UN Celebrates World Water Day with High-Level Interactive Dialogue

21 March 2013: A High-Level Interactive Dialogue on Water, celebrating World Water Day, was held on 21 March 2013, at UN Headquarters in New York. The event brought together leaders of Member States, UN bodies, and civil society to discuss progress on access to water and sanitation through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and water's place in the post-2015 development agenda.

In his opening remarks, Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly (PGA), stressed that any achievement of the MDGs is "dependent on water." He highlighted the numerous processes now taking place to advance sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda within the UN, and highlighted water's central position to these complex development challenges. Jeremic expressed hope that this high-level dialogue would identify areas for advanced international collaboration on the issues of water.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, stressed the need for water in the face of interdependent issues. Highlighting threats that scarce water resources pose to food security, sustainable agriculture, economic prosperity, health, and growing populations, he made an appeal for "heightened cooperation" around water issues. Reminding the audience of the 1000 days left to achieve the MDGs, Ban emphasized progress in the area of sanitation, as many people are still without access to "dignity and health" worldwide.

The dialogue then hosted two interactive panel discussions that brought together government, UN, civil society leaders. One discussed challenges and opportunities for water cooperation, and the other explored water solutions for the post-2015 era. Speakers gave examples of successful cooperation around water in their home countries and regions, while calling for enhanced management of the resources. Looking to lagging progress on access to sanitation and the many people still without safe drinking water, panelists agreed to the need for continued emphasis on water in the post-2015 development agenda. The "nexus" of issues impacted by the availability of water (energy, health, and food security, among others) was one suggested focus for new goals surrounding water in the future.

The dialogue also connected with a World Water Day event held in The Hague, the Netherlands, to hear about the parallel themes of discussion. Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), presented a summary of their discussion and emphasized: a need for partnerships to achieve greater cooperation; the links between water and peace, conflict, and gender issues; and the necessity of water capacity building in many countries. She also called for action on access to sanitation around the world. [UN Webcast- Morning Session] [UN Webcast- Afternoon Session] [High-Level Dialogue Concept Note and Agenda] [Event Invitation from PGA] [UN SG Statement][IISD RS Sources]