United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Message to High-Level Conference on the mid-term review of the implementation of the international decade, "Water for Life," 2005 - 2015

Delivered by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

I thank the Government of Tajikistan for hosting this conference.

More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. These deaths are an affront to our common humanity and undermine our work for development.

Almost one billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Two-point-six billion lack access to basic sanitation services. Meanwhile, we are pouring millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste into the world's water system every day. Clean water, which is already scarce, will become more so with climate change. And as with so many global ills, the poor, including disproportionate numbers of women and children, suffer most -- from pollution, water shortages, floods and lack of sanitation.

That is why the United Nations declared the years 2005 ? 2015 the International Decade for Action on water resources management. The Decade is meant to focus efforts on fulfilling international commitments on water and related issues by 2015, with a particular emphasis on women's participation. This conference is a key event for mobilizing the necessary support. Your work here will also contribute to preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 ? Rio plus 20.

We must collaborate on action plans that enable everyone, in every country, to access water. This is a prerequisite for lifting people out of poverty and achieving economic growth. It is central to achieving every one of the Millennium Development Goals.

We must also improve our management of trans-boundary waters. Disagreements over resources can be averted, when there is collective political will to improve cooperation.

This is a crucial issue for Tajikistan and its neighbours. During my recent visit to Dushanbe and other Central Asian capitals, I urged leaders to resolve differences over resources and other issues through dialogue. The UN's Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy can play a key role in such efforts.

The United Nations is committed to assisting Member States in tackling the complex political, economic and environmental challenges related to trans-boundary issues, as well as to water quality, scarcity and capacity-building. We must work together to protect our waters, and to enable everyone to have access to them. Please accept my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.