Less than a year away from the 2023 UN Water Conference, billed as “the most important water meeting of a generation”, the fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit (4th APWS) in Kumamoto, Japan, launched a series of preparatory events to focus on water and sustainable water governance. In this guidance note, the SDG Knowledge Center discusses the proceedings of the recent summit, which were covered by the Earth Negotiations Bulletinsummarizes the key messages of the outcome document and offers an overview of what the Summit means for global water processes.
Water is “a fundamental element of all aspects of life”, notes the vision statement for the 2023 Conference. Due to its cross-cutting nature, water underpins all three dimensions of sustainable development and supports the achievement of many SDGs through strong links with climate, environment and health, among others. The UN Water Conference 2023 vision statement, for example, recognizes that “[w]Without a functioning and resilient water cycle for everyone, everywhere”, human health, environmental integrity and a sustainable and equitable future “will remain out of reach”. Yet today, two billion people depend on unsafe sources of drinking water, and half of the world’s population lacks safely managed sanitation facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated – and exposed – these vulnerabilities.
The fourth Asia-Pacific Water Summit was held on April 23-24, 2022, in-person and online, under the theme “Water for Sustainable Development: Best Practices and the Next Generation”. In an attempt “to unite efforts for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region”, as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida noted at the opening ceremony, he brought together heads of state from Asia-Pacific region, representatives of governmental and international agencies. organizations, and stakeholders from the private sector and civil society, among many others. Participants discussed a wide range of water-related issues, shared their experiences in water resources management, highlighted challenges and opportunities and proposed concrete actions to improve water governance.
The two-day event included a meeting of Heads of State and Government and a series of thematic, special and “integrated” sessions. According to Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB)the Summit also showcased “the host city’s longstanding efforts to conserve groundwater as well as its recovery efforts after the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes.”
Nine parallel thematic sessions focusing on the following topics:
- water and disasters, including climate change;
- Water supply;
- Water and the environment: from source to sea;
- water, poverty and gender;
- water, sanitation and wastewater management;
- Innovation by young people;
- Water and Food;
- Water, culture and peace; and
- Water cycle management.
A special session on April 23 featured model initiatives using science and technology for governance and ways to promote quality-driven societies. On April 24, a special high-level session for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) convened to address climate disaster vulnerabilities and water issues specific to SIDS. Integrated sessions addressed cross-cutting issues of governance, finance, and science and technology.
The Kumamoto Declaration outlines the vision of a quality-oriented society
In the Kumamoto Declaration, adopted as an outcome of the Summit, the leaders of the participating countries urge the strengthening of action for water sustainability to enable a transformation towards a “quality-driven” society. This transformation, they state, “should happen through a multi-stakeholder partnership with open, transparent, participatory and collaborative processes.” A quality-oriented company is a company that supports:
- Resilienceto reduce water-related disaster risk and improve water security and access to water and sanitation;
- Sustainability, by “placing water at the center of the political agenda” and promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies and the development of green infrastructure; and
- Inclusivenessproviding access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all, including women, young people and the elderly, and achieving other water-related SDGs.
To accelerate efforts towards a quality-driven society, leaders of participating countries commit to: improving governance through collaborative action; bridging the financial gap by building on the Yangon Declaration and mobilizing investments in each river basin of the region from various public and private sources; and appeal to the scientific and technological community to, among othersprovide context-specific innovations to solve water problems.
The 4th APWS sets out the links between water, climate change and DRR
The Kumamoto Declaration recognizes the link between water, climate change and DRR. In doing so, it states that “by restoring a healthy water cycle, we can reduce disaster risks” exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, and achieve several SDGs. According to the Chair’s summary of discussions and outcomes of the 4th APWS, a key recommendation is that water, climate change and DRR be discussed as a key topic in global processes.
The summary also notes that the Japan Water Initiative, announced at the Summit, addresses these three issues in an integrated manner and aims to “expand[e] the circle of commitments” in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
Towards the 2023 UN Water Conference: the way forward
The Kumamoto Declaration emphasizes the linkages between the 4th APWS and other major preparatory processes that feed into the 2023 UN Water Conference in March 2023. The Conference will focus on reviewing the implementation implementation of the objectives of the International Water Decade 2018-2028.
Among other water-related meetings and processes, the Declaration highlights the Bonn Water Dialogues, the World Water Forum, the Second Conference of the Dushanbe Decade of Action for Water , the United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC (Sharm el-Sheikh Conference on Climate Change), the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15), the Group of 7 (G7) and Group of 20 (G20). At SDG Knowledge Centerwe will closely monitor these processes and bring you updates.
As we prepare for the 2023 UN Water Conference, a series of meetings will keep water in the spotlight over the coming months. These include: the Sanitation and Water for All 2022 Sector Ministers Meeting from 18 to 19 May 2022, the Seventh Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction from 23 to 28 May, the Second International Conference on high level on the Decade of Water from 6-9 June, the 39th IAHR World Congress from 19-24 June, a Geneva Water Dialogue on 22 June and the second UN Ocean Conference from June 27 to July 1. These meetings will build on the outcomes of the 4th APWS and accelerate the momentum towards the “defining moment” that the 2023 UN Water Conference hopes to become.