Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Launch of the International Year of Sanitation 2008
New York, 21 November 2007

It is an honour for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs to serve as the focal point for the International Year of Sanitation, and to host this global launch of the Year – in partnership with the UN-Water Task Force on Sanitation, which includes DESA, HABITAT, UNDP, UNICEF, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, the World Bank and WHO.

The Secretary-General has painted a clear picture of what has been a silent crisis. The silence stops today. Sanitation is not a dirty word. It is a critical factor for human dignity and sustainable development.

Access to basic sanitation has a dramatic social impact. It has vast economic benefits. And appropriate sanitation infrastructure can improve water quality with positive impacts for the environment.

We have, as our foundation for action, an important set of international commitments and consensus, going back to Agenda 21 and various sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Let me recall the recommendations of the Commission’s 13th Session, on some of the most important national strategies and policy actions to address the sanitation challenge: establishment of an institutional home for sanitation; prioritization of sanitation in national development plans; incorporation of sanitation in integrated water resources management plans; and promotion of gender-sensitive sanitation and hygiene education and awareness.

The international community will review progress on implementation of these recommendations during the 16th Session of the Commission, next year.

By declaring next year the International Year of Sanitation, the General Assembly has provided us with a critical opportunity to lift sanitation prominently onto the global agenda – and to get in gear to meet the international sanitation target by 2015.

To achieve the Year’s objectives, a strong cooperative effort will be essential.

In this regard, the work of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation and of the UN-Water Task Force on Sanitation is most valuable.

I pledge to everyone here my Department’s full support. DESA looks forward to working with all partners to ensure a truly successful International Year of Sanitation in 2008.

Thank you.