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Global WASH Forum
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Honourable Macky Sall, Prime Minister of Senegal;
Honourable Lamine Ba, Minister for Prevention, Sanitation and Public Hygiene, Senegal, hosting the Forum;
Honourable Ministers;
Sir Richard Jolly, Chair, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council,
Mr. Gourisankar Ghosh, Executive Director of the Collaborative Council,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to have been invited by Sir Richard Jolly to chair the Global WASH Forum in Dakar and it is indeed a privilege and pleasure for me to join you at this inaugural plenary session of the Forum.

The gracious presence of Honourable Macky Sall, Prime Minister of Senegal, with us here today demonstrates the importance that the host country attaches to this Forum. Indeed, this Forum provides a valuable opportunity for building and strengthening development partnerships among the international community, national policy makers, Mayors and other locally elected representatives, leaders of the industry and non-governmental organizations.

The agenda for the Millennium Development Goals was developed in an unprecedented consultative process involving practically all stakeholders including governments, civil society, women and youth groups and the private sector. The MDGs have therefore become a framework for international development cooperation, or a common rallying call in our struggle to raise the vast majority of the world’s population out of the trap of poverty that robs them of their health, dignity and aspirations for fulfilling their human potential.

I will submit that while poverty is the underlying theme of all Millennium Development Goals, water, particularly for the poor, provides an important entry point for action to achieve each of these goals. This thinking was given further impetus at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The political declaration adopted by Heads of States, further amplified that the W in WEHAB was to stand for Water, Sanitation and Shelter. This in turn provided the thematic focus for deliberations at the 12th and 13th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Shelter and human settlements provide a concrete context for this action. The struggle for achieving the Millennium Development Goal for water will have to be waged in human settlements - in our cities, towns and villages, where water will be consumed and waste generated. Here is where the actions have to be coordinated and managed. It is at this level that policy initiatives become an operational reality through a political process: conflicts have to be resolved and consensus found among competing interests and parties. The MDGs cannot be delivered in the abstract but in a defined space.

Allow me therefore to urge you to amplify WASH to stand for Water, Sanitation, Shelter and Hygiene.

Honourable Chair, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

As we prepare ourselves for a new decade: “Water for Life – 2005-2015”, we need to make politicians and ordinary people aware of what it means when large sections of society are denied safe water and basic sanitation. We need to consider what price must people pay through sickness, poor health and lost wages. What price does one put on women’s safety and dignity? What price does a nation pay through enormous medical bills and lost economic opportunities? What are the opportunity costs of inaction by policy-makers on the present generation of ordinary people?
I was happy to note that CSD 12 highlighted some of these issues directly. It was estimated that deaths caused by waterborne diseases represent a global annual economic loss of more than a staggering 186 billion US dollars. Simply meeting the sanitation target by 2015 with an investment of only 11 billion US dollars could garner an economic gain in the order of 63 billion US dollars every year, a six-fold return.

This is why I accepted the offer of Sir Richard Jolly to act as the Chair of this Global WASH Forum. I have had the pleasure of working with Sir Richard and the WSSCC on several previous occasions, notably, during the PrepCom of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in February 2002, where we jointly developed a strategy to bring sanitation to the top of the political agenda at the Summit. Also, we jointly launched the WASH campaign in Africa in Nairobi during the First World Urban Forum in Nairobi in April 2002. We also jointly launched the first WASH campaign in Latin America and the Caribbean with the Collaborative Council Executive Director, Gouri Ghosh and our Brazilian counterparts in Rio de Janeiro on World Habitat Day 2002.

UN-HABITAT has given its platform to the Council on several other occasions, notably during the CSD sessions in New York as well as during the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto and Osaka last year. We look forward to strengthening this partnership in our common effort towards helping developing countries achieve the MDGs.

Five Major Policy Challenges

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that a business-as-usual approach will not be enough. We need a fundamental change in our approach to reach the Millennium Development Goals – we need a strategy that is workable, realistic and will make a difference in the lives of the people in their habitats. Let me now turn to five key policy challenges that we must address to translate the Millennium Development Goal for water into reality:

• Urbanization and Feminization of Poverty

At the turn of the Millennium, more than 900 million people, comprising 43 per cent of the urban population of developing countries lived in slums. It is now clear that almost all of the population increase (90%) over the years remaining to achieve the Millennium Development Goals will take place in urban areas of developing countries. Most of these people will end up living in the slums and shanties of the developing world. Achieving the avowed goals that we have set for ourselves will remain a distant dream if we do not focus on the slums of Nairobi, the bustees of Kolkata and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

Official statistics often disguise the real problem of the poor in cities and towns. For example, in Kenya, the official statistics show that 96 per cent of the urban residents have access to ‘improved’ sanitation. A reality check can give a very different picture. A recent UN-HABITAT assessment of the water and sanitation situation in the world’s cities indicate that in many slums, 150 or more inhabitants daily queue up for one public toilet. A slum dweller in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam, forced to rely on private water vendors, pays 5 to 7 times more for a litre of water than an average North American citizen. This is not fiction but true, and the health and economic impacts of this lack of basic services can be very costly to a country in the long run.

Women today constitute 70 per cent of the world’s absolute poor and they pay a heavy price in procuring this life-sustaining commodity for their families through daily drudgery and lost opportunities. In crowded urban settlements, sanitation can be far more than a public health issue for a girl: it determines her privacy and dignity; it determines whether her potential to become a productive citizen in society will ever be fulfilled. Improving water and sanitation facilities in schools could be strategic to reducing the current gender gap in school enrolments. Providing water in rural areas could mean releasing girls to go to school and providing more labour for direct productive activities.

• Translating Global Goals into Local Action

Unquestionably, the commitment of policy makers to translate these global goals into country, city and town or village level goals and targets is of foremost importance. The goals may be global in character but they must be implemented locally, at city and community levels, where people live and shelter and services are required. Therefore, as a first step, the Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSPs) at country level need to reflect the MDGs and prioritize water and sanitation. At UN-HABITAT, we are moving to localize the MDGs in communities to produce their own town or community level poverty reduction strategies.

At all these levels, an effective monitoring mechanism needs also to be put in place early on, that will allow tracking progress towards achieving these goals. The challenge here is to develop a monitoring mechanism that reflects the voices of the people, particularly of the poor communities, who are the real targets of MDGs. We cannot measure progress successfully unless we focus our lens on the most important of target groups – the poorest of the poor.

• The Right to Water

I feel that the time has now come for governments to shift gear from a needs-based approach to a rights-based approach in providing water security to the poor. Last year, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognised that water itself was an independent right, as it was one of the most fundamental conditions for survival. Recognition of this right in national policy-making and legislation is critical to bring about a fundamental change in our approach. A rights based approach will generate political and will help create a culture of resource allocation that will put the interests of the poor first. UN-HABITAT has recently entered into a partnership with the Green Cross International, led by former President Mikhail Gorbachev, to translate the rights-based approach into action at the national and local levels.

• Enhancing Pro-poor Investments

Regrettably, there is an alarming decline in per capita investment in water and sanitation in most developing country cities. The annual flow of resources to the sector, both through domestic mobilization and ODA, will have to increase all round if the MDG targets are to be reached.

Bold initiatives are required to put in place realistic pricing policies that will allow water conservation, discourage its waste and will ensure that the poor will be able to meet their basic needs at a price they can afford. Today, the poor subsidize the rich - a situation that is clearly absurd and unacceptable. The lifeline tariff of South Africa is a clear example of how progressive tariffs can be used as an instrument of social equity.

Equally important, new investments must be tightly focused on the needs of the poorest – more than a billion who live below $1 a day. Examples abound where past investments in water and sanitation have bypassed the poor, benefiting only those who are already connected to municipal supplies. The active involvement of communities in project development is critical for peoples’ voices to be heard in the decision-making process.

The United Nations and other external support agencies should work in close partnership with international financing institutions. Capacity-building efforts should be tightly linked to investments at national and local levels, which are targeted at the poorest.

Soon after the World Summit on Sustainable Development, I announced the establishment of a new Water and Sanitation Trust Fund by UN-HABITAT. With generous support from Canada Fund for Africa and the Governments of Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the Trust Fund has helped to expand the Water for African Cities Programme to 14 countries. I am grateful to African Ministers of AMCOW for their strong support to the implementation of the second phase of this Programme, which was launched at the Pan African Implementation and Partnership conference last year.
UNHABITAT is now working closely with the African Development Bank to develop a strategic partnership between the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund and the African Water Facility in order to promote pro-poor investments in water and sanitation. This has received strong support from the common donors of the two Funds.

• Bringing Sector Reforms to the Local Level

We are all aware that sector reforms need to be speeded up to enhance efficiency, accountability and transparency in public spending and also to create the right environment for greater flow of investment in water and sanitation. But let me be frank and pragmatic here. The poorest countries – who are way behind the MDG targets can not wait for another five or ten years for the reforms to start yielding results. As the Millennium Task Force has pointed out in its draft report, international support through enhanced ODA flows must come in as the sector reforms continue. It is equally important is to ensure that the fruits of sector reforms reach the poor at the local level.

It is for these reasons that UN-HABITAT Water and Sanitation Trust Fund is assisting three East African countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – to achieve water related Millennium Development Goals in 15 small and medium sized towns around Lake Victoria with a large population of poor people. The initiative represents a real opportunity to improve the lives of nearly one million poor people in the Lake Victoria region by rehabilitating run-down water and sanitation infrastructure with an investment of around $ 50 per capita. It is hoped that the project will be implemented over a three-year period and during this time, an important focus of the programme will be to build capacity at local level for sustainability of the improved services.
I would like to congratulate the responsible Ministers of the three countries, Hon. Maria Mutagamba, Hon. Martha Karua and Hon. Edward Lowassa for their leadership in a true spirit of regional cooperation, which will enrich the region’s ability to manage itself. I am much encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitments of support I have received from the donors for providing the required grant support to make this initiative a reality.
We are currently working with the Asian Development Bank to develop a similar regional cooperation initiative in the Greater Mekong region.

Building Partnerships at the Local Level

Community-led initiatives in the water and sanitation sector have seen remarkable progress in several countries in recent years. Several of these initiatives are led by women’s groups which are acting as true agents of change. The challenge in this area is to evaluate these experiences and to find ways of up-scaling them in partnership with local governments.

I would urge donors – be they bilaterals or multilaterals - to look more closely at some of the promising, locally funded, community-driven, initiatives which have produced city-wide improvements in water and sanitation services, by working in partnership with local governments. There is immense opportunity for mobilizing yet untapped local resources through innovative partnerships of this kind that could result in better care for the investment and a greater willingness to pay for the services. UN-HABITAT is increasingly supporting strategic local initiatives through its Water and Sanitation Trust Fund.

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