The Fourth UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters

Monday, June 24, 2019

ECOSOC Chamber, The UN Headquarters, New York



UN Member States (Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea Mexico, the Netherlands, Tajikistan) and High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP)


1. Background and Objective


Water is life. Water is also threat to life. Water related disasters account for 90% of all disasters in terms of number of people affected. Climate change is expected to impact countries, particularly small island countries and other developing countries that are highly vulnerable, and cause devastating impacts through extreme weather events. Recent global agreements including the Sendai Framework, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and COP21 Paris Agreement, all call for addressing water-related extreme events and climate change adaptation in more concerted and integrated way for progressing towards and realizing sustainable development.

The political commitments made must be matched by finance and appropriate policies. Investing in water and disasters can save lives, avoid the destruction of vital infrastructure, and make a significant difference in achieving the national and international goals of ending poverty and ensuring sustainable and equitable growth for all.

Achieving the globally agreed goals also requires sharing and transfer of knowledge, technology and experiences among countries and relevant entities. Science community plays a pivotal role in bridging knowledge gaps among divergent actors involved in disaster risk reduction and in providing information and tools to facilitate timely decisions.

In July 2017, the Third United Nations Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters was held. About 500 representatives of the member states and diverse stakeholders including Heads of States, Ministers and Heads of International/Stakeholder Organizations shared the recognitions and understanding that addressing the issue of “water and disasters” is critical element and the core of achieving sustainable development.

The Fourth UN Special Thematic Session is proposed to continue the global dialogue and maintain high level of awareness on the issues of water and disasters among UN member states so as to promote further actions required to address the issue. The primary objective of the event is to overarch the issue of Water-related Extreme Event, which are to be placed at the core of Adaptation to Climate Change and are crucial for achievement of sustainable development. The event will provide a concrete step forward towards implementation of globally agreed agendas, and will become a milestone for future actions such as, the implementation of the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 including the United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review in 2023 and a high-level meeting in 2021, and the UNFCCC COP processes.


2.Expected outcome



(1)Opening Plenary (10:00-11:30)

Opening Remarks
  • Dr. Han Seung-Soo, Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea and Chair of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP)
  • H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
  • Ms. Maria Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Co-ordination and Inter-Agency Affairs at the United Nations
Keynote Speeches by Heads of States and Dignitaries
  • H.E. Mr. Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, Prime Minister of Republic of Mozambique
  • H.E. Mr. János Áder, President, the Republic of Hungary (Video Message)
  • H.E. Dr. Danilo Türk, former President of Republic of Slovenia/ Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace


Launch of Documents


(2)High Level Panel Discussion (11:30-13:00)


Chair: H.E. Ms. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Netherlands


  • H.E. Mr. Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister of Public Works and Public Housing, Indonesia
  • Hon. Norbert Emmanuel Tony Ondo Mba, President of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW)/Minister of Water, Energy and Mines, Gabon
  • H.E. Mr. Shozo Kudo, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan
  • LTG Mr. Todd Semonite, Chief of United States Corps of Engineers, U.S.A.
  • Ms. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)


(3)Special Session “Build Back Better from Idai and Kenneth – Lessons Learnt and Actions to Reduce Climate Change Impact in the Future-” (13:30-14:45)


Chair: Ms. Kirsi Madi, Director of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)


  • Representatives from three affected countries;
    • E. Mr. Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, Prime Minister of Republic of Mozambique
    • Honourable July.G Moyo, Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Republic of Zimbabwe
    • E. Dr. Perks M. Ligoya, Permanent Representative of Republic Malawi
  • Experts and resource persons from the Member States and United Nations organizations/agencies
    • Wafaa Saeed, Deputy Director, Africa 1, Operations and Advocacy Division, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
    • Megumi Muto, Director General, Global Environment Department, JICA


(4)  Science and Technology Session to Address Water and Disasters (15:00-16:20)


Facilitator: Mr. Johannes Cullmann, Director, Climate & Water Department, World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

  • Prof. Akihiko Tanaka, President of National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan
  • Dr. Alex Halliday, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, U.S.A.
  • Prof. Gordon McBean, past President, International Council for Science; Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, Canada
  • Prof. Choi Gyewoon, President, Society of Korean Smart Water Grid/Former CEO of K-Water
  • Prof. Gretchen Kalonji, Dean Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction, Sichuan University
  • Prof. Toshio Koike, Director, International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM)


(5) Special Session on Financing and Investment in Water and Disasters (16:20-17:40)


Facilitator: Mr. Greg Browder, Global Lead: Water Security & Water Resources Management, World Bank

  • Mr. Bambang Susantono, Vice President of Asian Development Bank
  • Mr. Loic Fauchon, President of World Water Council
  • Ms. Claire Melamed, Chief Executive Officer, Global Partnership for Sustainable Data
  • Dr. Monika Weber-Fahr, Executive Secretary of Global Water Partnership
  • Mr. David Boys, Deputy General Secretary, Public Service International
  • Ms. Babita Bisht, Deputy Director, External Affairs Division, Green Climate Fund
  • Prof. Naoyuki Yoshino, Director, Asian Development Bank Institute (video presentation)


(6) Closing Plenary (17:40-18:00)


  • Wrap-up and Closing by Dr. Han Seung-soo




Draft Chair’s Summary


Final Agenda


UN Web TV (Part 1)UN Web TV (Part 2) /  UN Web TV (Part 3)