Water is Life – WEA Participates in UN Water Conference 2023


In late March 2023, a team of WEA colleagues from the WEA Sustainability Center in Bonn and the WEA United Nations Liaison Office in New York participated in the UN Water Conference at the UN headquarters in New York to monitor its debates and decisions for the global evangelical community. The important UN conference was the first time in 46 years that the United Nations dedicated a global conference specifically to water issues. A total of approximately 10,000 participants gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from March 22-24, 2023, to exchange ideas on action needed to alleviate the global water and sanitation crisis and to work together to find solutions to create equal and equitable access to water as a vital resource for all. 

The WEA team participated in plenary sessions and numerous side events during the conference days and produced daily reports on conference content and outcomes, which were published via the WEA Sustainability Center website and its social media channels. In their reports, WEA colleagues consistently made connections between the (sometimes somewhat scientific and technical) conference events and the realities of life and faith of evangelical Christians worldwide, including by pointing out biblical truths that speak into global water-related challenges.

On World Water Day (Wednesday, 22 March 2023), WEA had jointly organized and co-sponsored a hybrid side event titled “Faith Community is a Blue Community” together with partners. The session that took place at the UN Church Center, was co-hosted by the World Council of Churches, the International Partnership on Religion & Sustainable Development (PaRD), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the World Evangelical Alliance Sustainability Center. WEA Secretary General Archbishop Thomas Paul Schirrmacher, who alongside Prof. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water, contributed to the event as a virtual speaker, reminded the participants about the spiritual significance of water across all religions. Being one of the key panelists he underlined that “water is life” and that water is a human right. He quoted from Exodus 17, where the Lord provided water from the rock to bring “Shalom” for the people of Israel in the desert.

On Friday, March 24, the conference came to a successful conclusion, even though the commitments and decisions could have been more ambitious and stronger in light of the global water and sanitation crisis. The most important result of the conference was the adoption of the so-called Water Action Agenda, for whose implementation voluntary commitments were registered by conference participants. At the end of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the total number of commitments was 708 and according to Csaba Kőrösi, President of the UN General Assembly, financial pledges made equalled USD 300 billion. Another joyful outcome of the conference was the announcement that the role of a UN Special Envoy for Water will be established for the first time.

On the occasion of the UN Water Conference, the WEA signed a global declaration entitled the “Water Justice Manifesto”, which aims to, among other things, amplify the voices of the unheard and insist that certain fundamental issues be placed at the center of water policies at the global, regional, national and subnational levels, such as the fact that access to water and sanitation are fundamental human rights. “By supporting the People’s Water Forum global statement as one of the largest faith groups in the world, we are making clear that water justice is intimately connected to our convictions as evangelical Christians who want to help shape this world for the positive, based on the Bible and guided by the Holy Spirit.” said Matthias Boehning, Co-Director of the WEA Sustainability Center and WEA Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Bonn, regarding the Water Justice Manifesto.


WEA Secretary General Thomas Paul Schirrmacher’s article on water: “The Human Right to Drinking Water: A Newly Invented Right or an Ancient Oblication?”. S. 11-31 in: Thomas Schirrmacher, Thomas K. Johnson. Creation Care and Loving our Neighbors: Studies in Environmental Ethics. VKW: Bonn, 2016. ISBN 978-3-86269-116-6

“Faith Community is a Blue Community” – Side Event Programme with Speaker Bios (download from WEASC website) 

Side Event Recording (YouTube)

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