The United Nations Conference on Water, which took place from 22 to 24 March 2023, is part of a particular context marked by a triple health, climate and economic crisis that jeopardizes the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 6. As such, the conference was an opportunity to call on all stakeholders, in particular local authorities, to contribute to the success of the water transition through the acceleration of the paradigm shift to solve the water and sanitation crisis, as underlined by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres: “The United Nations Water Conference in March 2023 must result in a bold action program on water that will give this vital element for our world the commitment it deserves.” 

In this context, a large delegation of UCLG Africa participated in the work of the conference according to a session agenda validated by the organizers of the Conference and also in the various parallel sessions organized in partnership with strategic partners. 

In addition to the Secretary General of UCLG Africa Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, the delegation was composed of the following political leaders:  

Ms. Christine Mba Ndutume, Vice-President of UCLG Africa for the Central Africa region, President of the Association of Mayors of Gabon, Mayor of Libreville  

Ms. Florah Bogadi Mpetsane, Vice-President of UCLG Africa for the Southern Africa region, President of the Botswana Local Government Association (BALA)  

Mr. Kayode Fayemi, President of the Africa Forum of Regions (FORAF), Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria    

Mr. Dieudonné Bantsimba, President of the Association of Mayors of Congo, Mayor of Brazzaville   

Mr. David Alabi Kolade, President of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) 

Mr. Omar Ba, President of the Association of Mayors of Senegal, Mayor of Ndiop  

Mr. Mounir Laymouri, President of the Moroccan Association of Local Council Presidents (AMPCC), Mayor of Tangier 

Mr. Samuel Oe-Amseb, President of the Association of Local Authorities of Namibia 

Meeting with donors on the initiative of the “OECD-UCLG Africa Roundtable of African Mayors for Water Security 

In order to strengthen the partnership with financial institutions, a roundtable was organized on March 22, 2023, by UCLG Africa and the OECD. Its aim was to mobilize funding to initiate the process of operationalizing the 5 pillars of the Roundtable of Mayors’ initiative for water security to wit:      

  • Ensure access to water and sanitation for all, especially the most vulnerable groups  
  • Strengthen the security and resilience of water resources
  • Encourage multi-level, multi-stakeholder and urban-rural cooperation  
  • Improve governance frameworks for more effective, efficient and inclusive policies  
  • Catalyze public and private financing.     

The meeting was attended by H.E. Mbaye THIAM, Minister of Water and Sanitation of Senegal as well as the following financial institutions: the World Bank – African Development Bank, the Global Adaptation Centre, the French Development Agency, the International Network of Basin Organizations. 

At the end of this meeting, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Mbassi, invited the donors to act quickly to structure the operational framework of this important initiative in order to face the impacts of climate change.  

Water Governance Initiative (WGI) Strategic Committee Meeting 

The meeting of the Strategic Committee held on March 21, 2023, saw for the first time the participation of UCLG Africa, a recently appointed member of the Strategic Committee of the said initiative in the person of Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi. This meeting was the subject of 3 important points: 

– The expectations concerning the water week 

– The strategy and perspectives of the WGI initiative 

– The next steps 

Local and Regional Governments Day at the United Nations Water Conference  

One of the key side events of the New York meeting was the Local Government Day organized on 22 March 2023, by the Global Task Force of UCLG World, whose objective was to define a common position of local and regional governments in order to influence the decisions and recommendations of the United Nations Water Conference. As such, the global task force calls for the protection of local communities by focusing on securing water supply and sanitation, preventing water scarcity, protecting aquatic ecosystems and promoting care systems. Local and regional governments advocated for a renewed water governance that involves all stakeholders, guided by the local sphere including the aquatic ecosystem. 

High Level Event on:  “Adaptation solutions in the water sector: lessons for scaling up effective implementation”  

On March 22, 2023, invited as a speaker to this high-level session organized by the African Union, the GCA, the AfDB and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Mr. Mbassi, in his intervention, recalled the need to translate the commitments of the various stakeholders into action on the ground by placing local governments at the center of the implementation of adaptation actions.  

In this regard, the Secretary General called for the creation of a fund to meet the needs of first aid during climate disasters directly accessible to local governments. 

Side event: “Localizing the blue economy: a city-basin approach” 

This side event held on March 22, 2023, brought together high-level representatives from national and regional governments as well as international organizations to take stock of initiatives, concrete actions and commitments to foster resilient, inclusive, sustainable and circular blue economies while improving water security in cities and basins. This session served as a platform to present the results of the survey that was conducted among 30 city profiles and in which UCLG Africa supervised the African region.    

The Secretary General of UCLG Africa expressed the interest of coastal and river cities to be part of this blue economy that materializes solidarity and the need to ensure inclusive growth while preserving natural resources.  

The event concluded with the New York City Multi-Stakeholder Pledge on Localizing the Blue Economy, a joint initiative of the OECD and the International Association of Cities and Ports (IACP), Atlantic Cities, Local Governments for Sustainability, International Network of Basin (INBO), UCLG Africa, Ocean & Climate Platform, Resilient Cities Network, and ICLEI. 

High-level side event on: “A City-Basin Approach to Water Security in Africa: Solutions and Commitment”  

On 24 March 2023, the side event on: “A city-basin approach to water security in Africa: Solutions and commitment” was jointly organized by UCLG Africa, OECD, the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU) and UCLG World. H.E Mbaye THIAM, Minister of Water and Sanitation of Senegal, H.E Nizar Baraka, Minister of Equipment and Water of Morocco, Mr. Kayode Fayemi, President of the Forum of African Regions (FORAF), Mr. Dieudonné Bantsimba, President of the Association of Mayors of Congo, Mayor of Brazzaville, Mr. David Alabi Kolade, President of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Mr. Omar Ba, President of the Association of Mayors of Senegal, and Mr. Mounir Laymouri, President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Communal Councils (AMPCC), Mayor of Tangier, as well as other personalities representing institutions such as the World Bank, the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), the African Development Bank, Sanitation and Water for All, and the Network of Resilient Cities. 

Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, in his introductory remarks, recalled the main results of the survey, emphasizing the need to fill the important gaps in multi-level governance in water management, including water security, capacity building, the water information processing and reporting system, and access to finance. Mr. Mbassi emphasized that the UN Water Conference was an opportunity to renew the commitment of local and regional governments to unify their efforts to address water scarcity and abundance while recognizing the territorial nature of water problems and the urgency to act. 

Adoption of the declaration on water of local governments 

The United Nations Water Conference was an important milestone to consolidate the role and mandate that AMCEN has given to UCLG Africa as a platform for the implementation of its decisions particularly in the field of water and sanitation. The adoption of the declaration on water of local governments during this conference illustrates the willingness of local governments to take up the challenge of adaptation which remains a largely territorial issue. Read the declaration here. 

Meeting with the Mayor of Rotterdam 

On the sidelines of the conference, bilateral meetings were held with the Mayor of Rotterdam, Mr. Ahmed Aboutaleb. 

The discussions focused on the contribution of UCLG Africa to the Network of Resilient Cities in order to strengthen its initiative in Africa.