerating the implementation of internationally agreed water-related goals and targets at the regional and national level, particularly through the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework;
- Promoting science-based solutions and tools, including data, technologies and innovations;
- Improving capacity building, knowledge and education through sharing information and best practices;
- Showcasing successful partnerships, advocacy and networking actions by stakeholders at all levels;
- Strengthening cooperation at different levels by promoting dialogue, partnership and cross-sectoral approaches.
Moreover, the Conference will address the key role of water, sanitation and hygiene in addressing the COVID-19 crisis and other public health threats of water-borne diseases, as well as critical interlinkages between water and climate change in the context of water resources management as a key factor for climate adaptation and mitigation.
The Conference will also provide an opportunity for sharing progress and constraints in the implementation of the actions and partnerships, initiated by governments and other stakeholders within the Water Action Decade, including the First Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference and the other events towards the 2023 UN Water Conference in New York. Speakers and panelists are requested to showcase real action on the ground.
The Conference in 2022 will also provide a mechanism to encourage governments, the United Nations and all other partners to translate good intentions into actions on the ground.
In continuity with past events, this Conference will produce a Final Declaration and a Co-chair’s Summary, as well as a compendium of actions, partnerships and other initiatives, presented during the Conference.
The outcome documents of the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will consolidate critical views of the stakeholders on key actions and partnerships necessary to take the water sector agenda forward globally and provide valuable inputs to the preparation of the UN 2023 Water Decade Conference in New York. The outcomes of the Conference will be presented to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
Format and participation modalities
The Conference is multi-stakeholder in nature and will bring together different groups and actors involved in the implementation of water-related goals and targets.
The Conference will gather high-level representatives of the UN member states, UN institutions, international and regional organizations, international financial institutions, businesses, river basin authorities, local governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, academia and media. To provide an opportunity for the promotion of integrated approaches and partnerships, participation of representatives from different sectors out of water box is encouraged.
Given the uncertainties associated with the realities of the COVID-19 and a global nature of the planned event, while the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference is expected to be physical in-person event to ensure the highest level of interaction among participants, the format of the Conference will be adjusted to allow for a combination of carefully planned offline, online and potentially hybrid events, as needed. Format of the Conference sessions will be defined based on the availability of the speakers, required level of interaction between online and offline participants, with the view of ensuring inclusive approach to participation and wide outreach. Preparation of the Conference will be completed mostly online. The Conference will incorporate safety measures for preventing COVID-19 transmission; specific standard operating procedures for the prevention, containment and management of COVID-19 will be communicated closer to the event.
The Conference program includes opening and closing ceremonies, a plenary session, several thematic and interactive panels, special forums for regional and major groups, as well as side events. Cultural events will also be organized, including an exhibition.
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will include a Plenary session, which will provide an opportunity for the Heads of Delegation to make political statements. Guidelines to make statements consistent with the Water Action Decade and SDG 6 will be provided to Heads of Delegations through diplomatic channels, as appropriate.
The Plenary Session will also include a presentation on the progress made towards objectives of the Water Action Decade.
Regional and Major Groups Forums
The Forums will be held before the opening ceremony of the Conference and will provide focused engagement of different regions, women, youth and other major groups, in the manner consistent with objectives of the Conference. The objective of the Forums is to create an additional platform for broader discussion of water-related issues among specific types of stakeholders or in certain regions.
The Forums make it possible to involve different types of stakeholders, including women, youth, indigenous people, professional groups, scholars, private sector and others in the implementation of the water agenda with a focus on catalyzing water action and partnership at the local, national, regional and global level. Factual and relevant deliberations, findings and solutions may effectively contribute to the theme of the Conference and address the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.
The Forums will provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on the outcomes of the First Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference in their narrow context. The outcomes of the Forums will be presented at the Plenary session.
Thematic and Interactive Panels
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will include twelve Thematic and Interactive Panels. The Panels will focus on SDG 6, other water related goals, the goals of the Water Action Decade and the areas on means of implementation. The Panels are co-organized by partners of the Dushanbe Water Process, including Member States, United Nations agencies and programs, other international and regional organizations, international financial institutions, other development partners, private companies, as well as academia and non-governmental organizations. As a general rule, each Panel will be co-organized by two partners. They will cover the following issues:
Three Thematic Panels on Water for Health and People (WHP)
- Increasing water-health nexus for responding to the challenges of the post-COVID world (WHP1)
- Accelerating access to safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions, leaving no one behind (WHP2)
- Advancing water sustainability in urban and rural areas (WHP3)
Three Thematic Panels on Water for Livelihoods and Inclusive Economic Growth (WEG)
- Promoting integrated water resources management, water efficiency and valuing water (WEG1)
- Accelerating the water-energy-food nexus in post-COVID recovery (WEG2)
- Transboundary water cooperation for inclusive economic growth and sustainability (WEG3)
Three Thematic Panels on Water, Environment and Climate Resilience (WEC)
- Promoting nature-based water solutions, water quality and ecosystems (WEC1)
- Resilient infrastructure and disaster risk reduction (WEC2)
- Water resources and climate: reinforcing the interlinkages (WEC3)
Three Interactive Panels on Education, Technology, Awareness and Knowledge (ETAK)
- Promoting science-based water solutions, tools and technology (ETAK1)
- Moving out of water box and promoting integration at all levels (ETAK2)
- Improving knowledge, education and communication (ETAK3)
The outcomes of the Panels will be presented at the Closing session. They will also be reflected in the outcome documents of the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference.
Cross-cutting issues: SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework and Water Action Decade
All Forums and Panels will address the five dimensions of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework as cross-cutting issues: financing, data and information, capacity development, innovation and governance. The Terms of Reference for the panels, to be prepared by the Conference Secretariat, will request each panel to address each accelerator, the objectives of the Water Action Decade and ensure inclusive approach to organization of panels.
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference will provide opportunities for interested delegations to organize side events on relevant matters/issues on the sidelines of the Conference.
The Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference is organized by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan with the support of the United Nations and other partners. The ultimate responsibility for preparation of the Conference rests with the National Organizing Committee established by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan under the leadership of the Prime Minister.
International Advisory Committee (IAC)
To facilitate an inclusive preparation for the Conference, as well as to develop a comprehensive program and outcome documents of the Conference, an International Advisory Committee (IAC), involving the representatives of the partner governments, United Nations institutions, international and regional institutions, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders has been established. IAC members represent a diverse group of stakeholders.
The International Steering Committee (ISC) of the Group of Friends of Water in New York will be engaged in the preparation of the Conference through its regular meetings, convened by Permanent Missions to the United Nations.
Dates and venue
The Conference will be held on (date to be confirmed) June 2022 at Kokhi Somon, Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan.
Regional and major groups forums will be held prior to the official opening of the Conference. Venue for these events will be decided by the organizers separately.
An exhibition will be organized at the sidelines of the Conference. Partners interested in organizing their thematic booth shall contact the Conference Secretariat for for more information.
Participants will be invited to participate in a tour/field trip the day after the Conference to get acquainted with examples of integrated water resources management and water-related sustainable development in Tajikistan. Participants who plan to arrive before the Conference or stay longer and wish to visit other parts of Tajikistan are invited to contact the Conference Secretariat for more information.
The working languages of the Conference are English and Russian (simultaneous translation will be provided). Translation into other UN official languages will be provided to the possible extent for the Opening Ceremony and Closing Session.