Faith-based organizations form alliance for children's right to safe water and sanitation
Learn more about the launch ceremony of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the first global interfaith initiative to promote safe water, sanitation and hygiene. In 2011, some 768 million people still used unsafe drinking water sources.
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By Genine Babakian
A new alliance forged in New York on 25 September brings together faith-based organizations in common pursuit of a water-secure world – one in which all children may enjoy their right to safe drinking water and to adequate sanitation.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 26 September 2013 – The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the first global interfaith initiative to promote safe water, sanitation and hygiene, was launched at UNICEF House on 25 September. The alliance brings together faith-based organizations in common pursuit of a water-secure world – one in which all children may enjoy their right to safe drinking water and to adequate sanitation.
Meeting a major challenge
A major global challenge today is the lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation. In 2011, an estimated 36 per cent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lacked improved sanitation facilities, and 768 million people still used unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities.
Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji discusses the role of spirituality in providing communities with clean water.
Throughout history, overcoming persistent social challenges has been achieved when religious leaders and faith-based communities have been an integral part of the solution. As the most essential element for human survival, water holds a prominent place in many of the world’s faith traditions. It not only cleanses, but is also a building block without which no life can exist. The significance of water manifests itself differently in different religions and beliefs, but it is these two qualities of water that underlie its place in many cultures and faiths.
Given the significance of water in many cultures and faiths, the creation of a global interfaith alliance promoting water, sanitation and hygiene is a positive step towards ensuring a water-secure world. GIWA has the potential to galvanize unprecedented collaborative action among the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, governments, international organizations, businesses, civil society organizations, indigenous communities and youth to create a world in which adequate sanitation and safe drinking water will be in reach of every human being.
Religious leaders and youth united, for water
The seed for GIWA was planted in March 2013 at Wings for Water, a multi-stakeholder dialogue held in The Hague, the Netherlands, in advance of World Water Day. GIWA co-founders Rabbi Awraham Soentendorp and Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji were present at the launch.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake with youth activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who spoke at the launch. Ensuring children's access to safe water and sanitation services is a fundamental part of UNICEF’s work worldwide.
A founding member of Green Cross International and the Islam and the West dialogue group of the World Economic Forum, Rabbi Soetendorp is internationally recognized for his contributions to peace and conflict prevention.
A world-renowned spiritual leader, H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji is President and Spiritual Head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, one of the largest spiritual institutions in India. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, or Pujya Swamiji, launched Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) to restore, protect, and maintain the river Ganga following the 6-Ts/Temple to Toilets programme. GAP provides toilets and taps, plants and maintains trees, works to find sustainable solutions to manage solid waste effectively (trash), protects endangered species such as tigers and seeks solutions for a cleaner, greener railway system (tracks).
Another member of GIWA, Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi of India, has been actively supporting water, sanitation and hygiene-related disaster management services in the flood-stricken Himalaya.
Alexandra V. Destin Pierre of the World Youth Parliament for Water talks about what it means not to have access to water in Haiti, and how mobilizing an interfaith alliance and women can help.
Also speaking at the GIWA launch were youth activists Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who was the youngest speaker at the Rio+20 United Nations Summit last year, as well as Alexandra V. Destin Pierre, who represents her native Haiti at the World Youth Parliament for Water.
MDG 7 is Ensure environmental sustainability. A major target associated with this goal is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
Watch a series of short interviews with each of the speakers at the GIWA event.
More information on progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets and remaining challenges