UN Water Conference: Blue Deal on the map

From March 22 until March 24, the United Nations Water Conference was held in New York. Dutch Water Authorities (DWA) was present there, including board member Luzette Kroon of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities. We succeeded in getting the Blue Deal on the agenda of (potential) partners.

It was the first UN conference on water in nearly 50 years.

Water is a basic necessity of life

Kroon explains why the water authorities, in the form of DWA, were present at the conference: “The fact that the UN decided to organize a major conference on water, while that is not a UN treaty subject at all, is of great significance. This conference was really aimed at getting more (worldwide) action on water. Water managers play a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are the 17 goals of the United Nations to make the world a better place by 2030. And it’s not just about SDG6, which specifically focuses on water. Water is a basic necessity of life. It is necessary for people’s well-being, safe living, cooling during heat stress, industry and world food production. We will not achieve the SDGs without water managers.”

Worldwide too much, too little and too dirty water

“The conference has once again emphasized that the global challenges in the field of water are becoming bigger and more urgent,” says Piebe Hoeksma, international policy advisor at the Association of Dutch Water Authorities. “There is increasingly too much, too little and too dirty water in all parts of the world. Sometimes it concerns 1 of those 3, more often it is a combination. It is about subjects that are also relevant in the Netherlands and on which we must and can collaborate internationally.”

Back home with a positive feeling

The delegation returned to the Netherlands with a positive feeling. Hoeksma: “During the many discussions we explained our vision on local cooperation, operations & maintenance and governance. This fits in very well with how the challenges in water management are now viewed worldwide. Dutch Water Authorities was visible, among other things through the Blue Deal. We are now on the radar of a number of partners that are crucial to us.”

Invest in operations and maintenance

The Blue Deal is the international programme of the 21 Dutch water authorities together with the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure and Water Management. The programme consists of 17 long-term partnerships in 15 countries. “The conference was aimed at all of us doing more about water worldwide. We succeeded in doubling the Blue Deal’s financial contribution as part of the Water Action Agenda. This is an important step in increasing and accelerating our impact”, says programme manager Emilie Sturm.

She continues: “During a boat trip the Blue Deal organised on the Hudson River, with the Statue of Liberty in the background, we spoke, for example, with various financial players to draw attention to the importance of operations and maintenance. In addition to the construction of, for example, a treatment plant or dike, operatoins and maintenance are financed, but usually only for a short period. After that period, the investments sometimes fall into disrepair because operations and maintenance cease. We have follow-up agreements with 3 large financial institutions that want to invest more in operations and maintenance. It is great that we were able to inspire them to make even more impact with their organization in this way.”

Water Action Agenda

In short, the water conference made it clear that water is high on the global agenda and that many parties want to take action locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Stories were shared, inspiring opportunities discussed and commitments made to the Water Action Agenda.

(Photo: Luzette Kroon is pleading for more attention for operations and maintenance.)