The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Joëlle Welfring, represented Luxembourg at the United Nations Water Conference 2023, the first since 1977, which took place from 21 to 24 March 2023 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The conference was a great success and provided decisive answers to the global water crisis.
Luxembourg welcomes the initiative taken under the presidency of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan to jointly organise the Conference, which brought together more than 10,000 people from various sectors. Different stakeholders came together with a common goal: to reinvigorate the global water debate and accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 "Ensure access to sustainably managed water supply and sanitation services for all". The decisive responses to the global water crisis that resulted from the Conference are proof of its success:
- Governments, businesses and civil society committed themselves through a significant multi-billion dollar financial support, a much needed investment to advance the water agenda;
- A broad consensus was reached for the creation of a UN Special Envoy for Water, to ensure that the issue of water continues to be promoted and addressed at the highest political level.
- The conference resulted in the adoption of the Water Action Agenda, an ambitious set of over 700 voluntary commitments by Member States and stakeholders to ensure, among other things, access to water and sanitation for all by 2030;
- The globalisation process of the UNECE Water Convention, which now has 49 members, has been reinvigorated.
- The results of the Water Conference will be followed up at future international meetings on water-related issues, such as sustainable development, climate change or biodiversity.
Luxembourg's contribution to the UN Water Conference
Although Luxembourg is a small country without direct access to the sea, it plays a pioneering role in certain areas. For example, Luxembourg is considered a reference at European level for the excellent management of its water resources thanks to its Water Safety Plan.
In line with its expertise, one of the objectives of the Luxembourg delegation at the United Nations Water Conference 2023 was to create new alliances for water protection.
Thus, Luxembourg had numerous exchanges with various stakeholders during its visit. However, a special attention was given to bilateral meetings, in particular with the delegations from Cabo Verde, Rwanda, Senegal and Vietnam.
In addition, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Joëlle Welfring, pledged to support development cooperation partner countries to join the UNECE Water Convention, a unique and legally binding instrument that promotes the sustainable management of shared water resources. Luxembourg will continue to help strengthen the Convention, not only through promotion and active participation in its programmes, but also through voluntary funding.
During the general debate on 22 March, Joëlle Welfring welcomed the call for regular intergovernmental meetings on water within the UN and the need to put water at the top of the political agenda. In her speech, she presented the key elements and actions in the field of water management already in place in Luxembourg today, including:
- The water law specifying that water is a public good that cannot be privatised;
- Sustainable management of shared water resources;
- An IT tool that allows any drinking water supplier to adopt a preventive approach to risks;
- Cross-sectoral cooperation on water issues at local, regional and international levels;
- and the implementation of adaptation measures to increase the climate resilience of water and sanitation services.
The Minister also highlighted an important existing UN instrument: the Water Convention.
"It is only through the intelligent and coordinated management of this vital and scarce resource that we can address major challenges such as climate change." (Joëlle Welfring)
In her contribution to the Interactive Dialogue 4: Water for Cooperation on 23 March, Joëlle Welfring addressed the challenges of cooperative water management at national and global level. Luxembourg has a long tradition of cooperation with its neighbouring countries and is a member of several river basin commissions. These cooperations are supported and encouraged by a European framework and its guidelines.
But Luxembourg's cooperation does not end there: water and sanitation is one of the key areas of Luxembourg's development cooperation, which focuses on social and poverty-related issues as well as environmental and climate issues. However, cooperation goes beyond the water sector and Luxembourg also works with research institutes, the health sector and agriculture, among others.
To conclude its participation in the 2023 Water Conference, Luxembourg, together with Senegal, Niger and the UNECE (secretariat of the Water Convention), organised a side event on 24 March at the United Nations headquarters entitled "Water and adaptation to the effects of climate change in a transboundary context". Although Senegal, Niger and Luxembourg have major differences in terms of water, they all have one thing in common: the desire to cooperate with their neighbours on water management.
- This event focused on several aspects related to water, namely:
- The international context, with a presentation by the UNECE;
- Financing, with a presentation from the Green Climate Fund;
- Agriculture, with a presentation from the International Water Management Institute; and
- Cooperation within a river basin organisation, with the example of the Gambia River Development Organisation.
"Promoting transboundary cooperation is essential in the water sector, as good management of water resources can only be achieved through strong cooperation between riparian countries," said Joëlle Welfring.
During the closing session of the conference, the creation of a Special Envoy for Water was announced. It was also decided that future international meetings on water-related issues, such as sustainable development, climate change or biodiversity, would take stock of the discussions and work carried out.
Link: UN 2023 Water Conference website
Press release by the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development