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The Launch of the Canadian contribution to the UN-HABITAT Water and Sanitation Trust Fund for the expanded Water For African Cities Programme
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Nairobi, Monday, 27 October 2003

Honourable Susan Whelan, Honourable John Munyes, Your Excellency Valenton-Tirona, Your Excellency Jim Wall, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests from the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to the Global Headquarters of UN-HABITAT and UNEP here in Nairobi. I am delighted to receive you, Honourable Susan Whelan, Minister for International Cooperation of Canada, here this afternoon. I know that you have had a very busy schedule having just arrived from the conference in Madrid on the reconstruction of Iraq. Despite a growing number of regional security and economic concerns, the leadership that Canada has provided to the G8 has been instrumental in ensuring that Africa is not left off the global agenda. I am especially thankful for the concrete commitment CIDA is making here today so that all Africans have access to water and sanitation.

I would also like to thank the children from the Sai Amboseli non-formal school and the Mathare Youth Sports Association Youth Group "Wayo Wayo" for their wonderful performances. In particular, congratulations are indeed due to MYSA who recently were nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and to their Director Peter Serry, and Chairman Bob Munro who is certainly no stranger to UN-HABITAT having led the Canadian Delegation at the first Habitat Conference held in Vancouver.

In 1976, Habitat I foretold of the many detrimental impacts which rural to urban migration would have on our earth. Today many of these threats have unfortunately come to pass. Water shortages, pollution and insecurity are increasingly everyday realities. Water risks are real and they are all around us threatening economies, from developing to developed ones. These children and youth have quite rightly challenged us today to be leaders who move communities into a future where there is clean water for all.

As an African woman, naturally, I feel a strong emotional attachment when I am called upon to address Africa's development.

I am intensely aware that this continent remains a challenge to Africans themselves and very much needs the goodwill of the rest of the world. I know that African woman and children are most in need of international support and solidarity.

It was a moment of great satisfaction to me when the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year, gave a clarion call to the international community to focus its efforts on addressing the development needs of Africa and put water and sanitation at the top of this agenda. The Summit rightly identified the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) for special attention.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, sustainable development starts with people's health and dignity. Yet, Africa has entered the new Millennium with these fundamental conditions of human development unmet. It is unbelievable but true that a resident of Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi and in Africa, earning less than a dollar a day, pays as much as five times the price paid by an average North American for a litre of water. An African girl child is often forced to trade education for water. Sanitation can be far more than a public health issue to her: it determines her privacy, safety and dignity; it determines whether her potential to become a productive citizen in society will ever be fulfilled. Archbishop Desmond Tutu rightly observed during the World Summit on Sustainable Development that, "no issue has ever been more neglected. And it has been neglected because it is of concern mainly to the poor and the powerless" - especially women and children.

I therefore, applaud Hon. Susan Whelan for her presence here today to forge a new partnership between Canada and UN-HABITAT, supporting UN-HABITAT's Water and Sanitation Trust Fund of the Water for African Cities Programme. Soon after Johannesburg, on World Habitat Day in October last year, I announced the establishment of a new Water and Sanitation Trust Fund by UN-HABITAT. This Fund was established to provide a fast track mechanism for reaching out to the urban poor and to enable them to access benefits from city-wide improvements which often bypass them. The Trust Fund will seek to address, with priority, requests for support from Africa which has the poorest water and sanitation coverage of all regions. Priority will also be given to initiatives that could reduce the burden of women and children in accessing safe water and adequate sanitation.

For the past three years the Water for African Cities programme has been helping the seven African countries: Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, to put in place an integrated urban water resource management strategy that brings three critical, but often overlooked, sectors: urban, environment and water, to work together.

With modest donor support, the first phase of the programme has leveraged funds within countries, demonstrated the potential to change the attitudes of senior decision-makers and strengthened managerial capacity in the participating cities. Pilot projects implemented in some of these cities have already delivered some impressive results, although much remains to be done. In Johannesburg the programme generated sufficient savings in water demand to justify the cancellation of a project to build an additional reservoir. In Addis Ababa, despite a growing population and drought, demand management has resulted in a $1.6 million saving to the government per year.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing, once again I thank Hon. Susan Whelan for bringing this crucial support from Canada to the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund for expansion of the Water for African Cities Programme. With this support, today we will effectively launch the second phase of the Programme. I am confident that this support will enable us to assist a larger number of African countries to bring safe water and basic sanitation to the urban poor. If we are to learn from the children, we must proceed "Wayo Wayo" or "step by step". I am convinced that here today, together we have taken a very important step towards realising their hopes and aspirations for a more sustainable world.

Hon. Susan Whelan, I wish you a very pleasant stay in Kenya.

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