Civil society and youth organizing for the UN 2023 Water Conference

On December 8 and 14, the International Secretariat for Water, through the Butterfly Effect, and in collaboration with End Water Poverty, the Water, Sanitation and Water for All Coalition, Simavi and the Global Youth Water Movement organized two online workshops entitled “Civil Society and Youth Organizing Towards the 2023 United Nations Water Conference“.

These workshops – one held in French, English and Spanish, and the other in English for our members and partners based in Asia – aimed to:

  • Inform about the conference and share reflections on what we can expect from it
  • Discuss civil society and youth participation
  •  Inform on advocacy initiatives
  • Discuss the main messages we need to convey to the international community at this event


Sarah Dousse, Executive Director of the International Secretariat for Water (ISW), welcomed the participants by reminding them that “the participation of civil society represents an indispensable lever for action to respond to the challenges related to good water governance. Associated with the decision-making processes, it is a positive engine capable of creating the necessary impetus for environmental and societal transformations” and emphasizing that although it is foreseen in advance that nothing binding will emerge from this conference, it must bring out the major principles that will mark the years, even decades to come, like the last intergovernmental conference on water in Mar del Plata in 1977.

This was followed by an overview of the conference (structure, interactive dialogues, expected outcomes), opportunities for stakeholder engagement (accreditation, registration, side events, future webinars), vision of co-hosts and opportunities for support and participation for CSOs and youth, presented by Yunxio Long from UN DESA, Daniella Bostrom from UN Water and Erma Uytewaal consultant for the Dutch government.

A discussion followed, allowing participants to ask questions.

The organizers then presented their advocacy messages and action plans in preparation for the conference.

Finally, an open discussion was held around the question “What should be the priorities of civil society and youth organizations for the conference?”


At the end of the 2-hour workshop, the 150 participants made some recommendations, such as:

  • Look for points of convergence between the different messages of civil society, including youth
  • Prioritize access to water and sanitation for marginalized groups, including refugees;
  • Prioritize a human rights-based approach to water and sanitation.
  • Integrate water and sanitation into climate change actions and develop climate resilient infrastructure.
  • Address structural inequalities and the link between lack of access to water and sanitation and education.
  • Highlight gender inequalities in the risks associated with inadequate or polluted water supplies (reproductive rights, miscarriages).
  • Combat the profit motive

Mobilized to pave the way for a coordinated and ambitious response to the water crisis and an effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda, in particular the MDG6, the International Secretariat for Water, the Butterfly Effect and the co-organizers of these workshops are committed to bringing the voices of civil society and youth to the 2023 Conference so that it leads to concrete and ambitious actions in favor of water and sanitation.

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