UN-HABITAT launches global alliance of public water operators

16 August 2007 –

The United Nations agency tasked with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable housing has launched a new worldwide alliance with water operators that aims to improve to clean water and basic sanitation in impoverished communities.

The new Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance is designed to strengthen the capacities of the public water operators that provide more than 90 per cent of water and sanitation services in developing nations.

The operators will be able to share information more easily with each other and draw on professional capacity and other resources provided by governments and donor agencies, the UN Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) said in a press statement released yesterday.

The Alliance is expected to cost $7 million to run in its first three years, with UN-HABITAT to provide $1.8 million of that and Alliance partners to contribute the rest.

Speaking at yesterday's launch of the initiative at the Stockholm World Water Week, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said the Alliance would form a key part of efforts to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that calls for halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, by 2015.

In 2002 in Johannesburg the World Summit on Sustainable Development also set a target to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation.

Earlier this week, Mrs. Tibaijuka told a symposium being held in Stockholm that water will become the dominant global issue this century, and the availability of its supply could threaten the world's social stability.

The UN-HABITAT chief said rapid urbanization is placing enormous pressure on the availability of clean water and other natural resources, especially for the poor, and she called for “a fundamental change” in the way the world approaches water and sanitation to ensure that enough clean water remains affordable for all for future generations.

UN statistics indicate that, for the first time in history, this year more people live in cities than in rural areas – and that by 2030 the global urban population will reach 60 per cent.

The Alliance was formally launched yesterday by the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

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