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At a glance: Japan

Key delegates gather in Tokyo as part of the International Year of Water and Sanitation

© UNICEF Japan/2008
Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura delivers Japan's policy statement on water and sanitation.

By Mihoko Nakagawa

TOKYO, Japan, 26 February 2008 – As the International Year of Sanitation continues, Japan took the lead in efforts to scale up humanitarian interventions when key delegates met for a water and sanitation symposium held at United Nations University in Tokyo last Friday.

The event – 'Water and Sanitation Symposium: International Year of Sanitation – A Platform for Action in Africa and Asia' – convened to harness ideas from a variety of sectors in order to improve water and sanitation throughout the world.

Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Masahiko Koumura, opened the symposium, which included delegates from UNICEF, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank, along with other key water and sanitation experts. The findings from the symposium will be used as part of the International Year of Sanitation platform aimed at accelerating results in Africa and Asia.

Inspiring global policy

In a speech, Mr. Koumura outlined Japan's new policy on water and sanitation, which sets a bold vision for leveraging global responses. He noted that the issue is cross-sectoral and stressed the need to correlate international efforts on health, education, peace and climate change. 

© UNICEF Japan/2008
On a panel at the Japan symposium (right to left): the World Health Organization’s Jacob Kumaresan, UNICEF Programme Division Deputy Director Vanessa Tobin and the Asia-Pacific Water Forum’s Ravi Narayanan.

“Despite all our efforts, water and sanitation issues are still serious,” said Mr. Koumura.

“For this reason, on this significant occasion of the International Year of Sanitation, I consider it crucial that Japan shows its determination to make further efforts to tackle them with the international community,” he added. 

It is hoped that the ideas discussed at the event will inspire policy makers in Japan and worldwide. African heads of state are currently preparing to meet for the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which will be held in Yokohama from 28 to 30 May.

‘1 Litre for 10 Litres’

One ongoing campaign on water and sanitation, supported by UNICEF in partnership with Danon Waters of Japan, is the ‘1 Litre for 10 Litres’ programme. 

Through this effort, a portion of the profits from the sale of bottled water is used for UNICEF projects in the Republic of Mali to construct and maintain boreholes. The campaign's name derives from the calculation that 1 litre of water bought in Japan translates to 10 litres of water to benefit people in Mali.

“Safe drinking water and access to basic sanitation remain an essential strategy for child survival,” UNICEF Programme Division Deputy Director Vanessa Tobin said during her keynote speech. “More than 125 million children under five do not use an improved source of drinking water, leaving them vulnerable to life-threatening diseases.”

Water and sanitation is a matter of human dignity and development. The Japan symposium created momentum, proving that people from all sectors – and at all levels – have a role to play in accelerating efforts to meet the UN Millenium Development Goals on access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Kyria Abrahams and Amy Bennett contributed to this story from New York.



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