Our Water for Our World: the UNESCO International Water Conference calls for a paradigm shift towards water security for sustainable peace


How we manage water, bond of life and fragile resource, will define our success in achieving all goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Access to water is critical to poverty reduction and human health, impacts gender equality, education, and all human activities. Ecosystems and biodiversity depend on water, it provides three-quarters of the world's renewable energy, and globally three-quarters of it is devoted to food production. Sound water management is a challenge that requires a holistic approach, harnessing expertise across disciplines at all levels. The first UNESCO International Water Conference brought together 34 Ministers* and 1,200 experts from 126 countries in order to mobilize the expertise and foster the cooperation needed to meet this challenge.

“I am sure you will all agree that in the challenging years ahead, it is the peaceful and innovative application of science and policy, in a meaningful and understanding cultural context, that will ultimately define our positive development as a global family” said HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, UNESCO Special Envoy for Science for Peace. “UNESCO provides for us all, a nexus of dialogue and engagement, where the concept and practices of water diplomacy and cooperation may transcend the mere transfer of knowledge, to encompass fostering strong partnerships between engaged stakeholders.”

Water cooperation, as a powerful lever for peace and sustainable development, was a central theme for this first edition. When discussing their experience of mechanisms to manage shared water resources, Member States’ representatives stressed the need for a strong political will for dialogue and cooperation to create effective tools and measures for implementation. They highlighted that such mechanisms must be supported by an improved knowledge-base of water resources and capacity-development to further technical knowledge on this vital resource. They also called for more scientific dialogue between riparian countries of a shared basin and basins across the world.

Noting UNESCO’s long-standing experience in fostering water cooperation, they remarked that the Organization could provide a platform for such multidisciplinary dialogues, as it is uniquely placed to foster solutions based on intersectoral cooperation combining, through its mandate, the sciences, education, culture, communication and information sharing.

Over two days, the participants shared their experience and solutions on many aspects of water management, including ethics, natural hazards and disaster risk management, cultural heritage, gender equality, research and technological innovation. A summary report of each thematic panel will share the recommendations of the relevant dialogues and discussions.

"Promoting water security and sustainable peace were at the heart of the conference's ambitions” said Mr. Xing Qu, UNESCO Deputy Director General, in his closing remarks. “Today we call for a fundamental shift in the way we look at water. Today in Paris, this International Water Conference, convened by the Director-General of UNESCO, calls for a trans-sectoral approach to water that will lead us to achieve the 2030 agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and related targets. Today, the UNESCO Secretariat commits to fostering collaboration between its sectors towards sustainable water security and peace.

The Conference was organized by UNESCO, with support from the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), the Syndicat interdépartemental pour l'assainissement de l'agglomération parisienne (SIAAP), the Regulation Agency for Water, Energy and Sanitation Services of Federal District of Brazil (ADASA) and the magazine Techniques Sciences Méthodes.


* Ministers attending the conference:

  • Erik Grigoryan, Minister of Nature Protection, Armenia;
  • Kefentse Mzwinila, Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Botswana;
  • Ambroise Ouedraogo, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Burkina Faso;
  • Chann Sinath, Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, Cambodia;
  • Eloundou Essomba (represented by his Director of Water Resources, Mr Mamoudou Ousman), Minister of Water and Sanitation, Cameroon;
  • Serge Blaise Zoniaba, Minister of Energy and Hydraulics, Congo;
  • Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister of Tourism and Environment, Congo;
  • Laurent Tchagba, Minister of Hydraulics, Cote d'Ivoire;
  • Hortense Euphrasie Kouassi-Yao, President counsellor for gender equality questions, Cote d'Ivoire;
  • Alain-Richard Donwahi, Minister of Water and Forestry, Cote d'Ivoire;
  • Bolivar Beltran, Deputy National Secretary on Water, Ecuador;
  • Hesham Bakhit, Assistant Minister for Transboundary Water Affairs, Studies, Research and Development, Egypt;
  • Emmanuel Norbert Tony Ondo Mba, Minister of Water and Energy, Gabon;
  • Cecilia Abena Dapaah, Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Ghana;
  • Jamal Al-Adilee, Minister of Water Resources, Iraq;
  • Sergio Costa, Minister of Environment, Land and Sea, Italy;
  • Emanuela Claudia Del Re, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Italy;
  • Raed Muzaffar Abu al-Saud, Minister of Water, Jordan
  • Joseph Irungu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Kenya;
  • Myung-Rae Cho, Minister of Environment, Korea (Republic of)
  • Duannah A. Kamara, Managing Director of the Water and Sewage Corporation, Liberia
  • Joe Mizzi, Minister for Energy and Water, Malta;
  • Tserenbat Namsrai, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mongolia;
  • Abdelkader Amara, Minister of Equipment, Transports, Logistics, and Water, Morocco;
  • Mazen Ghunaim, Minister, Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Palestine;
  • João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Minister of Environment and Energy Transition, Portugal;
  • Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senegal;
  • Wasanta Aluwihare, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Sri Lanka;
  • Lukmon Isomatov, Head of the Department for External Economic Cooperation, and representing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tajikistan;
  • Antoine Lekpa Gbegbeni, Minister of Water, Rural Equipment and Village Hydraulics, Togo;
  • Samir Taieb, Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, Tunisia;
  • Annageldi Yazmyradov, Chairman of the State Committee of Water Management, Turkmenistan;
  • Bakhodir Ruziboyev, First Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Uzbekistan;
  • Alfred Maoh, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Vanuatu.

The conference also benefited from the participation of HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, UNESCO Special Envoy for Science for Peace, Loic Fauchon, President of the World Water Council, and Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of Suez.