Toespraak van de Prins van Oranje bij bijeenkomst ‘Sanitation and Water for All’ in Washington DC

20 april 2012

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Excellencies, colleagues, friends,

I am both honored and pleased to join you today as Chair of the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. The organizers asked me to present the state of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.  This is a welcome task since I am sharing two pieces of encouraging news.  First, as you know, the Millennium Development Goal target for access to improved sources of drinking water has been met, a testament to political will and concentrated effort.  Second, we have seen significant progress on the commitments made at the 2010 High Level Meeting, which I had the pleasure of chairing.  Today, we gather together again with the confidence that our meeting will have real impact. 

The Joint Monitoring Programme shares encouraging news about the water target.  The data also show sobering trends.Clearly, we need to urgently scale up access. There are still 780 million without access to improved sources of drinking water. In addition, it hasn't been possible to measure water quality all over the world, but we do know that a significant number of those people with improved sources are using water that is actually not safe to drink. Poor maintenance or construction mean that improved sources do not always reliably provide safe water - so there is still much to do, and millions need our continued efforts on drinking water supply.  The JMP also shares unfortunate news on basic sanitation.  2.5 billion continue to lack this basic service, essential for public health and human dignity.  Many of you in this room represent these billions of unserved people.

Some regions are lagging behind, in particular Sub Saharan Africa, where more than a third of the population lacks access to improved sources of drinking water, and two-thirds lack sanitation.  When I look around the room today I am heartened by the fact that so many countries from this region have joined Sanitation and Water for All. 

We also know the poor are being left behind - the analysis by wealth quintiles in the JMP report makes that dramatically clear. And women still, literally, carry the burden of poor water supply - with implications for their health and wellbeing. And as we all know, when mothers are not well, their children suffer. 

Although progress is being made on sanitation, it is still off-track and open defecation is widespread. Open defecation is still practiced by more than half the population in 19 countries, and by 15 per cent of the global population - a staggering 1.1 billion people, most of them in rural areas. 

The reasons for these gaps become very clear when we read the UN Water Global Assessment and Analysis of Sanitation and Water - the GLAAS report. It tells us that aid is still not well-targeted to those most in need, and finance for water and sanitation is insufficient. Even more worrying, it tells us that many governments report difficulties in spending the funds they do have available.  Absorptive capacity is a real stumbling block in the water and sanitation sector. Institutional capacity needs to be scaled up so that funds can be invested in a timely and effective manner. 

The GLAAS report also tells us that there is insufficient staff in place to operate and maintain sanitation and drinking water infrastructure, and an acute shortage of extension staff for hygiene promotion. Our gains in terms of the MDG targets are thus at risk - lack of operation and maintenance means that systems are at risk of failing, and lack of crucial hygiene education means we may not realize the full benefits of improved drinking water sources and better sanitation. 

But there is also good news.  Aid for the sector continues to rise, despite the economic crisis, increasing by 3% between 2008 and 2010.  Aid to basic systems has increased, and in 2010 stood at a quarter of total sector aid. The data tell us, however, that aid is still disproportionately targeted to urban infrastructure - despite the JMP evidence that tells us the vast majority of un-served people live in rural areas.  And drinking water continues to absorb the majority of sector funding, even though it is sanitation that lags so far behind.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go in terms of improving targeting of aid in this sector.  This is further illustrated by the fact that only half of WASH aid is allocated to sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia andSoutheastern Asia, when almost three quarters of the un-served live in those areas. 

We do see progress because decision-makers - those of you in this room - are making water and sanitation a higher priority. When I helped chair the meeting in 2010, there were 17 developing countries at the table, today there are more than 35. More than 200 commitments were tabled at the 2010 meeting, and you have reported on your progress. Many of the commitments have already been fulfilled.  I am delighted that this partnership is showing concrete results on the ground. 

Perhaps the most heartening progress has been in terms of financing. More than twenty specific commitments were made by twelve countries related to increasing the allocations to water and sanitation made from developing countries' own budgets, and many of those have been fulfilled

External financing agencies also made commitments, and many of them have also been fulfilled since 2010.  As we can see from the GLAAS report, financing agencies are continuing to invest in WASH. Targeting may be an issue, but the strong showing of donors at today's meeting makes it clear that donors see the WASH sector as a sound investment. 

Political progress is also real - but there are challenges ahead.  In June a new global agenda for sustainable development will be discussed atRio+20.  Our Board has pushed very hard to ensure that universal access to both drinking water and sanitation are included in the goals of that new agenda.  We are also advocating for the advancement of wastewater collection, treatment and reuse. Alongside Rio+20, the UN system is ramping up discussions of its post 2015 development framework.  Whatever emerges from Rio+20, will most certainly inform the decision on post 2015. UNSGAB is keeping a close eye on these two processes and we are prepared to seize every opportunity to advocate for universal access to water and sanitation.  We welcome the chance to partner with SWA and other groups in this effort.  This is a process involving governments, so I encourage all of the ministers here today to advocate for strong national government commitments for universal access.

In January, the Secretary-General, launched a UN-wide initiative for universal access to water and sanitation in the course of his second mandate.We are especially pleased that our long time friend and ally, Ambassador. Eliasson, will be soon be taking up his role as Deputy SG.  Ambassador, we look forward to working with you during what will be an exciting time for water and sanitation at the UN.

Excellencies and friends,

While we must balance the achievement of the MDG target for water with concern for the millions still waiting for better water, sanitation and hygiene, there is cause for optimism.  Being here today, in this very crowded room, convinces me that that optimism is well founded.