Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Dialogue, Urges Greater Action to Achieve Water, Sanitation Goals, Stressing that Millions Lack Proper Hygiene

30 October 2013

Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Dialogue, Urges Greater Action to Achieve Water, Sanitation Goals, Stressing that Millions Lack Proper Hygiene

30 October 2013
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Dialogue, Urges Greater Action to Achieve

Water, Sanitation Goals, Stressing that Millions Lack Proper Hygiene

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the high-level dialogue on measuring inequalities in the post‑2015 development agenda:  A new global tool for WASH and beyond, in New York on 30 October:

I am pleased to be here for this high-level dialogue on measuring inequalities in the post-2015 development agenda:  A new global tool for water, sanitation and hygiene ( WASH) and beyond.  I thank the Permanent Mission of Finland, together with the Group of Friends of Water and the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, for convening this event and for your leadership.

We all know that the framework of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) has produced many important gains for people around the world.  But, we are also aware that these improvements are generally measured [at the global, regional or national level] and do not adequately assess how the most vulnerable and marginalized are affected.

While, in overall terms, the MDG target for providing access to improved water sources has been reached, 768 million people still have no access to safe drinking water.   Roughly 80 per cent of global wastewater from human settlements or industrial sources is discharged untreated, often affecting the poorest who live in slums or on marginal land.  Close to one third of people drink water that endangers their health.  Even more people lack adequate sanitation.

The dignity and health benefits offered by access to a safe, decent toilet and protection from untreated waste are not being provided to some 2.5 billion people.  One billion people have no other option but to practise open defecation, something which additionally places women in vulnerable positions.

Despite some progress since 1990, the poorest 40 per cent of the world’s people have seen minimal gains across many indicators related to water and sanitation.  Inequalities continue to widen.  Not only do the poor lack access to clean water, they also frequently pay more for the limited access they have.  Across the developing world, people living in slums can be paying up to 10 times more for their water than the residents of cities like New York or London.

In light of these alarming figures, the Secretary-General asked me to spearhead a global “Call to Action” to accelerate work towards the MDG on sanitation and to eliminate the practice of open defecation by 2025.  The Call to Action aims to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to adequate sanitation.  The campaign is well under way.  I count on your support and engagement.

Studies indicate that the economic benefits of meeting the MDG target on water and sanitation would amount to $60 billion annually.  We also know that every dollar spent on water and sanitation can bring a five-fold return, mainly through lower health costs and increased work productivity.  Equally importantly, we know that gains in the areas of clean water and safe sanitation will benefit the poorest sections of society.  This, in turn, will have an immediate impact on health and education, two of the most important growth factors for the poor.

I, therefore, join the many others who are calling for the post-2015 development agenda to address inequality.  We need to dismantle the multiple and systemic barriers that marginalize the most vulnerable members of society.  We also need to focus on the gender dimensions of inequality.  Women tend to attach more importance to sanitation than do men.  But, female priorities carry less weight both in the household budgeting and in their communities.

The Report of the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda stressed the need to “leave no one behind”.  The Panel called for designing goals that focus on reaching excluded groups.  This we could do by tracking progress at all levels of income and by providing social protection so that people can build resilience to life’s uncertainties.  The Panel also proposed that the indicators for tracking the progress of the post-2015 agenda should be disaggregated.  They should only be considered “achieved” if they are met for all income and social groups.

The Secretary-General, in his own report, “A Life of Dignity for All”, highlighted the need for the new agenda to be based on human rights and the rule of law.  He placed particular emphasis on women, young people and marginalized groups.

This high-level dialogue on inequalities in WASH is, therefore, very timely.  The transformative shifts we need cannot be realized without considering the impact of inequality and discrimination on access to water and sanitation.

I welcome the proposed new measuring tool that the Special Rapporteur and hundreds of experts have been working on over the past two years, under the framework of WHO-UNICEF (World Health Organization-United Nations Children’s Fund) Joint Monitoring Programme for Drinking Water and Sanitation.  This new tool may also have important potential for other development sectors.  I am sure it will be a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussions on how the proposed goals, targets and indicators for the post-2015 development framework can be formulated to address inequalities and discrimination.

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