|World Bank Vice-President Katherine Sierra (right) welcomes participants in the first High-Level Meeting of Sanitation and Water for All. Opening remarks were made by the event's Chairs, HRH Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands (Chair of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation) and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry (left).|
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, 11 May 2010 – UNICEF recently hosted the historic first annual High-Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water for All at World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.
Sanitation and Water for All is a global partnership aimed at achieving universal and sustainable access to sanitation and drinking-water by firmly placing the issue on the global agenda. Its immediate focus is achieving the water- and sanitation-related Millennium Development Goals in the countries that are most off-track for reaching the MDG targets.
At the meeting, held on 23 April, finance and water sector Ministers from 18 countries met with representatives from 13 donor groups, seven UN agencies and numerous non-governmental organizations. Noting that millions around the world still lack access to safe water and improved sanitation, the participants took stock of progress, shared best practices and explored the links between economic growth, health, and water and sanitation.
|Southern Sudan's Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Water Resourses and Irrigation, Isaac Liabwel C. Yol, and Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, at the High-Level Meeting.|
Ministers articulated the need to make aid for water and sanitation projects a political priority. They also committed to addressing appropriate allocations for these basic services.
The meeting was co-chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry.
“Sanitation and water are a cornerstone of development and crucial to ensuring the survival and development of children,” said Mr. Houry. “The sector needs more attention, more investments and better targeting of those investments. This event is a testament to the seriousness of our intention to chart a new course for the sector.”
In preparation for the meeting, a dialogue had taken place among Ministers from both the finance and water sectors in the 20 countries furthest from the MDG targets. The preparatory process was focused on examining current progress, determining national budget allocations and ensuring effective aid flows.
|Bangladesh's Minister of Finance, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith (right), discusses the importance of priority investments in water and sanitation as Louis Boorstin of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looks on.|
Government officials learned about the economic impact of investing in water and sanitation – including huge potential benefits for public health, gender equity, poverty reduction and overall economic growth.
The new UN-Water 'Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water' report was presented at the meeting. According to the report, funding for water and sanitation around the world remains lower than many other sectors and has even fallen in recent years, despite the many potential benefits of water- and sanitation-related investment.
The strong attendance at the conference, however, could signal change.
“Ministers of Finance influence investment flows and are instrumental in changing the outlook of the sector,” said UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Clarissa Brocklehurst. “Having them participate in this process and in the High Level Meeting is a watershed for the sector.”
Opportunity for change
Donors also met to ensure greater attention to sanitation and water at the highest levels. Director General Michael Anderson of the UK Department for International Development noted that funds for water and sanitation are “some of the best” investments currently available.
|At the High-Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water for All, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, Ghana's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, stresses the “immense potential to create jobs and affect MDG 1," the Millennium Development Goal on eradicating extreme poverty.|
Hon. Buyelwa Patience Sonjica, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and Chair of the African Ministers’ Council on Water, noted that 60 Africans die every hour due to water-related diseases. Calling the crisis a matter of life and death, she urged participants to “stop talking and start acting … to turn this situation around.”
Sanitation and Water for All offers an opportunity to create sustainable support for this critical work. The campaign aims to build international commitment for improved water and sanitation, coordinate global efforts and link those efforts to concrete action on the ground.