World Water Day 2023: The role of cross-sectoral partnerships to accelerate progress on water and sanitation

As part of its activities and support for World Water Day 2023 (22 March), the International Water Association (IWA) hosted a side event at the UN Headquarters in New York on the crucial role that cross-sectoral partnerships can play in accelerating progress on water and sanitation. 

The IWA side event took place during the special 2023 UN Water Conference and highlighted in particular the contribution that partnerships can make in securing inclusive urban sanitation – the focus of a global initiative launched recently by IWA to reshape the sanitation agenda. 

IWA also underscored the role of youth in contributing to action on water, bringing a youth delegation to participate in the UN Water Conference through a partnership with Grundfos.

Some of the most memorable quotes of the side event were:

  • Jennifer Molwantwa, Water Research Commission, South Africa: “Water is life, sanitation is dignity”
  • Bisi Agberemi, United Nations Children’s Fund, USA: “Go beyond the cost of tackling sanitation and consider the cost of not solving sanitation challenges”

Water, sanitation and the need for partnerships 

The 2022 UN Sustainable Development Goals Report exposed concerning data about global progress on SDG6: to reach universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, the current rates of progress would need to increase fourfold. Results about safe sanitation are particularly concerning, sending a clear message that current policies and practices are not delivering as needed. World Water Day 2023 presented an opportunity to reflect and come together around the topic of accelerating change to secure progress on water and sanitation globally. 

There is an urgent need to accelerate progress around inclusive sanitation and expand safe sanitation service coverage. There are extensive technologies that are already established or being developed, but focusing solely on technologies does not ensure the end users will fully benefit from them. Through new partnerships, it is possible to address the needs of the most vulnerable communities such as gender minorities, indigenous communities, young professionals. This is necessary to create long-lasting partnerships and also durable impact. 

IWA is increasingly focusing on the role of cross-sectoral partnerships to accelerate progress on water and sanitation. Looking beyond technology and the infrastructure discourse, IWA and partners have adopted holistic approaches to achieve a conducive policy, legal, institutional, and regulatory environment that enables and incentivises accelerated progress towards safe sanitation services for all. In the past year, IWA’s SanitAction campaign has begun calling for collaborative action to reshape the global agenda on urban sanitation over the coming years. The SanitAction campaign is working to progress IWA’s Inclusive Urban Sanitation initiative, which focuses on cross-sectoral collaboration focusing on policymaking, legal and regulatory frameworks, guidelines, and urban planning. This approach addresses equity, safety and sustainability targets, and seeks to establish finance, planning and management institutions designed to shield policies and institutions from political and economic instability, especially in emerging economies.

Youth engagement 

Furthermore, IWA has successfully engaged in cross-sectoral and intergenerational partnerships to achieve global goals. For example, the Youth Action for SDG6 initiative supported by Grundfos focuses on how the water sector can maximise the benefits of integrating young professionals to achieve sustainable development. IWA and Grundfos are participating at the UN Water Conference with a  delegation of the 14 young water professionals selected for the initiative to advocate for a water-wise future. The conference outcomes and their experience will be used as inputs for a joint IWA-Grundfos publication (expected later in 2023) on the critical role that youth engagement plays in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. 

Find out more 

On World Water Day 2023, IWA hosted a special event at the UN Headquarters in New York during the UN Water Conference. IWA and key stakeholders from the public, private, and social sectors have brought to the table their perspectives on how cross-sectoral and intergenerational partnerships can support governments worldwide in achieving SDG 6. 

Date: Wednesday, 22 March 2023​ 

Time: 11:00-12:15 EST (Eastern Standard Time)​ 

Location: UN Headquarters, Side Event Room B​ 

Registration: Registration Closed


  • Kala Vairavamoorthy, International Water Association, United Kingdom 
  • Filipe Sampaio, National Water and Sanitation Agency, Brazil 
  • Brian Arbogast, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USA 
  • Bisi Agberemi, United Nations Children’s Fund, USA 
  • Arne Panesar, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Germany 
  • Virginia Newton-Lewis, Grundfos, Denmark 
  • Jennifer Molwantwa, Water Research Commission, South Africa 
  • Maitreyi Koduganti, Water Youth Network, the Netherlands 
  • Vladimir Arana, International Secretariat for Water, Canada 
  • Kelvin Chitumbo, Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association, Zambia