This month, the United Nations is hosting the UN Water Conference (UNWC) – the first since 1977. From 22 to 24 March, WaterAid will be at the conference in New York, engaging with governments and the private sector on the vital importance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

What is the UNWC?

Starting on World Water Day, the conference will bring together governments and stakeholders from a multitude of sectors to identify the obstacles to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation, and consider the opportunities and innovative ways to accelerate progress towards it.

WASH is only one part of this conference, so we will be highlighting how it links to other key conversations around water such as agriculture, food security, health and wider water management.

The UNWC is an opportunity for stakeholders across all sectors to submit voluntary commitments to the Water Action Agenda, which will constitute the key outcome document of the conference. The Water Action Agenda will then feed into the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development, to be held in July.

What are our goals for UNWC?

Water security, sanitation and hygiene underlie global, national and household resilience. They transform economies, agriculture and nutrition, public health, gender equality and the environment.

In line with our new Global Strategy, we will use the UNWC as an opportunity to embed WASH solutions to tackling the ever-increasing threat of climate change and the growing impacts of water-related disasters and economic challenges.

What is WaterAid doing at UNWC?

UN Headquarters side event 'Water Security and Sanitation for Resilience across the SDGs'. 22 March 9:30–10:45am.

On 22 March, we will co-host an official side event at the Headquarters of the United Nations, alongside the US Government, on Water Security and Sanitation for Resilience Across the SDGs (invite-only). The event will highlight how water security, sanitation and hygiene underlie global, national and household resilience, transforming economies, agriculture and nutrition, public health, gender equality and the environment.

Our side event will feature high-level speakers from the Governments of Malawi and Bangladesh, the African Development Bank, the World Food Programme, the World Meteorological Association, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the EU Joint Research Commission and Diageo.

WaterAid, Resilient Water Accelerator (RWA) and End Water Poverty (EWP) are also leading on the following side events:

21 March: 'Women as change makers' cocktail reception, bringing together influential corporate stakeholders to celebrate the central role of women as leaders in achieving SDG6 and encourage action, with speakers from Diageo, Coca-Cola and WaterAid.

23 March 910:30am: The Resilient Water Accelerator side event co-chaired by Zac Goldsmith, the UK Minister of State for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment. The event will bring together the broad water sector and investors to accelerate investment in water supply in low- and middle-income countries.

23 March 34:30pm: End Water Poverty side event 'Hearing the Unheard: Human Rights to Water and Sanitation' led by the Government of South Africa with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur, 15 CSO and network partners amplifying the voices of groups facing marginalisation and engaging responses from national and local government and the UN.

Sign up here.

23 March 3:30–4:45pm 'Achieving SDG 6 through (1) a gender lens on climate change and youth and (2) global goals for menstrual health and hygiene.' Without clear international and national goals, menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) will remain a low priority and progress will continue to be fragmented at best. In this session, a wide range of stakeholders from the WASH and MHH spaces will come together to catalyse progress towards a world in which no woman or girl is held back because of her period. 

Sign up here.

To show the need for policy reform to countries and partners at the UNWC, we have co-organised a further side event with APAA/PASA, WHO, SNV, Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, International Labour Organization, World Bank Group and UN Habitat:

21 March 2023 8–9:30am 'SDG 6.2 – A pipe dream without a professional sanitation workforce'. We are also holding a multimedia exhibition of portraits of workers, alongside narrations of their own stories and experiences. Explore the virtual immersive version.

Sign up here

How can I engage with the WASH conversation?

Whether you work in the agriculture, health or water management sector, WASH is relevant to you. WASH is a cross-sectoral issue at the heart of economic development. 

There are many ways you can take part in the WASH conversation at UNWC. Below is a list of WASH-related side events you can attend, based on your sector of interest – click on the sector to expand.

22 March 11:30–12:30pm Honouring ancestral knowledge to ensure sustainable and adaptive water management for climate change.

22 March 3–6pm Radical collaboration for water resilience: action with our greatest allies in the climate crisis.

23 March 2–3:15pm The Urban Water Catalyst Initiative (UWCI) – Changing the game for financing a water-secure and climate-resilient future!

24 March 9:30–10:45am Pollution, sanitation, water quality and climate resilience, a call to action.

TBC A new generation of urban climate solutions?

22 March 11–12:15pm WASH as a driver of improved health.

23 March 9:30–10:45am Panel discussion on progress towards achieving the targets to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in healthcare facilities.

22 March 6:30pm Reaffirming the importance of ending cholera to achieve SDG 6.

22–24 March Exhibition: Sanitation Work: Light at the end of the tunnel

22 March 11am–12:15pm Cross-sectoral partnerships to accelerate progress towards inclusive sanitation.

24 March 8–10am Reckitt Global Hygiene Initiative (RGHI) hygiene roundtable.

24 March 12:30–1:45pm UNICEF 'Accelerating progress on safe sanitation and hygiene for all: countdown to 2030'.

24 March 8:30–10am Roundtable: concrete path to empower women, youth and indigenous persons to accelerate global water security in the water action decade.

TBC Addressing the under representation of women in the WASH workforce.

22 March 11–12:00pm Ceres Global: the business case for better water management.

23 March 11–12:15pm A global commitment to stop the flow of lead in drinking water.

23 March 3:30–4:45pm Water security and SDG 6.

22 March 9:30–10:45am High-level launch: business leaders open call for accelerating action on water.

23 March 3:25–4:25pm Ceres Global: accelerating private sector action on the global water crisis. (Reception to follow at 5:30pm).

21 March 10am–5pm WWF 'Rethinking collective action' paper launch and event.

21 March 6–8pm SWA Justice begins here – with accountability.

22 March 8:30am–12pm The democratisation of water data.

22 March 9:30–10:45am High-level launch: business leaders open call for accelerating action on water.

23 March 5–6:15pm Common good outcomes through water stewardship: the power of a multi-stakeholder standard to drive effective, verifiable collaboration between business, civil society and government.

24 March 8:30–10:00am Roundtable: concrete path to empower women, youth and indigenous persons to accelerate global water security in the water action decade.

24 March 1–3:00pm Water action and human rights – implementing the human rights to water and sanitation to improve services at the local level.

24 March 3:30–4:45pm Groundwater management in Sub-Saharan Africa: How do we ensure a more holistic and action-oriented approach to groundwater challenges and opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Top image: Molia Abdallah, 47, washing hands at the water kiosk in Chicoma, Mozambique. June 2019.

Find us on Twitter

Engage on social media before and throughout UNWC using #WaterAction, and join the conversation on our Twitter page.

Media contacts

For media queries related to the UN Water Conference please get in touch with our Senior Media Officers, Lisa and Safeeyah.

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