Past Event

Revisiting the UN Water Conference: 46 years of learning and forgetting?

14 March 2023 16:00–17:30

Institute of Development Studies and online IDS Convening Space and online on Zoom

This event examines the progress and challenges that have shaped water and development from Mar-del- Plata (1977) to the upcoming UN Water Conference in New York City (2023). Speakers will focus on key achievements and missed opportunities, and reflect on what’s proposed at New York in terms of realising water for all.

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The UN 2023 Water Conference will take place in New York City, from 22 to 24 March 2023. This event examines the  experiences, progress and challenges that have shaped and informed water and development from the first UN water conference at Mar-del-Plata in 1977 to New York City in 2023.  Forty-six years is a long time in policy contexts; much has been achieved and change has been dramatic. Nevertheless, there is perhaps a growing realisation that key targets and expectations have not been met in some geographies and, with climate-related pressures and other factors increasing, progress, arguably, could become even harder to achieve in future decades.

For example, recent changes in the global distribution, timing and intensity of rainfall events are adversely impacting the reliability and quality of water resources used for drinking water provision, food preparation, hygiene, irrigation, and livestock rearing. Whilst more frequent extremes of temperature are increasing levels of evapotranspiration in many areas, impacting land-use and livelihoods, through reductions in water availability, soil moisture and fertility. Changes to our climate, intensification of agriculture and increasingly rapid urbanisation are also altering the distribution and spread of many waterborne and water-related diseases.

Speakers at this event – co-organised by Prof Lyla Mehta of IDS and Dr Alan Nicol of the International Water Management Institute – will reflect on the achievements and missed opportunities of the past 46 years. They will also critically reflect on what needs to be done to realise water for all.


  • Mr Gourisankar Ghosh, Former Executive Director, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Switzerland
  • Dr François Molle, Senior Researcher at the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and co-editor of ‘Water Alternatives‘.
  • Dr Alan Nicol, Strategic Program Director, International water Management Institute
  • Prof Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development Studies and Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Chair: Prof Naho Mirumachi, King’s College London.


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