Water, Sanitation Critical Concerns amid Rapid Urbanization, Secretary-General Stresses in Message for Environment-related Singapore Events

2 June 2014
SG/SM/15898-ENV/DEV/1434-HAB/223

Water, Sanitation Critical Concerns amid Rapid Urbanization, Secretary-General Stresses in Message for Environment-related Singapore Events

2 June 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/15898 ENV/DEV/1434 HAB/223
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Water, Sanitation Critical Concerns amid Rapid Urbanization, Secretary-General

Stresses in Message for Environment-Related Singapore Events

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, to the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEnviro Summit, in Singapore, 1 June:

It is a great pleasure to greet all those who have gathered for the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore.  I applaud Singapore’s long-standing commitment to water and sanitation, and thank the Government for hosting these important events.

Water is vital for human well-being, economic development and the preservation of the environment.  Sustainable water resources management can support livelihoods, make our cities more liveable and preserve the health of people and the planet.  Access to safe drinking water and sanitation has been recognized by the UN General Assembly as a human right — and achieving universal access is one of the most important development challenges we face.

While we have already met the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) target of increasing access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, let us not forget that well over a billion people are still without access to an improved drinking water source.  Some 2.5 billion people lack access to the dignity and health afforded by access to a toilet and protection from untreated waste.  And 1 billion people have no option but to practise open defecation, which puts women in particular at increased risk of violence and rape.  That is why the United Nations is spearheading a global call to action on sanitation and why the UN General Assembly last year designated 19 November as World Toilet Day.

Water and sanitation are critical concerns as Member States shape a post-2015 development agenda and a set of concise and inspiring goals that will capture the imagination and mobilize the world.  We know that increasing strains are being put on our water supplies and ecosystems through population growth and changing lifestyles.  Nowhere is this more evident than in cities.  More than half of humanity already lives in urban areas, and over the next few decades we will see the emergence of more megacities — with over 10 million inhabitants — and more hypercities, with over 20 million.

Urbanization is clearly one of the most significant global trends of the twenty-first century.  It is occurring fastest in developing countries that are the least prepared to tackle the associated challenges.  The vast majority of urban wastewater is discharged, insufficiently treated or directly untreated.  At the same time, cities are centres of employment and innovation, and offer opportunities to advance sustainable development.  Seizing this potential requires cities and urbanization to be well planned, human-centred and environmentally sensitive.  Solutions will require conscious investment in water and sanitation, sustainable food systems, social infrastructure, low-carbon transport and sustainable energy.

The World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit together offer a useful platform for sharing and co-creating innovative and cost-effective solutions that will not only address the issue of water and sanitation, but also contribute to our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and build an equitable world of opportunity for all grounded in sustainable development.

Thank you for your commitment, and please accept my best wishes for a productive meeting.

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