UN Agencies Champion Water Sustainability at the EU Green Week in Brussels

Organized by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment, the European Union Green Week took place from 29 to 30 May in Brussels. This forum, which brings together policymakers, leading environmentalists, and stakeholders from Europe and beyond to debate European environmental policy, focused this year on the theme “Towards a Water Resilient Europe.” The event’s key objective was to stimulate a global conversation around water, present and future, with an emphasis on fostering awareness and promoting positive, collaborative solutions.

UN agencies play a pivotal role as partners with the EU in advancing the objectives of the Green Deal, sustainable development goals, and environmental protection. At the Partner Event during EU Green Week, held to showcase innovative solutions and collaborative efforts towards a greener future, UN agencies in Brussels took an active role at the UN stand. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) presented the critical role of water in food production and environmental sustainability, and showcased videos as well as a catalogue of publications that the Organization has produced on water-related issues. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) presented the linkages between Water and the triple planetary crisis, showcasing examples of climate change adaptation through integrated water resources management and solutions to wastewater issues, and promoted the World Environment Day2024 campaign by highlighting drought resilience and land restoration initiatives. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) highlighted the importance of science based flood risk management planning, for example through the project Water Disaster Platform to Enhance Climate Resilience in Africa, which supported 11 countries to reinforce their early warning system and community response planning. The UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) emphasized that whether it’s too much or too little water, nine out of ten disasters triggered by natural hazards over the last decade have been water related. It raised awareness of the shocking facts and figures related to water risk, including the fact that in the last 50 years, floods led to economic losses of US$ 115 billion, while droughts led to the largest human losses causing 650.000 deaths. Therefore, UNDRR made the case for water resilience – underlining that comprehensive risk management, integrated policy making and unlocking finance mechanisms are key for achieving multiple benefits and enabling better water outcomes, including through nature-based solutions. UNDP highlighted its Weather Kids campaign which aims to boost awareness on the impacts of climate change and to mobilize people around the world to take meaningful climate action for future generations. UNIDO showcased the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technologies (TEST) Niger project, which aims to reduce the environmental footprint, pollution loads, and wastewater discharges in nine African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad, all of which share the Niger River Basin. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Brussels shared about the work of the office and a human rights-based approach to climate change. Climate change disproportionately impacts marginalized and vulnerable groups. In July 2022, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment which is also deeply linked to other human rights

The UN stand attracted a significant number of visitors throughout the event, with hundreds of attendees stopping by to learn more about the diverse initiatives presented by the participating agencies. The high level of engagement was evident as visitors eagerly interacted with the representatives, asked insightful questions, and expressed keen interest in the projects showcased. Additionally, many visitors participated in a quiz prepared on sustainability and environmental protection, which further stimulated interest and understanding.

In conclusion, the event successfully fostered a global conversation around water and sustainability, highlighting the critical role of international collaboration. This collective effort not only enhanced awareness but also promoted positive, collaborative solutions essential for achieving the EU Green Deal’s objectives and advancing sustainable development worldwide.