Toespraak van Zijne Majesteit de Koning tijdens de laatste bijeenkomst van UNSGAB, New York
Deze toespraak is in het Engels uitgesproken.
Your Imperial Highness, Mr President, Mr Deputy Secretary-General, Madam Chair, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you this morning. We are rounding off 11 years in which UNSGAB has been a key player in the global team working so hard to solve the planet’s foremost water and sanitation troubles.
It’s good to be in your midst again, between friends. It takes me back to the early years, when UNSGAB was still a ‘new kid on the UN-block’. Those early years, when talking about sanitation, toilets and hygiene was still a taboo in many places. When lack of access to drinking water was a major threat and adaptation to climate change was still in its infancy.
Eleven years ago, ‘water’, ‘food’, ‘energy’, ‘health’ and ‘safety’ were often treated as separated issues, each one addressed from its own policy compartment.
It was a bold decision of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish this Advisory Board back in 2004. He believed that a small international group of deeply committed individuals could help make the difference. Members were invited to work in a personal capacity. ‘Rebels with a cause’; that is how some people saw us. UNSGAB acted as a free spirit within the UN. This unorthodox approach paid off!
UNSGAB did not try to ‘reinvent the water wheel’. It did not produce thick reports, nor did it initiate water projects of its own. On the contrary: it tried to build on the work of others, encouraging a cohesion between those who played key roles in water management across the world.
In this way it lead the way in breaking down the barriers between different communities and forging effective coalitions, with UN bodies, financial institutions, regional development banks and private foundations. All of them have made water and sanitation essential parts of their programs.
We have come so far! Nowadays, access to water and sanitation are recognized as basic human rights. The world realizes that sanitation should not be a taboo, but an issue central to health, dignity and development. Politicians, public administrators and reporters address the topic in a manner that is more open and direct than ever.
Since the Millennium Development Goals were launched, 2.3 billion people have gained access to a drinking water source. Nine out of ten people on earth now have improved drinking water – and the number is growing.
The international community has managed to save millions of lives by reducing diseases caused by unclean water and poor hygiene. This just goes to prove what joint efforts can achieve.
UNSGAB has also put much effort into drawing attention to the issue of waste water management. Halving untreated waste water flows is now a global target included in de Sustainable Development Goals.
Together, we have achieved a lot. But we also know that much remains to be done. Like tackling the growing urban water crisis and involving the private sector and civil society more in water-related challenges.
UNSGAB has reached the end of its voyage. I am confident that the UNSGAB legacy will bear much fruit.
Water and sanitation targets have been firmly embedded in the new Sustainable Development Goals which will focus the efforts of the international community over the next fifteen years. In fact, they are more prominent than ever in SDG 6, 11 and 13, and they go well beyond drinking water and sanitation.
Global UN goals must now be converted into regional and local actions. An effective international water architecture to realize these SDG’s is necessary.
Once again, we have to roll our sleeves up. “The bucket of water challenges remains quite full”, in the words of UNSGAB’s final report. Anyone who has been experiencing the fascinating world of water, is ‘hooked’ for life. UNSGAB members move on to other responsibilities, knowing in their hearts that addressing the world’s water issues is actually sustainable development in action.
I have many warm and special memories of my work with my friends on the Board and in the wider UN community. Thank you all for your commitment and for the inspiring UNSGAB years that we shared!