Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan Sirojiddin MUHRIDDIN dedicated to the “Dushanbe Water Process” with the correspondent of NIAT “Khovar”: “It took humanity almost 50 years to unite efforts on water issues”.
- What were the results of the Second High-Level International Conference on International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028”?
First, I have to mention that the Second High-Level International Conference on “Catalyzing water action and partnership at the local, national, regional and global levels” wehosted last year in Dushanbe has become an effective platform for clarifying and consolidating the necessary information on water, served as a core linkage in the process of preparation for the UN Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028”, which will be held on March 22 – 24, 2023 in New York and co-chaired by the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is noteworthy that it will be the first UN conference on water resources in the last 50 years.
Secondly, it is also important to emphasize that the most important outcome of the Dushanbe Conference is the launch of the Water Action Agenda, a transformative voluntary mechanism of the UN 2023 Conference that will consolidate such commitments and lay the foundation for new actions, accelerate existing efforts and strengthen cooperation and partnerships relationship to achieve SDG 6 and other water-related goals.
- What is the significance of the 2023 UN Water Conference for Tajikistan and the world as a whole?
The Republic of Tajikistan has been actively promoting the water agenda internationally over the past two decades. During this period, the UN General Assembly adopted 9 water and climate resolutions initiated by Tajikistan. The most recent one declared 2025 as the International Year for Glaciers’ Preservation, which highlights the linkage between glacier melt, the impact of climate change and modifications in the hydrological natural cycle, which was also indicated in the "Common Agenda" of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Progress towards the Goals of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development” 2018-2028 (UN Water Conference) is a timely event on a global scale given the aggravation of current challenges and threats and the increasing urgency to strengthen cooperation on water issues, respond to the consequences of climate change and the green transition positively influencing the current international conjecture.
This year is a significant one in multilateral diplomacy as it hosts major events such as the UN Water Conference, the Mid-Term Review of the Sendai Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals Summit and the Preparatory Meeting for the Summit of the Future next year. Given the fundamental role of water resources in everyday life and economic development, as well as in the conservation of biological diversity, I can confidently confirm that the UN Water Conference is a significant support in the success of upcoming global events.
In the concept of the Water Conference, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands as co-chairs identified three driving principles for the preparatory process and the arrangement of the Conference: inclusiveness, action-oriented and cross-cutting nature of water management.
Water resources, being the source of life, can be regarded as a universal tool for sustainable development. In this regard, in our view, to ensure a successful conference, it is important to ensure its inclusiveness from the perspective of both the process of its arrangement and the results we will achieve, leaving no one behind. We need to ensure the proactive participation of representatives of the Global South and all interested groups, including women, youth and indigenous peoples. The conference should also be of an interagency nature, based on its recommendations, all sectors of the economy should improve the methods of water resources management and use. In addition, the conference is aimed at specific actions.
We are convinced that one of the important outcomes of the Conference will be the Water Action Agenda containing transformative and game-changing commitments that will make it possible to really accelerate progress towards water-related goals.
I have to mention that the first UN Water Conference was held in 1977 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. It took humanity almost 50 years to once again unite their efforts in this area. It is common knowledge that the world is far behind the internationally agreed water targets, including SDG 6, and the UN Water Conference provides us with a unique opportunity to turn things around and get the world back on track.
- What are the functions of the Conference co-chairs?
According to the UN General Assembly Resolution No. 75/212 on the modalities of the UN Water Conference, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands were elected as co-chairs of the Conference.
Together with the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, with the support of the UN - Water acting as the Secretariat of the Conference, Tajikistan and the Netherlands provide every possible support in the development of its content, and also actively promote the Water Action Agenda as a key outcome of the Conference, where the UN member states, organizations and all other stakeholders can pledge voluntarily assumed commitments to address the water related issues.
- What activities has Tajikistan undertaken to arrange this conference at a high level?
Going back to the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Conference modalities, it is important to note that during 2022 various high-level regional and international events were organized, which made a significant contribution to the preparation for the UN Water Conference. These activities include the High Level Water Symposium in the sidelines of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, , the 4th Asia Pacific Water Summit in Kumamoto, the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar and the 2nd High Level Water Conference in Dushanbe. The Dushanbe Conference played a key role in the preparatory process, as the resolution on the Conference modalities places special emphasis on it. The Dushanbe Conference adopted the Dushanbe Declaration “From Dushanbe 2022 to New York 2023”, which proposed the Water Action Agenda.
In addition, with a view to raising the awareness of all stakeholders about the upcoming Conference, its goals and outcomes, Tajikistan and the Netherlands, together with the UN country offices, organized various dialogues, briefings, discussions to enhance the ambition of countries in their desire to change the water status quo both nationally and internationally.
- Which states are actively participating in conducting this important event currently?
According to the UN Water Conference program, there are plans to convene five interactive dialogues, each to be co-chaired by two countries. In February of this year, 10 UN member countries were selected for this role, including the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Dominican Republic, the European Union, the People's Republic of China, Japan and Egypt, Switzerland and Senegal, the United States of America and Singapore.
Tajikistan and the Netherlands, as co-chairs of the Conference, together with the Conference Secretariat, are actively working with the co-chairs of interactive dialogues to structure the dialogue to get maximum return to enable each party - government agency, international organization, representatives of academia and youth - to review the water cooperation issues from different angles and through the prism of resource mobilization to strengthen cooperation.
In addition, many representatives and experts from various countries are involved as panelists. At the same time, the selection process of candidates took into account equal regional representation with a view to ensuring an inclusive dialogue.
And the number of requests for side events (more than 1300) testifies to the active participation of UN member states in the Conference and the coverage of topical water issues in different parts of the world.
- What outcomes does Tajikistan expect from this Conference?
The main outcome of the Conference is the expansion and enrichment of the Water Action Agenda. This agenda is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We want to make the most of existing facilities, in both implementation and monitoring and reporting progress. Therefore, the implementation of the commitments made by countries and organizations should be built into existing structures, such as the SDG Summit in September and the Summit of the Future in 2024. It is important to note that the desire of the entire world community to achieve the ambitious goals that they outline in the water sector as part of the Action Agenda contributes to rallying and encouraging cooperation by all stakeholders that can contribute to global sustainable development.
We also expect that the results of this Conference will contribute to drawing the attention of the international community to the issues of integrated water resources management to achieve the socio-economic and environmental goals, implement and promote relevant programs and projects, as well as strengthen cooperation and partnership at all levels to promote the implementation of internationally negotiated goals and targets related to water, including those formulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.