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Address Unequal Access to Water, Sanitation, Deputy Secretary-General Urges States, at General Assembly President’s High-Level Meeting

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the President of the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on the “Implementation of the Water-Related Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda”, today:

Let me begin by expressing my deepest condolences to the families, the people and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania on the recent passing of President [John Pombe Joseph] Magufuli.  May his soul rest in peace.

It is my pleasure to join you for this high-level event on water, convened by the President of the General Assembly.

The General Assembly declared the years from 2018 to 2028 the International Decade for Action on “Water for Sustainable Development”.  Indeed, galvanizing support to address the water crisis is essential to the implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, from health to food security and gender equality.

As underscored by UN-Water’s latest progress report, the world is not on track to meet the SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] 6 targets by 2030.  To achieve universal access to water and sanitation, the current rate of progress would need to quadruple.

Moreover, the planetary crisis, including the interlinked threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, will increase water scarcity.  By 2040, one in four of the world’s children under 18 — some 600 million — will be living in areas of extremely high water stress.

The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly reminded us that water and sanitation are among the keys to fighting infectious diseases.  Yet 3 billion people, especially in rural areas and least developed countries, lack basic handwashing facilities at home.

Today, I want to highlight three imperatives.

First, I urge countries to use pandemic recovery plans to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals and to address the unequal access to water and sanitation.  This will help us be better prepared to face future pandemics.

Second, I call on Governments to raise ambition on climate action.  More than 90 per cent of natural disasters are water-related.  Increased flooding threatens to destroy water points and sanitation facilities and contaminate our water sources.  I reiterate the call of the Secretary-General to allocate 50 per cent of climate finance to adaptation.

Third, we need more women decision-makers at the table.  Women and girls suffer disproportionately when water and sanitation are lacking, affecting health and often restricting work and education opportunities.  But women are also the backbone of agriculture and key stewards of natural resources.  The COVID-19 response has highlighted the power of women’s leadership.  Let’s draw on this experience as policies are put in place to build a green economy.

The United Nations system came together last year, under the leadership of UN-Water, to put together an SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework which seeks to improve global water and sanitation governance and management.  The Framework is an important vehicle to share lessons, knowledge, solutions and good practices.  Through its accelerators, the Framework can provide crucial input to the 2023 Water Conference.

I am encouraged by the joint statement published ahead of this meeting and signed by 160 countries, demonstrating their strong commitment to advancing SDG 6.  The joint statement highlights critical challenges to progress on this agenda: from a lack of visibility in international processes, to water scarcity driven by increasing demand and climate change, to current levels of financing that remain inadequate.  But these countries also recognize the need for innovative approaches to solve these challenges:  multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approaches to achieve integrated water resource management; more data and science-based information on the impacts of climate change; as well as strengthening transboundary water cooperation.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy.  But it has also created an opportunity to build a more inclusive and sustainable world and make peace with nature.  The Sustainable Development Goals, with water and sanitation as a key enabler, provide clear guidance for transformation we need.

I wish you success in your important deliberations.


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