A global action plan with more than 700 ambitious self-commitments is the result of the United Nations Water Summit in New York. The commitments come from governments as well as non-profit organizations and some companies. For example, 150 states support the appointment of a UN special representative for water. In addition, a scientific committee is to be set up on the subject.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to fight against drinking water shortages. All hope for humanity would depend on charting a new course: “It depends on realizing the landmark inclusive and action-oriented commitments made by Member States and others at this conference”.
The UN water conference has been running since Wednesday. It was the first major UN meeting since 1977 to deal solely with the issue of water. The United Nations had sounded the alarm in the face of a global water crisis: the water cycle had been broken, ecosystems destroyed and groundwater contaminated. Two billion people, one in four, do not have adequate access to clean water. And the global shortage of drinking water will continue to increase.
Nearly 7,000 people attended, including about a dozen heads of state and government. Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig (ÖVP) spoke for Austria in his speech to the General Assembly for a UN special envoy. However, critics denounced that some parts of the world were far better represented than others. Many communities from the Global South, which are particularly affected by water scarcity, were not sufficiently represented due to visa barriers or financial hurdles.
The meeting in New York was nevertheless a necessary wake-up call, said the World Resources Institute, which analyzed the conference. A number of the voluntary commitments could mark a turning point and have an impact on the development towards drinking water.