Promoting transboundary water cooperation towards the UN 2023 Water Conference

The UN 2023 Water Conference (United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028), its preparatory process and follow-up represent a crucial opportunity to advance transboundary water cooperation and strengthen transboundary water governance at bilateral, transboundary, regional and global levels.

As part of the outcomes of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the United Nations is asking for voluntary commitments by all stakeholders to form what will be known as the Water Action Agenda.

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With a goal to “accelerate implementation and improve impact” towards Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation, and the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, these commitments are meant to spur concrete action by governments and stakeholders.

Why commitments on transboundary water cooperation?

Transboundary waters account for 60 per cent of the world’s freshwater flows and more than 3 billion people depend on them. Transboundary water cooperation is essential to promote sustainable economic development, human and environmental health, biodiversity, climate action and resilience, disaster risk reduction, and peace.

There is a clear need to accelerate progress on transboundary water cooperation. Such progress cannot be sustained by individual countries or organizations. An effort to go beyond what already exists and make further commitments will be the only way to sustain current equitable cooperative efforts under increasing stress and bridge the gap to establish and strengthen cooperation that can mitigate risks (and potential conflicts) of the future.

Who can make commitments?

The United Nations invites “States and all relevant stakeholders to announce voluntary commitments” for the UN 2023 Water Conference. In the context of transboundary water cooperation this includes, but it is not limited to national governments, international organizations, international financial institutions, basin/aquifer organizations (national and international), non-governmental organizations, think tanks, academia, civil society and the finance/private sector.

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IGRAC has been engaged in the Transboundary Water cooperation Coalition since the official launch at the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022. Within the Coalition, IGRAC promotes additional efforts in transboundary groundwater assessment and management. In addition, IGRAC has initiated the #OpenWaterData commitment to the Water Action Agenda as part of the compiled list of commitments needed to improve transboundary water cooperation.