High Level Panel: The Knowledge-Policy-Practice nexus between COP 27,COP 15, the Convention on Wetlands and its Wetland City Accreditation Scheme and Water – Connecting Critical Agendas to accelerate the achievement of SDGs 6 & 11


Event: UN 2023 Water Conference In-person Side Event at the UN Headquarters

Date: 22 March 2023

Time: 12:30-13:45 EST

Location: UN Headquarters Conference Room B


Convened by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Environment, Climate,Tourism & Hospitality Industry, Zimbabwe; WaterNet; Regional Basin Organisations; CaP-Net UNDP; Water Research Commission (WRC); East Africa Local Government Association (EALGA); the Ministry for Kampala Capital City, Uganda; the  Ministry for National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), Uganda; and the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands.

Kobie Brand (Moderator)
Deputy Secretary General ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Regional Director ICLEI Africa
Dr Musonda Mumba
Secretary General of the Convention of Wetlands
H.E. Secretary Natália Resende
Secretariat for Environment, Infrastructure and Logistics, São Paulo State Government, Brazil
Thiago Pampolha
Vice Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Isabella de Roldão
Vice Mayor of Recife, Brazil

Water, Climate and Nature are intrinsically linked. In the last decade we have seen a drastic increase in cities and towns facing severe water shortages around the world. The fluctuation between severe drought and severe flooding in urban areas has also presented a dire challenge for urban planning and infrastructure development that can respond to both of these realities. The linkages between water systems and food security, energy infrastructure, wastewater management and health have also been more clearly seen through ongoing local and regional crises.

Globally we know there is an increased need to support collaborative approaches for water governance at local level and vertically, while drawing sizable financing for water storage, treatment and distribution infrastructure. Cities and sub-national governments must also be guided to protect ecological water, which must be safeguarded to ensure ecosystem function that protects nature and provides ecological benefits.

The interdependencies of water, climate and nature require that we actively connect global advocacy for these critical agendas if we are to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The session will take stock of existing science, policy and practice that inform the global agendas on climate change and biodiversity using water as the entry point. Cities and subnational governments appear to be the most appropriate governance level for driving and accelerating effective action that achieves global and national targets for the SDGs. This session will focus, in particular, on the contributions of SDG 6 & 11.

Since 1995, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability has acted as the Focal Point of Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention for Biological Diversity (UN CBD), as the voice of local governments in the global negotiations on climate and on nature. ICLEI continues to fulfill an increasingly recognized role in advocating within the United Nations and multiple conventions for the importance of sub-national governments for climate, biodiversity and SDG action. ICLEI’s Global City Biodiversity Center represented local and subnational governments on the Informal Advisory Group (IAG) on the Mainstreaming of Biodiversity, which was established in 2019 to advise the Secretariat of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), and Bureau of the Conference of the Parties, on a long-term approach to mainstreaming biodiversity to support the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

At the UN Water Conference 2023, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, with co-hosts the Government of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism & Hospitality Industry, Zimbabwe; WaterNet & Regional Basin Organisations; CaP-Net UNDP;

the Water Research Commission (WRC); the East Africa Local Government Association (EALGA); the Ministry for Kampala Capital City, Uganda; the Ministry for National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), Uganda; and the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands, aim to bring together city and sub national government leaders, national government and regional basin organizations from around the world to ensure  the importance of water for sustainable development is imprinted into global agendas. Drawing on partner networks, the session will showcase tangible examples of actions that improve water resilience from around the world.

This session will start by reflecting on the outcomes of UNFCCC COP27, CBD COP 15 and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands COP 14, which all took place in 2022, and provide opportunities to support the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and to accelerate the achievement of SDG 6 & SDG11. Synergies between the status of knowledge, policies and practices will be used as entry points for the outcome reflections. This reflection will be lead by WaterNet: Actions within Africa are taking place at sub regional level with the Economic Community setting strategies aligned to global agenda, hence ICLEI has partnered with WaterNet, the Southern African Development Community’s subsidiary institution in charge of capacity development for the water sector in order to provide the status of the synergies between sciences, policy and practice on water related aspects of climate change and biodiversity.

COP27 renewed the emphasis on adaptation as a vital focus of climate action, particularly for much of the global south – this is a vital consideration for WATER as much of the climate shocks related to changes in reliability of water sources, consistency of rainy seasons for preparing or predicting crop cycles, and the intensity of storm, flooding and drought events.

In addition, COP27 saw the first Ministerial Meeting on Climate and Urbanisation, a practice which global compacts should mirror, as local governance has become ever more important in solving global crises

Mirroring the processes undertaken in both the COP 27 & COP 15 meetings and negotiations, the Convention on Wetlands initiated a Wetland City Accreditation Scheme in 2015, to encourage cities to strive for and demonstrate exceptional efforts towards the conservation and wise use of urban wetlands. Twenty five (25) cities were accredited at COP14 in Geneva on 10 November 2022, bringing the total number of accredited cities to 43. The Wetland Cities Accreditation Scheme is curated by the Scheme’s Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) of which ICLEI is a standing member and co-chair, together with the European Region (represented by Austria), during the current triennium of the Scheme. Accredited cities are stellar examples of collaboration and success stories of connecting water, climate and biodiversity within urban settings, despite the pressures of urbanization on ecosystems and natural resources. By recognising these cities and celebrating their positive steps, we hope to see more cities taking actionable measures to protect wetlands. and securing water resources for nature and humans.

The CBD COP 15 adopted the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which includes 23 action-oriented global targets for urgent action over the decade to 2030; and a renewed decision and plan of action plan on engagement with subnational governments, cities and other local authorities to enhance implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework. The GBF includes several targets that will benefit from the actions of cities and subnational governments. For example, the ‘30 by 30’ targets, which call for the effective conservation and management of least 30 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, and restoration of 30 percent of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystem areas in order to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, ecological integrity and connectivity by 2030 (targets 3 and 2), will require action at both subnational and national levels if we are to achieve these target by the end of the decade. Target 12 is specifically directed at cities and calls for  significantly increases in the area and quality and connectivity of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces in urban and densely populated areas sustainably, by mainstreaming the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and ensure biodiversity-inclusive urban planning, enhancing native biodiversity, ecological connectivity and integrity, and improving human health and well-being and connection to nature and contributing to inclusive and sustainable urbanization and the provision of ecosystem functions and services.

The plan of action on subnational governments and cities is intended to support national governments, subnational governments, cities and other local authorities and their partners in implementing the GBF and focuses on the critical role that cities and subnational governments will play in achieving the GBF targets. It includes seven interrelated and complementary action areas, which provide a framework on which Parties, their subnational governments, cities and other local authorities and all stakeholders can develop their own actions. The plan of action provides a framework for participatory, integrated and biodiversity inclusive spatial planning and effective management processes that address land- and sea-use change, to bring the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity, close to zero by 2030 and ensure nature positive development.

Noted in these commitments is, critically, the need to restore, maintain and enhance nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem functions and services, such as regulation of air, water, and climate, soil health, pollination and reduction of disease risk, as well as protection from natural hazards and disasters, through nature-based solutions and/or ecosystem-based approaches for the benefit of all people and nature.

At all three Conventions there was a tangible shift of focus and visibility of local- and sub-national governments as vital role players for implementation and action to support reaching the targets of these multi-level environmental agreements.

The session will seek to share local examples of how cities and subnational governments through cooperation across all levels of government are leading the way in scaling water resilience at the local level, actively contributing to both SDG 6 & 11. It will be through improved integration, cooperation and focusing on linking knowledge, policies and practices that we will achieve water resilience at scale.

During the UN Water Conference, we expect to see more action and commitments to water, climate and biodiversity. We want to see cities advocating for their national governments to make commitments to the Water Action Decade 2018-2028.

To support this drive, This session will: 

  • explore and discuss the synergies between the knowledge, science, policies and practices of the water, biodiversity and climate change towards SDGs realisation;
  • reiterate the need for local water governance that ensures access to safe water for people and nature and scales water resilience;
  • call for stronger national-local coordination and collective action that ensures no cities or residents face water-related crises;
  • offer some examples and solutions of effective urban water planning, multi-level governance formations and community water management projects that show the wide range of local commitment to water resilience,
  • identify advocacy routes to connect water and the SDGs to other global advocacy agendas such as three conventions and the outcomes unpacked in this session;
  • call for, and mobilize, local government and regions to contribute to accelerating the achievement of the SDG 6 and catalyze action for towards the Water Action Decade 2018-2028

Run of Show: 12:30-13:45 EST

Moderator may direct questions to panelists at her discretion

Timing Context Speaker


7 mins

Opening remarks and session framing Kobie Brand, Deputy Secretary General ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Regional Director ICLEI Africa (Moderator)


10 mins

Connecting agenda’s to accelerate action Dr Musonda Mumba, Secretary General of the Convention of Wetlands


12 mins

Building local resilience: Linking water, climate resilience and disaster risk reduction H.E. Secretary Natália Resende, Secretariat for Environment, Infrastructure and Logistics, São Paulo State Government, Brazil


5 mins

Video intervention linking water and nature in our regions Natalia Uribe, Regions4 General Secretary


10 mins

Water 2030: Water Security plans for the next decade of Rio de Janeiro Thiago Pampolha, Vice Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


7 mins

Remarks from Isabella de Roldão, Deputy Mayor Recife Isabella de Roldão, Deputy Mayor of Recife, Brazil


5 mins

Closing Remarks Kobie Brand, Deputy Secretary General ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Regional Director ICLEI Africa (Moderator)

*Agenda subject to change based on speaker confirmations