It is a privilege, and it gives me great pleasure to take part in this event today.
I am very happy to be in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city. Since I arrived I have been impressed by the sheer energy of the city, energy derived from the thriving trade and industry, as well as the lively culture scene. I’m sure that the city’s energy will invigorate our meetings.
My sincere thanks to the National Steering Committee and the Secretariat for organising what is already a most successful Water Forum. My thanks to the Japanese people for the warm welcome we have all experienced. Congratulations, and thanks to Mr Ryutaro Hashimoto for his key role in bringing us all here, and for his commitment to action to solve water issues. We are delighted that Mrs. Nane Annan has honoured us today with her presence. The attendance of the Ministers and Mayors of Asia underlines their engagement and readiness for action. Mr Tadao Chino’s presence signals Asian Development Bank’s willingness to develop partnerships to tackle the problems we are facing. I am very pleased to see representatives of civil society at the Forum, they are most important partners for the future. I look forward to working with all of you.
The next two days will explore three key themes:
- Water and Information
- Water and Cities
All three are key to future water policy and I look forward to the recommendations for action coming out of all the sessions.
UN-HABITAT will be focusing on the issues of Water and Cities. Without safe water and sanitation there can be no sustainable human settlements; and without sustainable human settlements there can be no sustainable development. The cities of the world are the engines of the economy. Their industry is fuelled by a healthy workforce. A workforce which also has resources to reinvest in the city. The health of the workforce depends on clean water and sanitation. Bad health bleeds the poor, and their cities, of hope for the future. It blocks all progress towards sustainable development.
Confucius said : “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
We have already taken more than a single step on our journey to overcome the world’s water problems, and ensure water resources for our children. We have passed the milestones of Rio, Dublin, Marrakech, The Hague, Bonn and Johannesburg, along the way. Each of these milestones has brought us further along the road, but we still have a considerable distance to cover.
In Osaka, we hope to make further progress on our journey. We will be focusing on concrete action, which will have a real impact, and bring us closer to meeting the Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg Summit Goals. Since Johannesburg, UN-HABITAT has been actively developing the Water for Asian Cities Programme and developing the second phase of the Water for African Cities Programme.
UN-HABITAT is also working on a number of other projects within the framework of the Johannesburg Water Action Portfolios. It is fitting that here, at the Third World Water Forum we will sign a Memorandum of Understanding between Asian Development Bank and UN-HABITAT for the Water for Asian Cities project. I appreciate greatly the strong partnership which we have with ADB. All parties are bringing their talents to bear on the project, which I feel sure will guarantee its success. The project, I believe, is vital to solving the water problems of the urban poor in Asia.
In the part of Africa where I come from, we have a saying:
“One person is thin porridge; two or three people are a lump of ugali (stiff cooked meal/flour)”
Gathered here together we have substance, together we have strength, we are more than a thin porridge.
So, together we should define strong and concrete actions which can be incorporated into a comprehensive plan of action, for adoption by the Ministerial Conference later this week.
• Let us pool our energy and resources to take action
• Let our action ensure water and hope for sustainable development
• Let Osaka be a major milestone on the road to a better future for those who lack adequate water and sanitation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to working with you.
Thank you for your attention.