Written by Marine Collignon, Head of the Water, Pollution and Transversal Affairs Unit, Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs
and Eugénie Avram, expert in water, sanitation and integrated resource management (DGM/DDD/CLEN), MEAE
The World Water Forums, organized every three years, are major events on the international calendar. However, the 9th edition organized by Senegal and hosted in Dakar in March 2022 is of particular importance. The results of the 2022 Forum will contribute directly to the preparation of the 2023 UN Water Conference, the first to be organized under the auspices of the United Nations since 1977.
The 9th edition of the World Water Forum in Dakar is unique in many ways. As the first Forum to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, it will be an opportunity to focus on the specific problems encountered by African countries and to identify appropriate solutions. This edition will also be held in the context of the VIDC-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the consequences of the lack of access to hygiene, sanitation and drinking water, which affects 30% of the world’s population, 70% of which is located in Sub-Saharan Africa. This Forum is part of a multilateral sequence marked by the preparation of the mid-term review of the Decade for Water and Development and the first UN conference on water (New York, 22-24 March 2023) organized under the aegis of the United Nations since 1977.
The 9th World Water Forum is indeed the second of five preparatory milestones for the UN Water Conference, co-organized by Tajikistan and the Netherlands1 , after the Bonn Water Dialogues organized by Germany in July 2021. It will be followed by the Asia-Pacific Water Summit (Japan), the High Level Symposium on Water on the margins of the UN Conference on the Oceans (Portugal, June 2022) and the High Level Conference in Dushanbe (Tajikistan).
For France, one of the main challenges is to ensure that the international community takes ownership of the framework for accelerating the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) launched in 2020 by UN-Water, particularly through the deepening and operationalization of the messages developed in the framework of the Bonn water dialogues. The coherence and complementarity of the various preparatory events are indeed one of the conditions for the success of the future UN conference on water. In this respect, the theme chosen by Senegal for the Forum – water and sanitation security for peace and development – and the particular attention paid to solutions on the ground, seem particularly relevant to embrace all the problems of the water and sanitation sector, for which the international community will have to make commitments commensurate with the stakes. For this is the challenge of this UN conference: to take stock, to commit and to act so that universal access to water and sanitation and sustainable management of resources are effective by 2030.
We know that the strategies deployed so far are insufficient. Nearly 2.2 billion people remain without access to safe drinking water, more than half of the world’s population lacks access to adequate sanitation and handwashing facilities (WHO, UNICEF). At the same time, nearly half of the world’s population is affected by severe water shortages, a figure that would reach 5 billion by 2050 (UN). In this context, the UN estimates that it would be necessary to quadruple investments in the sector to achieve the 18 targets of the 2030 Agenda related to water, on which so many other issues depend, such as peace and security, public health, food and nutritional security, energy, economic development, the fight against climate change and biodiversity degradation. In light of these observations, it seems essential that the international community and all stakeholders mobilize.
This is why France, in line with its international strategy for water and sanitation (2020-2030)2 , is calling on the international community to seize this unique opportunity to strengthen multilateral dialogue and is encouraging political decision-makers and all stakeholders and sectors to make a firm commitment to the realization of the human right to water and sanitation and to strengthening integrated and concerted management at the scale of river basins, including transboundary ones. Improving governance of the sector at all levels, securing resources in the current context of climate change, and strengthening knowledge and resources dedicated to the sector are crucial issues that France is determined to address in the context of the 2023 conference and beyond.
1 See resolution A/RES/75/212 adopted on 21 December 2020 by the United Nations General Assembly
Article published in the 2022 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Barometer published by Solidarités International.