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SG/SM/20170
9 July 2020

Secretary-General, at Special Event Launching Sustainable Development Goal 6 Global Acceleration Framework, Urges Holistic, Systemic Response to Global Water Crisis

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high-level political forum special event to launch the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 Global Acceleration Framework, today:

I am pleased to join the launch of the Global Acceleration Framework for Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation.  Congratulations to all the speakers.

I am impressed by the commitment, support, coherence and unity shown by the whole United Nations system, together with Member States, youth, civil society and the private sector.  Today, this commitment is needed more than ever.

Water globally is threatened by the twin threats of increasing demand and withdrawals and the degradation of water sources and associated ecosystems due to climate change, pollution and other threats.  The water and sanitation crisis demands a holistic, systemic and multilateral response.  Water and sanitation cut across all three pillars of the United Nations — peace and security, human rights and development.  They are integral to each.

First, peace and security.  As there are 280 watercourses shared by two or more countries, and about 60 per cent of all aquifers are transboundary, the risks of water disputes, provoking conflict over shared basins, need to be addressed.

Second, human rights.  The right to safe drinking water was first recognized by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council as part of international law in 2010, followed by the human right to sanitation being explicitly recognized as a distinct right by the General Assembly in 2015.

Finally, sustainable development.  Water is required to deliver almost all other SDGs, from global health to food security, and it is essential for resilience to climate change.  It is estimated that by 2040, one in four of the world’s children under 18 — some 600 million in all — will be living in areas of extremely high-water stress.

Today, Sustainable Development Goal 6 is badly off track.  This is hindering progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the realization of human rights and the achievement of peace and security around the world.  Furthermore, we must remember that water and climate are inextricably linked through the hydrological cycle.  Progress on SDG 6 will face deepening challenges as our climate continues to change.

As we are sadly reminded, water and sanitation are also key to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.  Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.  Yet 3 billion people around the world — 40 per cent of the global population — lack basic handwashing facilities at home.  We need resilient and sustainable water-related ecosystems and safe water supply and sanitation services to prevent and contain this and future pandemics.

This is why I have decided to add a policy brief on this topic, to capture our current learning and to offer policy advice.  Today, I am proud to see the launch of the Global Acceleration Framework in response to my call to mobilize for a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

I applaud my colleagues for making this happen.  I am particularly pleased to see the special focus on action at the country level and to see how the Global Acceleration Framework will serve the Resident Coordinators as part of the United Nations reform.

The Global Acceleration Framework can improve global water and sanitation governance towards more sustainable management of water resources.  It is driven by country demand while aligning the international community to strengthen country planning, implementation and knowledge sharing.  Only through our coordinated action can we best serve Member States and benefit all sectors of society.

In a world that has entered a dangerous recession, coordination and alignment are more necessary than ever to target the use of our resources in the most efficient and impactful way.

I am also glad that the Global Acceleration Framework creates an annual multi-stakeholder moment to share lessons, knowledge and good practices.  This regular opportunity will help to keep up the pace through 2030.  And I am confident that it will contribute to the discourse and provide valuable input to the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and specifically to the high-level events in 2021 and 2023.

A key milestone will be World Water Day in 2023 when we meet in New York for three days for what will be the first United Nations conference on water and sanitation since the 1970s.

We are approaching the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, and we are fighting the worst pandemic in recent history.  I urge all of us to take the opportunity to deliver on the sustainable development promise made to all peoples in 2015.

The Framework being launched today will accelerate delivery of the Decade of Action through a coordinated and concerted focus on water and sanitation.

I thank you for your attention, but most of all I thank you for your action on water and sanitation.

For information media. Not an official record.