High Level Meeting Sets Course Towards Water and Sanitation for All

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Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
April 20th, 2012

Government ministers from almost 40 developing countries met with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, UK International Development Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell, Chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation HRH the Prince of Orange, and major donors and water and sanitation sector organizations, to discuss speeding up global access to water and sanitation yesterday

The April 20 Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting came ahead of the World Bank’s Spring Meetings this week.

One of pictures that were exhibited during the 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille France showing Women meditating in water.

It brought together the SWA Partnership of donors and agencies with 69 ministers responsible for finance, sanitation and hygiene portfolios.

The meeting was the second of its kind, and came against the backdrop of an announcement in March from UNICEF and the World Health Organization that the world had met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for improved drinking water sources, but that many still lack safe water, and that the target for improved sanitation is lagging far behind and will not be met at current rates of progress.

“Forty years ago exactly, in a triumph of science, engineering, and technology, Apollo 16 landed on the moon. It was the fifth mission to do so,” Lake says, “yet today, 1.1 billion people still practice open defecation because they lack the most basic sanitation facilities.” He continues: “If, two generations ago, we landed men on the moon, we can and we must afford people here on earth their most basic needs.”

His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana and newly appointed chair of the SWA partnership, emphasizes the need for governments to act urgently.

“It is time to focus our energies on neglected areas and neglected people. The dream of universal access to sanitation and water is within our reach, but a tremendous increase in political will, adequate resources and coordinated efforts is required to get us there,” Kufuor says.

The High Level Meeting was moderated by Ambassdor Jan Eliasson, who has recently been named by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the United Nations’ fourth Deputy Secretary-General. Currently Chair of WaterAid Sweden, Eliasson is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advocates Group for the Achievement of the MDGs. He notes that sanitation and hygiene are now being recognized as a cornerstone of development, security and well-being, and key to the welfare of the citizens of the world.

Eliasson says, the Minister, “are mindful of the economic value of sanitation and water to developing economies, but also of the human value.” “They have in mind the children who must be protected from illness, the boys and girls who must go to school, the women who must be freed from back-breaking labor. I know that the world is watching us – and I think those people are applauding.”

One of pictures that were exhibited during the 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille France showing children bathing.

According to UNICEF, at least 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea occur in children under five years of age every year, and an estimated 3,000 children die from it daily. The World Bank says huge savings in health care costs and gains in productive days can be realized by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene and could amount to over 7% of gross domestic product, depending on the country. The economic gains to be made from investing in sanitation and water are estimated at US $170 billion per year. If everyone had access to adequate sanitation and water services, the world`s health sectors would save around $15 billion every year.

Organizers were hoping to build on the success of the first High Level Meeting in 2010, also convened by UNICEF at the World Bank, which led to increased focus and commitments from countries and donors. The 2012 meeting was greatly expanded, with 40 countries taking part, up from 18 in 2010. Of those present in 2010, nine countries have confirmed that they are meeting their commitments of increased budget allocations; and seven of the 13 donors present in 2010 have met or exceeded the targets they set for funding. Countries have also reported improved coordination and accountability among different institutions and almost half the donors have increased alignment with national planning processes.

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