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April 14, 2023

UN Water Week in New York 2023: Our ambassador Jule Schnakenberg participated and reports

Did you know that “26% of the world’s population, approximately two billion people, do not have access to safe drinking water, and 3.6 billion lack access to safe sanitation services?”[1]
Did you know that “Water scarcity in urban areas is expected to worsen as projections show that projected doubling from 930 million in 2016 to between 1.7 and 2.4 billion people, in 2050?”[2]

The world lacks behind SDG6, the UN Sustainable Development Goal which relates to Water in all areas. This was part of the reason why world leaders, Indigenous peoples, researchers, civil society and youth gathered for the UN Water Week in New York at the end of March.

Plant-for-the-Planet has always advocated that Sustainable Development and ecosystem restoration has to go hand in hand. Ecosystem restoration can play a massive role in water conservation. And that is exactly why our young climate justice ambassadors were excited to be in the space, listen in to side-events, the informal dialogues between states and non-state constituencies, visited exhibition spaces, met other activists and advocates and spoke at side-events.

Plant-for-the-Planet hosted a side-event “Turning the Tide on the Freshwater Biodiversity Crisis” on World Water Day (22 March, 11-12:15 EDT/ 16.00 – 17.15pm) at the Nature Hub.

The event was co-hosted by AGWA, the IUCN, WWF, WECF, IDOS and the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development.

Our very own ambassador Yugratna Srivastava was supposed to represent Plant-for-the-Planet, but was unable due to personal reasons. On a 30min-notice, our ambassador Jule Schnakenberg jumped in. Here is what she said about the event:

It was a true honour to represent Plant-for-the-Planet at this all-female panel and a remarkable wake-up moment for me. Due to the short notice and time crunch, I found myself on the panel with 10+ years of Plant-for-the-Planet history under my belt, but little preparation on my part with regards to how our restoration mobilization efforts intersect with freshwater issues. As the youngest person in the room, I highlighted the importance of meaningful youth empowerment. I spoke about the Plant-for-the-Planet platform, our research and restoration efforts in Mexico and the challenges faced by small restoration projects.

The event was kicked off by a Keynote on the Implications of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework on SDG 6.6 by Dr. Srinivasa Srigiri & Jean Carlo Rodriguez de Francisco (IDOS). This input set the stage well for a side-event which intended to draw connections between the triple planetary crisis.

The fellow panelists on the panel titled “How to catalyze conservation and restoration approaches in freshwater ecosystems” included:

Ingrid Timboe from AGWA who spoke about NBS/adaptation, Mexico City restoration of wetlands and other water reserves.

Monti Aguirre from WECF who beautifully spoke about indigenous rights and inclusion in freshwater biodiversity protection.

Michele Thieme from WWF who presented the Freshwater Challenge and Tracy Farrell (IUCN) who share the Enact Initiative with participants of the event.

The event was moderated by Matthias Goerres (FUE).

The panel was truly (sorry for the overused word – but its true) inspiring. An all female panel, who highlighted beautifully and transdisciplinary the importance of policy, inclusivity of indigenous voices and the need for real-time and accurate data and financing reforms. The event was humbling in a way that it demonstrated to me again how much I do not know: How much I do not know about water quality and conservation standards with regards to water pollution, domestic policy mechanisms with regards to Environmental Impact Assessments and the lager non-governmental landscape of actors in the “world of water”.

The gorgeous view of the Hudson River reminded the audience and panelists throughout of the majesty of our shared waters.

Listening to the other speakers on this day and participating in the UN Water Conference March 22 – 24, as well as the broader UN Water week brought water to the forefront for me, highlighted all the competing and related issues surrounding freshwater and sent me home with an abundance of questions.

I will try to write a follow up on this blog – so watch this space for all things water and Plant-for-the-Planet.