It gives me great pleasure to extend my congratulations to all the leaders and other participants in this first Global WASH Forum on the vital issues of water, sanitation and hygiene for all.
This forum is both timely and crucial. As we continue our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the target year of 2015, and as we approach the International Decade for Action, from 2005 to 2015 under the theme of “Water for Life”, the stark truth is that every 15 seconds, a child dies as a result of diseases related to unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation. Such deaths can be prevented, but only if we improve on the progress we have made to date, working simultaneously on water and sanitation and on the wider effort to alleviate the crushing poverty and debilitating health conditions that afflict so many men, women and children.
I welcome the Forum’s focus on actions at the local and national levels, since little can be accomplished at the international level unless communities, local authorities and national governing structures are themselves committed and fully involved in making sure that real actions are taking place in their midst. I also wish you every success with the new initiatives to be announced at the forum: the “African Ministerial Initiative”, which rightly stresses the importance of sustained, high-level political engagement, and “Global Women Leaders for WASH”, which rightly emphasizes the central role that women play in sustainable development.
WASH has helped to place the issues of clean water, basic sanitation and good hygiene firmly in the public consciousness and on the political agenda. The United Nations supports the principles behind the campaign in the hope that one day the world will no longer have to face the dire consequences of inadequate access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation: the burden of disease, the unacceptably high death toll, especially of children, the suffering and time lost by women in fetching water, and the heavy economic and social costs borne by some of the poorest countries. Thank you for your commitment to this cause, and for working so actively and creatively to mobilize the human, technological and financial resources needed to succeed. Your deliberations will also contribute to next year’s session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which will focus on water, sanitation and human settlements, and to the work of my own Advisory Board for Water and Sanitation. In that spirit of partnerships, please accept my best wishes for a successful forum.