UN Water Conference, New York, 22-24 March, 2023. Side event: “Water for Nature, Nature for Water: Integrated Policy Solutions and Commitments for Sustainable Development and the Conservation, Restoration and Management of Freshwater Biodiversity”

The first global water summit in decades will be held in New York City on 22-24 March, 2023. AIDA will be represented at the Conference by three members: Renee Martin-Nagle, Flavia Rocha Loures and Monica Cardillo. AIDA is leading a coalition of over 40 partners to host the side event “Water for Nature, Nature for Water: Integrated Policy Solutions and Commitments for Sustainable Development and the Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Management of Freshwater Biodiversity” (March 23, 11:00-12:15, United Nations Headquarters, Side Event Room C).

Partners: Ajemalebu Self Help (AJESH); Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA);  Brazilian Knowledge Center on Biodiversity, Brazilian Program on Biodiversity (PPBio); Conservation International; Earth Law; Ecuadorian Rivers Institute; Environmental Law Institute; Free-flowing Rivers Lab; French Water Academy; French Water Partnership; Geneva Water Hub; Global Pact Coalition; Global River Protection Coalition; Global Water Partnership; Global Youth Biodiversity Network; Government of France, French Biodiversity Agency (Office Français de la Biodiversité) (OFB); Government of Senegal, Ministry of Water and Sanitation; Government of South Africa, Department of Water and Sanitation, Water Research Commission; Government of South Africa, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, South African National Parks; Government of South Africa, Department of Water and Sanitation, Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency; Hydrotechnical Society of France; Indianapolis Zoo, Global Center for Species Survival; International Network of Basin Organizations; International Office for Water; International Rivers; International Water Resources Association (IWRA); IUCN; IUCN, World Commission on Protected Areas, Freshwater Specialist Group; IUCN, World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL), Water and Wetland Law Specialist Group; Northern Arizona University School of Earth and Sustainability; Overseas Academy of Sciences; Ramsar Convention Secretariat;Réseau des Chercheurs Italiens en France (RéCIF); SHOAL; Synchronicity Earth; The Nature Conservancy; United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); University of Limoges (France), Observatoire des Mutations Institutionnelles et Juridiques (OMIJ); University of Mpumalanga (South Africa), Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, School of Biology and Environmental Sciences, Rivers of Life Research Programme; Water Convention Secretariat; Wetlands International; World Youth Parliament for Water; WWF.

The event will present international and national legal tools and local customary norms to mainstream the protection of rivers and other water-related ecosystems in decision-making and announce commitments for the Water Action Agenda.

An intergenerational stakeholder panel will debate how to improve the governance of freshwater biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature and for transformative change towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Within the framework of policy coherence, the event will engage the audience to consider a multi-sectorial approach that incorporates legal strategies and mechanisms for the protection of aquatic and related ecosystems, including river and riparian corridors, in decision-making by governments, businesses, and civil society, at various levels and across multiple sectors.  Discussions will revisit the role of global conventions, transboundary cooperation agreements, national statutes, and local customary law; build on the Wuhan Declaration on Wetlands, the Sharm El-Sheik Implementation Plan, and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework; and propose solutions to integrate the implementation of SDGs 6, 13 and 15, all of which require scaling up capacity development, effective laws, data and information, financing and innovation for the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of inland waters and their ecosystems. The event will also provide a platform for stakeholders to announce voluntary game-changing commitments for the Water Action Agenda, aimed at accelerating progress on the protection of water and nature leading up to the SDG Summit, IWRA’s XVIII World Water Congress (on the theme ‘Water for All: Harmony between Humans and Nature’), the 10th World Water Forum, the Summit for the Future, and beyond.

Potential solutions in this context encompass: (i) implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (e.g., UN water conventions, Ramsar, World Heritage, Desertification); (ii) tailored design and effective implementation of transboundary cooperation treaties; (iii) legal mechanisms for integrating aquatic ecosystems into systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, including for ecosystem integrity, climate adaptation, sustained local livelihoods, and associated socioeconomic benefits, such as the designation and conservation of: a) protected lakes and strategic free-flowing/wild/heritage rivers/river corridors; b) conserved key biodiversity areas, sacred sites and no-go zones; c) source water and aquifer recharge protection; d) floodplain/riparian/migratory corridors; e) fisheries reserves; f) recreational fishing areas and areas for other outdoor recreation activities, including non-motorized or human-powered uses, and for ecotourism in general; f) Ramsar wetlands, world heritage sites/rivers/lakes/wetlands, and biosphere reserves; g) protected international watercourses and lakes; ; (iv) rights of nature/rivers/lakes; (v) corporate water stewardship and emerging reporting obligations; (vi) water and land tenure; and (vii) legal traditional practices and knowledge by indigenous people and local communities, in light of the noticeable global agreement of their importance at CBD negotiations.

Updated agenda

Panel: 11:00-11:50

Moderator: Flavia Rocha Loures, International Association for Water Law and the Global River Protection Coalition.


Monti Aguirre, Latin America Program Coordinator, International Rivers, and Global River Protection Coalition.

Constanza Prieto Figelist, Latin America Legal Lead, Earth Law.

Harrison A. Nnoko Ngaaje, CEO, Ajemalebu Self Help (AJESH).

Noémie Plumier, Strategic Partnership Co-Facilitator, World Youth Parliament for Water; and European Member, Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN).

Jerker Tamelander, Director, Science and Policy, Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands.

Water Action Agenda Announcements: 11:50-12:10

Opening keynote: The Honorable Bérangère Couillard, Secretary of State for Ecology, Minister for the Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Government of France.


The Honorable Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation of the Republic of Senegal.

Dr Jennifer B. Molwantwa CEO, Water Research Commission, Government of South Africa.

Dr. Éric Tardieu, Secretary-General of INBO, Vice President of the World Water Council and Director General of the International Office for Water.

Jessica Troell, Senior Attorney, Director, International Water and Africa Programs, Environmental Law Institute, and Member of AIDA and IUCN WCEL.

Wrap-Up/Final messages/Partners’ Next Steps:12:10-12:15 

Jane Madgwick, CEO, Wetlands International.

AIDA, ELI and IUCN WCEL will take this opportunity to launch the next phase of our work on the Manifesto for National Integrated Legal Frameworks for Water Resources Governance, the preliminary draft of which can be found at: https://www.aida-waterlaw.org/2022/03/21/manifesto-for-national-integrated-legal-frameworks-for-water-resources-governance/