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UN Day “Water is Life” for SDG 6 in Dresden – A review

The event revolved around the theme and focusing on the global objective of ensuring universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation

Last month saw the Town Hall of the City of Dresden abuzz with sustainability discussion, as locals and advocates alike joined together to celebrate United Nations Day (occurring internationally on 24 October). This annual event, held this year on 9 November, stands as a beacon for engagement and action, aiming to inform, inspire, and gather communities. The celebration serves as a platform where visions are shared through compelling speeches, fostering mutual learning and promoting interdisciplinary thinking.

This year’s event revolved around the theme, “Water is Life”, in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – “Clean Water and Sanitation,” and focusing on the global objective to ensure universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities by 2030.

The ceremony commenced with Eva Jähnigen, the Mayor for Environment and Climate of the City of Dresden, delivering a poignant reflection on the November pogroms. Her speech resonated deeply with the audience, underscoring the urgency and significance of the theme. This was immediately followed by a video message from Wolfram Günther, Minister of State of the Saxon Ministry for Energy, Climate, Environment and Agriculture.

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Eva Jähnigen

Dr Valentin Aich, a distinguished water and climate expert affiliated with the Global Water Partnership and the World Meteorological Organization, delivered a keynote address on water, emphasising the pressing issues of drought and flooding. He stressed the pivotal role of climate protection in mitigating these risks, highlighting sustainable land use practices and introducing the concept of the ‘sponge city’ — an urban planning approach that locally stores rainwater to prevent flooding. Dr Aich also highlighted our direct impact on the microclimate, advocating for an enhanced early warning system for extreme weather events and endorsing the “Early Warning for All” initiative, striving to provide effective warnings for the entire population by 2027. Offering crucial advice on preparing for prolonged droughts, including cultivating drought-resistant crops and scenario planning, he presented tangible measures to proactively tackle climate change challenges. The keynote speech was followed by a video message from Neven Subotic, professional footballer and founder of the Neven Subotic Foundation.

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Dr. Aich’s Keynote

Subsequently, a panel discussion featuring Dr Aich, Prof Dr.-Ing. Stamm (TU Dresden), and Prof Dr Edeltraud Günther from UNU-FLORES ensued. All discussions revolved around the pivotal role of water in research, education, and policymaking. Prof Günther acknowledged the important role of young UNU-FLORES staff in engaging in water-related research. The speakers offered encouragement and admiration for these instigators of change, with Mayor Jähnigen affirming policymakers’ acute awareness of the significance of water protection.

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Panel Discussion, beginning left: Julia Leuterer, Prof. Stamm, Dr. Aich, Prof. Guenther, Eva Jaehnigen

The atmosphere of the Gala was further heightened by musicians from the Dresden State Operetta, forming the Orchestra of Change. Their musical interludes complemented the event, adding depth and resonance to the discussions.

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Orchestra of Change performing

The hosts, Julia Leuterer and Christine Mantu, skillfully orchestrated the evening, infusing it with anecdotes and personal stories that reminded everyone of the vital importance of valuing water. One particularly moving story involved a city tour for delegates from various African countries who found solace in heavy rain, leading to a profound realisation: “The rain is a blessing for us,” as voiced by a delegate from Uganda.

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Julia Leuterer (left) and Christine Mantu (on the right) moderating

The event culminated in the award ceremony for the Local Agenda 2023 competition, honouring local initiatives promoting sustainable development and social change. Running for 24 years, this competition acknowledges exemplary projects in categories such as “Education for Sustainable Development and Societal Togetherness” and “Sustainable Children and Youth Projects,” alongside a coveted Audience Award.

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A prize will be awarded to the Zukunftgestalten association for the organization of the Dear Future – Dresden Sustainability Festival

Post-ceremony, attendees seized the opportunity to network and interact with the awardees, fostering vibrant conversations. The Heinrich-Böll Foundation‘s exhibition “All in Flux!? – Water in Crisis” provided an ideal setting for these discussions.

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Networking after the official part

This remarkable evening was made possible through collaborative efforts involving UNU-FLORES and its partners within the Dresden community. Partnerships with

were instrumental. The UNU-FLORES team extends heartfelt thanks to all guests and partners, as their collective commitment ensured the evening’s resounding success.

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