Bangladesh and International Water Diplomacy


The first UN Water Conference 2023 in almost five decades took place in New York on 22-24 March, co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. It has decisively chosen Bangladesh as its vice president at the beginning of the conference. The goal of this, the first UN water conference in a generation, is to encourage Member States, the UN system, and other pertinent parties to take initiative and find effective solutions to the world’s water problems. Even though the future of achieving SDG6 access to water and sanitation for all is uncertain, these three days of global cooperation signaled a welcome resolve. This is significant because the last UN Water Conference was held in 1977, years before the effects of climate change became as visible through the water as they are today.

The world’s water supply is in trouble. Despite the fact that access to clean water and proper sanitation is a fundamental right, billions of people do not have these necessities. The World Meteorological Organization estimates that over 3.6 billion people struggle to obtain enough water to fulfill their requirements for at least one month each year. Against such a backdrop, UN-Water Conference 2023 could be a watershed moment for UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensuring the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The nomination will signal a turning point in Bangladesh’s attempts to solve its water-related issues and aid international programs for sustainable development.  “The election of Bangladesh to the post of Vice-President is a reflection of the deep trust of the world community in the efficient leadership of Bangladesh in various important processes of the United Nations,” waved Muhammad Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the United Nations in New York.Besides, The election will open the door for greater international collaboration in order to advance Bangladesh’s aspirations on the world water agenda. Hence, this can be regarded as a remarkable achievement in the field of international water diplomacy in Bangladesh.

International water diplomacy is not only water-centric; it entails how actors define the meaning of water. Water – diplomacy embraces the engagement of both state and non-state actors to allow for diverse stakeholder interests.It is not just focused on the topic of water; it also considers how various parties interpret what water means. With the Earth’s population now over 8 billion, the demand for water has skyrocketed since the inaugural UN Water Conference in Argentina in 1977. According to the UN, the UN 2023 Water Conference is the most significant water event in a generation. In the case of Bangladesh, it shares 57 cross-boundary rivers and focuses on water management with its neighbors which makes it a worthy leader to help build collaboration among stakeholders for integrated water resource management.Besides, Bangladesh has urged the international community to enhance partnerships in water management and focus more on water diplomacy in preventing conflicts and crises. Which rekindled the hope for vulnerable nations.

There is a variety of consequences for Bangladesh being chosen to serve as the UN Water Conference’s vice president.Firstly, Bangladesh’s election as the vice president of the UN-Water Conference would draw attention to the country’s water-related issues on a global scale. As the conference’s vice president, Bangladesh will have a significant influence on the conference’s agenda and the advancement of sustainable water management. Bangladesh may seize this opportunity to advocate for solutions to these issues and raise public awareness of the country’s water-related issues. Bangladesh’s appointment as vice president may encourage other vulnerable nations to share their experiences and cooperate to create long-lasting solutions.

Second, Bangladesh’s selection as the UN Water Conference’s vice president might strengthen that country’s relations with other countries on a diplomatic level. The vice president of the UN-Water Conference is essential to representing the conference and achieving its goals. Bangladesh’s election as vice president may present an opportunity for the country to interact with other countries and develop diplomatic relations.Thirdly, Bangladesh’s selection as vice president of the UN-Water Conference may have a significant effect on the country’s water industry. Bangladesh has dealt with a variety of water-related problems, including water shortages, pollution, and flooding. With Bangladesh as vice president, other countries’ experiences and best practices in sustainable water management may be learned by Bangladesh. The meeting could also provide Bangladesh with financial and technical assistance that could be used to assist the country in solving its water-related issues.

Fourth, Bangladesh’s economy might benefit from being chosen as the UN Water Conference’s vice president. Bangladesh’s economy is based on agriculture, and that country’s agricultural industry is significant. The possibility of showcasing its potential as a leader in sustainable agriculture and expanding its export market may come with Bangladesh being chosen as vice president. The gathering may also provide Bangladesh access to resources including funding and technical help for promoting sustainable farming practices.Finally, Bangladesh’s selection as the UN Water Conference’s vice president may aid in the global achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to promote sustainable development, cannot be achieved without water. The conference can provide a venue for debate on the issues and potential solutions related to attaining the SDGs, and Bangladesh’s nomination as vice president can strengthen the country’s commitment to achieving these objectives.

Bangladesh as a vice president offers a plan for nations, industries, and river basins. In order to speed up the implementation of the UN SDGs, it will work for improved results for everyone on all water-related concerns. Bangladesh already being the global torchbearer for combating climate change can also create a positive impact on the international water diplomacy. However, Bangladesh has a long history of being among the countries with the greatest vulnerability to water-related problems. Both the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, two of the biggest rivers in the world, have delta sections where the country is located.  Besides, it is subject to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, and droughts due to its geographic location. However, Bangladesh has successfully achieved its MDG goals and is on the right trajectory of accomplishing SDG goals for 2030.

Hence, the recognition comes as a reflection of the trust and confidence of the global community in the able leadership of Bangladesh which will create a pathway for the work of the United Nations. The nomination may help the nation’s water-related problems gain international attention, improve diplomatic ties, have an impact on the water sector, advance its economy, and help it meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Bangladesh will have the opportunity to showcase its potential as a leader in sustainable agriculture and water management and to market its goods internationally thanks to the nomination.

The job also involves finding solutions to the water-related issues that various countries face and promoting sustainable water management. This accomplishment will enable Bangladesh to assume the initiative in quickening current international efforts to meet water targets for sustainable development.

– Saume Saptaparna Nath and Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in The Daily Observer [Link]