Press Release

World Water Forum 2024 UN Press Conference - Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana's Remarks

21 May 2024

Opening Remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, at the World Water Forum 2024 UN Press Conference in Bali.

Bali, 21 May 2024

Good afternoon, members of the media,

I would like to share some initial remarks on the occasion of the 10th World Water Forum.

I will start by highlighting some of the main aspects of the challenges that confront us.

As we know, water is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation supports almost every other goal, but especially Goals 1 and 2 on poverty and hunger.

However, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and half of the global population does not have access to safe sanitation. UNICEF informs that 700 children under five die every day due to a lack of appropriate WASH services. 
WASH access is a major focus of the UN System’s efforts. As an example, between 2020 and 2024 UNICEF provided over 23 million people with climate resilient water services and over 17 million people with climate resilient sanitation services.

However, meeting the demand for water for WASH services, and for other uses, including agriculture and industry is becoming more challenging. One in ten people live in countries with high or critical water stress.  

The latest World Water Report under the theme of “Water for Peace and Prosperity” points out that due to climate change, seasonal water scarcity is projected to increase even where it is now abundant, such as in Central Africa, East Asia and parts of South America.  Water will become even scarcer where supplies are already short.  

At the same time the UN’s tracking of SDG progress shows that some 40 of monitored water bodies have poor water quality.

Combined with a projected increase in floods, water-related risks for economic sectors, cities, rural areas and communities are multiplying, and the costs will be high.  

I would like to highlight just two ways to help ensure that seasonal water scarcity, drought and water-related disasters do not become rolling crisis.

The first is cooperation on shared water sources. Enhanced collaborative efforts between countries, regions, sectors and stakeholders are needed.

In addition to mobilizing new resources and promoting innovation, collaboration can help close financing gaps. Public-private partnerships on water efficiency, as championed by UNIDO can help.  

Collaborative actions that bring mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction agendas, may also help narrow financing gaps. The unmet adaptation financing needs alone, are estimated by ESCAP at $144.74 billion annually, on average, for Asia and the Pacific alone.  

Scientific assessment is another important focus for cooperation.  

Next month, we look forward to the launch of the WMO-led Third Pole Climate Forum which will galvanize the best scientists and most competent development actors in the world on glacier melt.

Second, investments in data systems for early warning are essential.

Better data for effective early warning systems can decrease disaster losses by up to 60 per cent.

Following the direction of governments in the Asia-Pacific region, the UN system is coming together to deliver multi-hazard early warning systems. ESCAP, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are all working together, while UNICEF is mapping groundwater reserves as input to preparedness and adaptation planning.

In closing, I would like to share the UN’s strategy for action.

The UN takes its role seriously. The first UN Conference on water in over 50 years was convened in New York in 2023, marking a pivotal moment in sustainable development discourse.

This unprecedented gathering of UN Member States and stakeholders signaled the beginning of a new narrative in addressing water-related challenges. One of the outcomes of the 2023 United Nations Water Conference was over 830 voluntary pledges for action, the Water Action Agenda 2023.

Following this landmark Conference, UN member States adopted a resolution recognizing the imperative for improved, inclusive and transparent water cooperation and called upon the UN Secretary-General to present a comprehensive UN system-wide water and sanitation strategy.

The strategy will be officially launched on 16 July during the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Developed through a collaborative effort spearheaded by the UN's coordination mechanism on water and sanitation, UN-Water, the System-wide strategy will elevate ambition and provide more integrated and coordinated support to member states, amplifying the UN’s impact.

In closing, I would like to underline that I have shared only a few highlights of the UN’s actions to address water-related challenges. My colleagues from other parts of the UN system will be able to share further details.

I would also like to thank the members of the media who have taken the time to join us in Bali.

Also, on behalf of the UN System, I would like to express appreciation for the leadership shown by the Government of Indonesia in hosting this important Forum.

Thank you.


Siska Widyawati

National Information Officer

UN entities involved in this initiative

International Telecommunication Union
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
United Nations Development Programme
UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
World Metereological Organization

Goals we are supporting through this initiative