The United Nations of Rivers, Deltas and Estuaries
The United Nations of Rivers, Deltas and Estuaries

UN Side Event March 2023: UN of Rivers

The United Nations of Rivers, Deltas and Estuaries

Sunday, 19th March, Monday, 20th March; and Thursday, 23 March 2023

This side event focuses on the role of rivers, deltas and estuaries worldwide in the sustenance of mankind. It explores their role in achieving SDG 6 and other goals and targets, for example, justice between upstream and downstream communities. It acknowledges the vulnerabilities and potential of water bodies. The side event calls for a transformative, socially and culturally inclusive approach acknowledging humans and non-humans. It combines local stories with global narratives in a multi-scalar approach, enabling design-thinking and artistic interventions for the implementation of the Water Action Agenda.

Who can speak better for water than rivers?

The voices of rivers, deltas and estuaries are seldom heard. Rivers are the key to human survival for the provision of fresh water, to facilitate transport or to produce renewable energy. At the same time, rivers are major polluters, carrying waste to the oceans. Together with local NGOs and international experts, we aim to bridge the gap between nature and culture, between organic and man-made, and to develop new ways of engaging with diverse water bodies.

We propose to collectively develop commitments from international partners for the future of clean, accessible, drinkable, and socio-ecologically fair rivers, deltas and estuaries that benefit our oceans. In the runup to the UN 2023 Water Conference, we will organize a number of filmed walks around the world to give rivers, estuaries and watersheds a voice and to create a basis for a global initiative. Using social media and digital tools, we will engage a broader, younger audience in different locations around the world with the aim to accelerate change towards a more sustainable and just water world.

People have traditionally developed diverse ways of living with rivers (River Culture) and water bodies, benefiting from floods, praising water spirits or developed vessels for cleansing. With industrialization, people started to turn their backs on rivers, using them to dispose of sewage and toxic materials, contributing to ocean water pollution. Despite recent attempts at environmental regulations, many rivers are currently not safe to drink from or swim in. Over the last few years, raising awareness about the importance of rivers has led in many postmodern societies to a katharsis moment and actions are taken to restore the social and environmental quality of rivers. Learning from initiatives like Drinkable Rivers, River Sisters, Rivershood, River Commons, RiverWalks or the River Culture Project and their artistic interventions, we aim to change the ways in which humans approach and engage with rivers, deltas and estuaries, also from a non-human actor perspective.

Our commitment for the Water Action Agenda is to establish a practise-based network with a global community of water experts and enthusiasts. We will develop and share methodologies and tools to engage with rivers, deltas and estuaries from a spatial, socio-environmental and cultural perspective. We will combine scientific,  artistic and design approaches to achieve sustainable water futures. The organizers and all interested partners will converge again in May 2023 to define a longer-term action plan.

Program and Partners