For the first time in 46 years the United Nations convened a conference dedicated to water United Nations General Assembly from the 22nd to the 24th March.

The event, formally titled The Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028), focused on accelerating the implementation of the objectives of the Water Action Decade, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Action Plan, The conference addressed five thematic areas:

- Water for Health
- Water for Sustainable Development
- Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment
- Water for Cooperation, and
- Water Action Decade

Global Water Institute

Meetings, events and presentations were attended by 2000 delegates in-person and another 8000 online. The conference featured over 500 side event meetings over the week and concluded with the the adoption of the Water Action Agenda, a 'milestone' action plan containing almost 700 commitments to protect 'humanity’s most precious global common good'.

Dr Mitchell Lyons, Research Fellow and Lecturer at the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science was one of the 2000 people who attended the conference in New York, along with GWI Director Professor Greg Leslie. Dr Lyons commented on the diversity of people in attendance the roles Australia and UNSW can play in the global water crisis.

“The conference participants included an incredible range of people from government, banks, private industry, NGOs and academic institutions; and the depth of commitments made was staggering, with tens of billions of dollars put down alongside a whole range of regulatory actions," said Dr Lyons.

"Some of the core themes critical in an Australian context were that 70% of global freshwater demands are from agriculture, so we should continue to innovate and strive to contribute to the global effort. Also critical was that 90% of disasters are water related, exacerbated by climate change – another sphere where Australia in increasingly exposed. Australia is a relatively small player at the global scale, but the themes of the conference stressed global collaboration, and particularly the need for not only addressing funding gaps, but to enhance data collection technology and government systems, as well as contribute to capacity building  opportunities. For these latter issues, groups at UNSW like GWI and CES can make unique contributions. The conference has certainly energised us to think about the boarder global contributions we can make."