Washington, D.C.

11 April 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at Sanitation and Water For All High Level Meeting [as prepared for delivery]

I am inspired by this gathering. I thank UNICEF for bringing us together, and I congratulate His Excellency John Kufuor on his leadership.

All of you in this room have the power to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are fundamental to human development – and progress across the Millennium Development Goals.

When people have better access to sanitation and water, they are healthier – of course – and they can also work more productively, live more fully and contribute more to society.

You are part of a push for advancement that is succeeding around the world.

In just over two decades, more than 2 billion people saw improvements in their water supply. We reached that MDG target. But we are not stopping until we help the remaining two and a half billion people who still lack adequate sanitation. We are especially concerned about the one billion who are forced to practice open defecation.

Our partnership aims to provide water, sanitation and hygiene to all people, wherever they live and no matter how limited their resources are.

The Sanitation and Water for All initiative can meet needs – and it can also contribute to human rights.

If we reach our goals, we will correct inequalities between rich and poor, cities and the countryside, and men and women, whose health is especially vulnerable to poor sanitation.

Today’s gathering can be a turning point. The momentum is already building. Two years ago at the Sanitation and Water for All meeting, participants made more than 400 concrete commitments. Since then, a fifth of those commitments have been met, and there has been good progress on many others. I applaud all of you here who contributed to that success.

You bring impressive commitments and rich experience to our global campaign. This is a diverse group of public health, development and finance officials. You have different areas of expertise but you can all see the value of sanitation and water for all.

The benefits cut across health and the economy. Action will empower individuals and drive progress across society.

There are three components of success.

First: smart investments. We agree that spending on sanitation and water for all is wise. Our challenge is to do this in a way that is smart. Resources are scarce. With the right allocations, we can optimize funds and reach all people in need.

Second: firm commitment. We need strong institutions to reach people living in slums and remote areas – and to make sure that services last. Our collective commitment will push us to the finish line in reaching the MDGs. And together, we can make sure that water, sanitation and hygiene are integral to the post-2015 development agenda.

Third: staunch advocacy. Funding and commitment are important – but we also need awareness. It is not always comfortable to talk about sensitive hygiene matters. Open defecation used to be a taboo topic. But we are speaking up to save lives.

The United Nations is proud to have played a part in starting the conversation. In 2010, the General Assembly passed a resolution on closing the sanitation gap. To build on this, we issued a Call to Action on Sanitation, with my Deputy Secretary-General in the lead. As you know, he chaired this SWA meeting in 2012. We are now launching a communications campaign to educate and inspire the public to take up the cause of ending open defecation. We welcome the support of all partners, including the World Bank. I look forward to hearing from Dr. Kim on its work.

Around the world, the United Nations is supporting water, sanitation and hygiene projects. UNICEF works in more than 100 countries to bring these essential services to people. The World Health Organization, the UN Development Programme and other agencies are also taking action around the world. We are operating even in refugee camps, disaster areas and other insecure environments where people must struggle to cope.

In all of our efforts, we benefit from the valuable contributions of my Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. I thank His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal for his strong leadership.

This is an extraordinary alliance. Sanitation and Water for All brings together governments, donors, development banks, UN agencies and civil society. This meeting can generate the push we need for a major advance on sustainable development.

Achieving sanitation and water for all may not be cost-free – but it will set people free.

Access to sanitation and water means:

- a child free of disease,

- a woman free of the back-breaking chore to fetch water,

- a girl free to attend school without fear,

- a village free of cholera,

- and a world of greater equality and dignity for all.

Thank you.