Budapest, Hungary

08 October 2013

Secretary-General's opening remarks at Budapest Water Summit [as prepared for delivery]

I am pleased to be here for the Budapest Water Summit. 

I thank the Government of Hungary for hosting, and for its important leadership role in the Group of Friends of Water at the United Nations.

It is fitting that we meet on the banks of the Danube.

This great river connects past to present, country to country. 

It passes through or around ten countries.  Its basin reaches nine more.

Sustainably managing such a vast and important resource presents many challenges – from local pollution to the growing impacts of climate change.

Competition is growing among industry and agriculture; town and country, upstream and downstream. 

These challenges are shared in one way or another across the world.

How we address them will be central to our common future.

Water holds the key to sustainable development. 

We need it for health, food security and economic progress. 

Yet, each year brings new pressures. 

By 2030 nearly half the global population could be facing water scarcity.

Demand could outstrip supply by 40 per cent. 

We must address unsustainable use.

This is the International Year of Water Cooperation.

We need joint efforts to guarantee a fair share for people and the planet’s essential ecosystems.

Water is wasted and poorly used by all sectors in all countries.  That means all sectors in all countries must cooperate for sustainable solutions. 

We must use what we have more equitably and wisely.

We cannot expect governments to do this alone. 

Guaranteeing a water secure world will require the full engagement of all actors, not least the world of business.

Today I would like to talk about cooperation in three areas critical to sustainable development: food security, climate change and sanitation.

First, food security.

Agriculture is by far the largest user of freshwater.

There is growing urgency to reconcile its demands with the needs of domestic and industrial uses, especially energy production. 

My Zero Hunger Challenge promotes sustainable agriculture by sharing best practices and harnessing the most appropriate technologies.

Small farmers and industrial giants alike must learn to get more crop per drop.

That means improved irrigation technologies.

And it means less water-intensive and more climate-resilient crops.

This brings me to my second point.

Climate change poses the risk of diminished supplies in much of the world.

We must make sure that water remains a catalyst for cooperation not conflict among communities and countries.

The United Nations stands ready to assist.

For example, the UN Development Programme’s Shared Waters Partnership is supporting political agreement on common resources, such as in the Nile Basin. 

The UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia is making valuable contributions related to the sharing of water and energy resources.

And we have the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.

This will soon be available to all UN Member States. 

I urge countries outside the UNECE region to join the Convention and further develop it.

I also count on all nations to cooperate on climate change.

Last month, Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that climate change is affecting the global water cycle.

It notes that “Extreme precipitation events over most of the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of this century, as global mean surface temperature increases.”

In layman’s terms, this means more floods.

We will also see more droughts.

That is why we must do everything we can to keep global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

To do that, we need to finalize a robust legal agreement on climate change in 2015.

To add momentum to this process, I will convene a Climate Summit in September 2014.

I am inviting leaders at the highest level – from government, business, finance and philanthropy, civil society and knowledge institutions.

I count on the support of all here.

Let me now turn to my third point: sanitation.

Water and sanitation feature large in the Millennium Development Goals.

There are just over 800 days left before the MDG deadline, but with renewed effort we can finish the job. 

While the MDG target for providing access to improved water sources has been reached, 780 million people lack this basic necessity.

Roughly 80 per cent of global wastewater from human settlements or industrial sources is discharged untreated.

Water quality in at least parts of most major river systems still fails to meet basic World Health Organization standards.

Close to one-third of people drink water that endangers health. 

Even more people lack adequate sanitation.

That is why I have asked the Deputy Secretary-General to spearhead a global call to action to accelerate work towards the MDG on sanitation. 

The campaign is well under way.

I count on your support and engagement.

Some 2.5 billion people lack the dignity and health offered by access to a safe, decent toilet and protection from untreated waste. 

One billion people practice open defecation.

Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five in the world after pneumonia.

Even when it does not kill, repeated diarrhoea can cause childhood stunting.

These children are more vulnerable to disease and their brains do not develop as they should.

It is plain that investment in sanitation is a down-payment on a sustainable future.

Economists estimate that every dollar spent can bring a five-fold return.

Cooperation and dynamic partnerships, such as the Sanitation and Water for All initiative, can address this most urgent issue. 

Water and sanitation are obviously central to our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and must figure prominently in the post-2015 development agenda.

Beyond 2015, our aim is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and to create an equitable world of opportunity for all. 

Our societies cannot prosper without clean, plentiful freshwater. 

People cannot thrive without adequate sanitation.

That is why my Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation is advocating for a dedicated water goal.

I would like to welcome His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal, the new Chair of my Advisory Board, and to thank King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands for his committed service as Chair.

The report of my High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda also suggests a goal on water.

Their recommendation encompasses universal access to safe drinking water and hygiene, and action to address wastewater and water resources management.

My own report, “A Life of Dignity for All”, draws on these ideas and many other inputs from the UN system and civil society.

It sets out my sense of the transformations we need and can achieve.

The emerging outlines of a new agenda are becoming apparent.

It must have poverty eradication as its first and most urgent priority.

It must be bold in ambition yet simple in design, supported by a new partnership for development.

It must be universal in nature yet responsive to the complexities, needs and capacities of individual countries.

It needs to be based on human rights and the rule of law, with particular emphasis on women, young people and marginalized groups.

And it must protect the planet’s resources, emphasize sustainable consumption and production and support action to address climate change.

Guided by this far-reaching vision, Member States can define a set of concise and inspiring sustainable development goals that will capture the imagination and mobilize the world – just as the MDGs have done.

Water and sanitation will be critical to this equation, and your deliberations will be instrumental in guiding Member States.

I wish you a successful and productive meeting.

Thank you.