Toespraak van de Prins van Oranje bij internationale werkconferentie WASH post-2015 te Den Haag

3 december 2012

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends,

When Kofi Annan asked me six years ago to Chair an Advisory Board to help spur progress on the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation, the year 2015 seemed a long way off. But 2015 is now nearly upon us, although we must not forget we have more than 3 years left to try and achieve the current MDGs. With that in mind, and  after years dedicated to reaching the Millennium Development Goals, I am here today to talk with you about what comes next, about the framework which will succeed the Goals. All of us here, I know, share the same deep hope that this next global development agenda which is taking shape will bring equity, human rights, water, sanitation, development and a better life for all of humanity.

As recently as last Saturday I had the opportunity to speak to a grassroots WASH development worker in Kenya who told me unequivocally that in his opinion the MDGs were the best that ever came out of the United Nations. He almost begged me to ensure a robust follow-up with realistic goals. If I would have ever doubted the necessity of a post 2015 framework, which I can assure you is not the case, his plea would have been enough to convince me! And it is up to us not to let those hard workers down! But where do we start?

Shaping the next global development agenda takes care, commitment and extensive knowledge. And, of course, it is a complicated affair with lots of moving parts. 

Here is some of what is already underway:

  • The Secretary-General has tasked a high-level panel of eminent persons with preparing a forceful report by next May.
  •  The UN-development group's World We Want 2015 project oversees 109 country consultations and 11 thematic consultation-including one on water-to gather grass-roots input for the high-level panel's report
  • Acting on commitments made at Rio +20, countries are developing Sustainable Development Goals to capture global objectives for a sustainable future. 
  • Jeffrey Sachs heads a Sustainable Development Solutions Network working with business, civil society, U.N. agencies and other international organizations to identify and share the best pathways to achieve sustainable development. 
  • Beyond 2015 unites civil society to work towards a global, overarching, cross-thematic framework that includes voices of those directly affected by poverty and injustice.

Confused yet?

Clearly, this is a massive effort that emphasizes outreach. And rightfully so. The MDGs were criticised for being cooked up by technocrats behind closed doors.  The pendulum this time has swung forcefully in the opposite direction with so much consultation that it is difficult to see where consensus might emerge.  And yet we can already see that some issues like human rights, equity and good governance are gaining traction.  These objectives were not adequately captured by the MDGs. Human rights, equity and good governance will, however, have a place in the post-2015 agenda and the Joint Monitoring Programme is taking these issues on board. This is welcome and we should all make the case that equity, human rights and governance live, and are vividly illustrated, through water and sanitation. Consider a woman who has no other choice but to buy bottled water for her family. She might spend close to half of her income for this basic need, paying much more in absolute terms than what I pay for my water here in the Netherlands.  Poor governance almost surely put her in this abysmal situation and keeps her there. And while she may not see this as matter of inequity in the abstract, every day she suffers a violation of her human right.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of all our Board members, congratulations to you all for your foresight and commitment to ensuring that the water and sanitation community can offer objectives built on the MDG experience.  The proposed targets are both ambitious and realistic and include progressive satisfaction. We welcome that the targets take into account school and health facilities, a call for ending open defecation, and emphasize equity.  In addition, including a simplified assessment for water safety and "basic" and "intermediate" coverage are important steps in the right direction.

Our Board is advocating for a full-fledged post-2015 water goal. At its heart is universal access to drinking water and sanitation. To thrive, this heart needs a sustaining support system.  Good hygiene and improved water resources management are fundamental sustaining elements as are water efficiency, water quality, and wastewater management. 

Once the late night negotiation sessions and brokering among member states really gets going sanitation and water advocates will be just one of hundreds of constituencies clamouring for limited space, limited resources and a limited number of words that will be part of the post-2015 agreement.  As sanitation advocates, we face some challenges.  In certain contexts sanitation can mean garbage collection, in others it includes hygiene, and in others sanitation is directly equated with toilets.  Water faces similar challenges.  Are we talking about drinking water, water resources management, or water to maintain ecosystems?  Given this reality, it is important that the water and sanitation goals offered to the intergovernmental process are both well-crafted and simple.

In these negotiations we can imagine the arguments of say the education community. That education is the cornerstone of development.  That investing in economic development, public health and environmental sustainability is fruitless without also investing in education. Sound familiar?  And, of course, education advocates are not wrong.  Nor are poverty reduction advocates, or human rights advocates, or public health advocates, or we, water and sanitation advocates. That is why in the coming months we must quickly take the results of this meeting to build alliances with education, poverty reduction, human rights and particularly public health groups. Making the linkages to these other communities supporting inequities, education, health, gender, human rights and poverty reduction will strengthen our case.  One place to do this is through the World We Want 2015 Thematic Consultations.  The international community is rallying around these consultations.  They offer an easily accessible opportunity to contribute views.  Each consultation is closely monitored and the discussions will be distilled for input to the High-level Panel's May report.  The water and sanitation community is fortunate to have a dedicated water thematic consultation.  Thus far, this consultation is rather quiet.  Let's make some noise at www.worldwewant2015.org!

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I opened by listing only a few of the initiatives aiming to shape the post-2015 agenda. In this crowded field, to have influence, we must be focused.  We must be strategic.  We have to master the complex process underway.  Drawing on our diverse strengths, lets seize all opportunities because we understand that sanitation and water are so fundamental to human health, economic growth, gender equity and environmental sustainability.  Thanks to the work of all of you here, we are ahead of the game.

As most of you know, our Board does not implement programmes.  Nor do we fund projects.  Our strength is that we have access to political processes and places of power.  We have built a reputation since 2004 as strong advocates for sanitation and water and we intend to use that to influence the post-2015 agenda. We have two Board members participating in this meeting, Ms Margaret Cately-Carlson  and. Mr. Gerard Payen. They both bring intelligence, experience and insight and will spend the next few days with the JMP team thinking of creative and effective ways how we can join forces in the post-2015 discussion.

No one here needs to be convinced that without a proper toilet, life is diminished and dignity suffers. Or that watching a child sicken and die of diarrhea is a heart-breaking devastation.  Or that a menstruating girl who stays home from school for want of a private place for personal hygiene is a preventable tragedy. These realities drive our work.  I thank all of you for the commitment and passion you bring. I would like to thank representatives from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, WHO, UNICEF and UN-Water for their statements. On behalf of our Board, please accept our wishes for a most successful session.