‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty Is Our Most Urgent Priority, Sustainable Development Our Guide,’ Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

18 February 2014
SG/SM/15648-GA/11484-DEV/1412

‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty Is Our Most Urgent Priority, Sustainable Development Our Guide,’ Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

18 February 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/15648 GA/11484 DEV/1412
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty is Our Most Urgent Priority, Sustainable

Development Our Guide,’ Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly Thematic Debate on Water, Sanitation and Sustainable Energy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, in New York, 18 February: 

I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this important debate.  I know you are all busy working to define a post-2015 development agenda. 

Eradicating extreme poverty is our most urgent priority, sustainable development our guide.  Universal access to safe water, sanitation and energy will be critical.

In the poorest communities around the world, hundreds of millions of people — especially women and children — spend hours each day collecting firewood and water.

The health toll from unclean water and household air pollution is immense. 

Inadequate sanitation presents a further threat to health, dignity and development.  Some 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation; some 1 billion people practice open defecation.

Access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene must feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda.  We must improve water quality and the management of water resources and wastewater.  This is a matter of justice and opportunity.

That is why we launched the CEO Water Mandate in 2007 to engage the international business community in water and sanitation.  And, it is why we launched a Call to Action on Sanitation last year to drive progress on sanitation and water goals towards the 2015 target date and beyond.

The cost of unsafe water and poor sanitation is borne primarily by the poor.  Someone living in a slum is not only at greater risk of disease and damaged health, but he or she may well be paying more per litre of water than those from wealthy neighbourhoods.

Energy has the same profile.  The wealthier you are, the cheaper your power.  Affordable and reliable modern energy services are essential for alleviating poverty, improving health and raising living standards. 

That is why I launched Sustainable Energy for All in 2011.  It has three goals: the first is universal access by 2030; the second is to improve efficiency of energy — we must cut energy waste; the third is to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

We need clean efficient energy to combat climate change.  We can no longer burn and consume our way to prosperity.  The global population has reached 7 billion and is rising.  By 2030 we will need 35 per cent more food, 40 per cent more water and 50 per cent more energy.

The strong link between water and energy demands coherent integrated policies and innovative strategies.  We must use water and generate electricity equitably and efficiently, so all users get a fair share — upstream and downstream and across all sectors.

We must be aware of the needs of ecosystems, and the increasing strains being placed on them.  And, we must factor in the growing threat of climate change.

Climate change will exacerbate water stress and scarcity in many regions. 

If we allow the current warming trend to continue, we will undermine all our efforts to provide universal and equitable access to water and energy. 

On 23 September, I will convene a Climate Summit for global leaders from government, business, finance and civil society.  I want to catalyse ambitious action on the ground and mobilize greater political will for a meaningful legal climate agreement in 2015.

2015 is also the deadline for Member States to define a post-2015 development agenda and a concise, compelling set of sustainable development [goals].  The United Nations system is supporting you in this endeavour.

Ongoing efforts within the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, as well as on the post-2015 UN development agenda, present a unique opportunity to strengthen support for innovative strategies that will secure water, sanitation and sustainable energy for all.

Let us take this opportunity to move the sustainable development agenda forward by identifying the synergies that exist among these important factors. 

I wish you a productive debate.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.