The UN Water Conference, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands, is taking place for the first time in half a century. It brings together governments, intergovernmental organisations, international financial institutions, the scientific community, representatives from civil society and other stakeholders to discuss water security and tackle the world’s many water-issues head-on.

Open Call for Water Action

During the opening day of the UN 2023 Water Conference, over 50 of the world’s largest corporations, operating in over 130 countries and employing 2 million people worldwide, launched the Business Leaders’ Open Call for Accelerating Water Action. The Open Call for Water Action is an unprecedented appeal for private sector action to help solve the global water crisis and advance progress on SDG 6 to ensure access to water and sanitation for all. The Open Call provides a unified commitment by the corporate sector to the Water Action Agenda, the main outcome of the historic UN Water Conference.

By joining the Open Call for Water Action, companies commit to work to build water resilience across their own global operations and supply chains. They also pledge to work collaboratively across sectors to achieve collective positive water impact in at least 100 prioritized water-stressed basins by 2030. The strategy aims to contribute to water security for 3 billion people, and help enable safe drinking water and sanitation for more than 300 million people.

“Companies are the world’s largest water users and have a vested interest in ensuring that water resources are managed responsibly, fairly and sustainably. We hope this Open Call will mobilize the action we need to ensure the private sector becomes a good custodian of water resources.” 

Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director and CEO of the United Nations Global Compact

Water insecurity is one of the most pressing sustainability challenges of the 21st century, presenting humanitarian, environmental, and economic concerns. More than 2 billion people lack safe drinking water; a 40% water deficit is projected by 2030; and water-protecting ecosystems have experienced rapid destruction. Climate change continues to significantly intensify these risks, adding further urgency to act. CDP estimated that some $300 billion of business value is at risk due to water scarcity, pollution, and climate change.

“By bringing together leading companies to act inwardly in their own operations and supply chains and outwardly by joining hands in collective action in basins around the world, the Open Call can catalyze more water action than companies can achieve on their own.”

Jason Morrison, President of the Pacific Institute and Head of the CEO Water Mandate

UN 2023 Water Conference

European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) – one of the world’s biggest public lenders for water -also attended the UN Water Conference to join the call for more investment in water to tackle the global development and climate challenges. 

On average the European Investment Bank finances €3bn in water infrastructure every year. Around 30% of EIB water projects are carried out outside the EU, including in some of the world’s poorest and drought-stricken countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Middle East. Projects financed alongside regional partners connect cities and villages to clean water and sanitation, enable flood resistant infrastructure and encourage communities to recycle their water.

“We need to fundamentally change the way we understand and value water. If we continue to mismanage this precious resource, we risk losing some of the important progress we have made on global development in the last decades. When we invest in water infrastructure, we lay the ground for health, food, gender equality, and even for enhanced peace and security. Water runs through everything we hold dear, not least when it comes to helping those on the frontline of climate change adapt to rising temperatures, drought and flooding.” 

EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle

UN 2023 Water Conference

During the UN Water Conference, the European Investment Bank published its new Water Sector Orientation. The document presents the Bank’s investment priorities in the sector, where limited financing is available. These priorities include conventional infrastructure as well as innovative approaches, such as circular economy, nature-based solutions, and digitalisation. The policy highlights the types of investments that will maximise the Bank’s impact to achieve its climate and environmental objectives.

The policy paper looks at four sub-sectors:

1) domestic and industrial water supply;

2) wastewater collection and treatment;

3) flood protection; and, for the first time,

4) agricultural water management.

In doing so, it demonstrates the strong role climate-resilient water systems can play to achieve sustainable development for all.

UN 2023 Water Conference

Source: EIB, UN