Toespraak van de Prins van Oranje bij de bijeenkomst 'Water for All - The human Right to safe Drinking Water and Sanitation' te Genève

14 maart 2013

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me here today as Chair of the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.  In this role, I have seen the human right to water and sanitation evolve from an idea to a right endorsed by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in the same year.  And during the same period, we have been delighted to watch Catarina de Albuquerque evolve from a relatively unknown WASH personality into a true sanitation and water rockstar.

We were lucky that she joined our meeting in Bulgaria in May 2009, soon after she became the Independent Expert.  Our Board is a group of insightful experts with very strong opinions.  They are all deeply committed to extending water and sanitation services, but we don't always see things the same way.   Many were ardent supporters of the rights based approach.  However, some were skeptical that a human rights framework was really helpful in extending basic services.  In fact, Catarina fielded some very tough questions from our Board along the lines of "how do endless debates about human rights take us any closer to serving the poor?"  It was a lively and provocative conversation, but I do know that all of our members were extremely impressed by Catarina's responses that day, and since then as she has acted as the Special Rapporteur we continue to be impressed with her analysis.  It is an analysis that is both passionate and practical.  She has made a real contribution to this new field and on behalf of my Board, I wish to thank her.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been asked to talk about the evolving post-2015 development framework. 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.  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 which monitors progress on the Millennium Development Goal targets for water and sanitation is taking these issues on board. The Joint Monitoring Programme created a working group on equity and non-discrimination that is led by Catharina - this group is tasked with ensuring that the principles of the human right to water and sanitation are incorporated into the overall JMP position on the post-2015 development agenda. 

This emphasis on reaching out is welcome and we are making 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 so much more in absolute terms than what people pay for water in the Netherlands or here in Switzerland. 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.

Our Board is working with partners to make the case for strong water and sanitation targets in the post 2015 development framework.   First, we need objectives and strategies to achieve universal access to sanitation and to drinking water that is really safe.  It is time to make the human right to sanitation and drinking water a reality. Second, to avoid contaminating our scare water resources, and given that only a fraction of wastewater is treated in many countries, we need global objectives to increase wastewater management and re-use as well as pollution prevention.  Thirdly, to ensure we have a reliable supply of clean water in the pipes, we must address the bigger picture by improving integrated water resources management and water-use efficiency.

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, in others sanitation is directly equated with toilets, and sometimes it expands to include wastewater treatment. 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. They will argue 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, environmental advocates, public health advocates, or we, water and sanitation advocates. That is why in the coming months the water and sanitation community must quickly 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, and of course human rights will strengthen the case for the human right to water and sanitation. 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 of Eminent Persons on post 2015 May report. The water and sanitation community is fortunate to have a dedicated water thematic consultation. I really encourage all of you who care about water, sanitation and human rights to be active consultation participants. 

The main messages of the consultation will be endorsed on 22 March during the World Water Day celebrations in the Hague - I am looking forward to participating in the festivities where I'm sure the human right to water and sanitation will be a central theme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I close, please allow me a "commercial break" to promote  the Sanitation Drive to 2015 campaign.  While so much of the world's attention is captured by thepost2015 development agenda, we still have almost three full years to make progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  And for sanitation, we know that the sanitation MDG target is among the most lagging.  Our Board encouraged member states to adopt a resolution calling for the Sanitation Drive to 2015 to redouble efforts to meet the sanitation target and for the first time in an intergovernmental document, countries called for an end to open defecation.  The rallying cry of the Sanitation Drive is "making the right a reality." One of the five key messages makes the point that access to sanitation is not a charitable impulse, it is a legal entitlement.  I hope everyone here will get active in supporting the Sanitation Drive.  Now.  We have less than three years left!

I have really enjoyed listening to the discussion today.  Thank you for inviting me and though my tenure with UNSGAB is drawing to a close, I know you can depend on all of the Board members to make the right to water and sanitation a reality.