NEW YORK (March 24, 2023) — The UN 2023 Water Conference concluded today, the first global UN freshwater conference in nearly 50 years, which was co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. The conference comes at a moment when climate change is exacerbating a global water crisis that is severely affecting half the world’s population.

The central outcome of the conference was the international Water Action Agenda, to which governments, multilateral institutions, businesses and NGOs submitted over 670 commitments to address water security issues. Thus far, approximately 164 governments and 75 multilateral organizations have made commitments. World Resources Institute published a preliminary analysis of the commitments, assessing their rigor and potential impact. WRI also submitted two commitments of its own to the Water Action Agenda: to support countries in reducing the risk of water-driven conflicts; and provide cities throughout Africa technical assistance and finance to build water resilience.

Following is a statement by Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute:

“This conference delivered a much-needed wakeup call to the global water crisis that is affecting billions of people. For too long, water has been overlooked on the international agenda, even as climate change has supercharged the crisis, hurting countries’ economies, exposing more people to the injustice of unsafe and unreliable water, and driving violent conflicts over scarce supplies.

“WRI analyzed all 670-plus voluntary commitments that governments, businesses, NGOs and others submitted to the Water Action Agenda, and while over 70% of them lack quantified targets or enough consideration of climate risks, around 200 promise to be true game-changers. These commitments—if funded—could have real impact, ensuring more people can access clean water and sanitation, helping communities build resilience to floods and droughts, and reducing the risk of water-driven conflicts. Holding all actors accountable and monitoring progress on these water commitments will be critical moving forward.

“We echo the Global Commission on the Economics of Water’s sentiment that the world is headed for a ‘massive collective failure.’ We must shift away from the old project-based approach to a systems-level approach. Countries, businesses and multilateral institutions will be key to enacting this change: they must ensure our economies recognize the full value of water, improve comprehensive national and transboundary governance, and deliver the finance needed for the transition.

“Currently, there is a $200-300 billion annual gap in funding global water services, and one third of that gap is in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Wealthy countries must step up with far more finance for developing countries, while also building mechanisms to attract greater private sector investment. Countries have no path to prosperity without water. The solutions exist today and the economic case for action has never been more clear.”