UNESCO and Water Future propose a game-changing idea for discussion in the upcoming UN Water Conference

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP) and Future Earth’s Sustainable Water Future Programme (SWFP), along with other UN agencies and the scientific community, proposed a game-changing idea of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Water Sustainability (ISPWAS).

The proposed idea was developed and elaborated to contribute to the upcoming UN 2023 Water Conference, held between the 22 and 24 of March 2023 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

In preparation for the Water Conference, more than 1,200 scientists, representatives of Member States, the private sector, multilateral agencies, and civil society met for a High-Level Stakeholder Dialogue as part of the Preparatory Meeting (New York, 24-25 October 2022) to identify potential game-changing ideas related to water and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These ideas will be developed into action plans for the Water Action Agenda to support the ongoing discussions of the Water Conference’s five Interactive Dialogues (ID).

Diagrammatic presentation of the ISPWAS platform

The intergovernmental platform seeks to provide water solutions through a science-based global water assessment tailored to Member States’ needs and validated by an intergovernmental body. It aims to be a game-changer in underpinning the sustainable management of water resources and supporting informed decision- and policy-making by offering a solution-oriented knowledge base that addresses the intersectoral, systemic, complex and transdisciplinary nature of water challenges and identifying capacity development and implementation needs for more effective water management.

The idea of such a mechanism was then discussed in detail with the Office of the President of General Assembly (PGA), the two co-hosts of the UN 2023 Water Conference- the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, UNDESA, and a group of UN agencies, as well with several scientific and research organizations. Encouraged by the positive feedback received at the October 2022 preparatory meeting, the game-changer proponents have mobilized the scientific community and other stakeholders to further develop it into an action plan aligned with the mandate of the international water action decade.

Detailed discussions on the viability of the ISPWAS took place at the 1st Open Consultation Meeting, held during the UN-Water meeting on 6 December 2022, at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where an extended group of water experts was invited to contribute to the draft paper. Building upon the feedback received and incorporating further inputs from UN agencies and scientific partners, a second consultation took place on 19 January 2023, also at UNESCO HQ, which facilitated the finalization of the final manuscript to be presented at the UN 2023 Water Conference.

A side event to the Water Conference is being organised by the Republic of Korea and supported by Austria, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Senegal, Tajikistan, and Uganda, several UN agencies (UNEP, UNDP, WMO, IAEA, UNCCD)   and scientific associations (ISC, IAHS), to present the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform to gain countries’ buy-in and engage broader stakeholder participation.