York to host virtual event on water sustainability crises at UN HLPF

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Associate Professor and York University Research Chair in Global Change Biology, Sapna Sharma, will moderate a 90-minute virtual panel on July 14 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. entitled “Humanitarian responses to emerging water crises as a result of extreme climatic events” at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The panel – which will be proceeded by opening marks from President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton and the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Nikhil Seth – is a virtual event hosted by the University in preparation for the UN Global Water Academy at the UN HLPF, which runs until July 19.

The event also marks the inauguration of the UN Global Water Academy, announced at the UN Water Conference in March 2023 in New York City as a multi-stakeholder collaboration between the United Nations, academic institutions, and private sector partners, with York University as academic lead. The UN Global Water Academy will tackle diverse aspects of the water sustainability crisis: training, research, and knowledge mobilization, ultimately used to inform decision-making and public policy. The preparations to launch the UN Water Academy are well on its way.

The Global Water Academy will aspire to foster training and capacity development, empower community-based networks, weave traditional knowledge, and inspire innovation to co-create sustainable water solutions and ensure equitable access to water for all. By doing so, the Global Water Academy will empower policy and decision-makers, government officials, industry and the communities most affected by water insecurity, with the knowledge, expertise and capacity to ameliorate the water crisis.

Sapna Sharma
Sapna Sharma

The panel led by Sharma will consider how extreme climatic events, including heatwaves, droughts and storms, are increasing in frequency and intensity over the past few decades, with consequences for freshwater. For example, extreme climatic events have been associated with changes in freshwater availability and degradation of water quality, including elevated concentrations of nutrients, contaminants of emerging concern and potential for algal blooms, some of which may be toxic. As humans and wildlife rely on freshwater for life, alterations in the freshwater supply in response to extreme climatic events can have catastrophic impacts, particularly during humanitarian crises. Women and marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by freshwater insecurity.

This panel aims to raise the voices of communities affected by water insecurity, including Indigenous communities in Canada, women and girls in Africa, and families living in refugee camps. They will explore the humanitarian responses, challenges and solutions to alleviating the freshwater crisis, particularly in the face of global environmental degradation and extreme climatic events.

Those interested in registering for the event can do so here.