United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Secretary-General Mr. Michel Jarraud, World Meteorological Organization, Chair of UN-Water

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UN-Water Chair’s Speaking Points
By video link, 23 May 2013, 21:00-22:00 CEDT
General Assembly Open Working Group On Sustainable Development Goals
Third Session, 22-24 May 2013, New York
Co-Chairs, Excellencies, distinguished participants,
In my role of Chair of UN-Water, it is a great privilege to be
here with you today to give this keynote address and to
introduce the UN Technical Support Team’s Issues Brief on
water and sanitation.
I would first like to thank the UN Technical Support Team
for the excellent Issues Brief on water and sanitation, which
is very informative and balanced. During my intervention, I
would like to present its salient points and shall highlight
some emerging themes that you may wish to consider.
Before starting, I would like to recall that the Rio+20
outcome document “The Future We Want” recognizes that
“water is at the core of sustainable development” and of its
three dimensions.
At Rio+20, Member States reconfirmed previous
commitments made in the Johannesburg Plan of
Implementation and the Millennium Declaration, and
stressed as well the fundamental human right to safe
drinking-water and sanitation.
Member States committed to an integrated vision for water
resources, encompassing the management of water
ecosystems and the reduction of water pollution to improve
water quality and quantity, safe and affordable drinkingwater
and sanitation for all, improvement of water
efficiency and addressing water-related disasters, such as
floods and droughts, as well as water scarcity.
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The Rio+20 outcome document also highlights the linkages
and interdependencies between water and other priority
areas, such as food security and nutrition, sustainable cities,
health and population, biodiversity, desertification and
many natural disasters.
***
Excellencies, distinguished participants,
What is the situation to-date with respect to the vision
enshrined in the Rio+20 “The Future We Want”?
Today, as we know, the Millennium Development Goal
Target on drinking-water, as measured by access to
improved water sources, was met. Yet, further progress is
still needed to realize fully the human right to safe drinkingwater
and sanitation. Today, diarrhoeal disease is still the
second cause of death in Low Income Countries and the
fifth biggest globally. The vast majority of these deaths are
children under five.
Roughly 800 million people remain without access to an
improved water source and many more remain without safe
and sustainable water supply.
Today, the MDG sanitation target is the most lagging of the
MDGs. 2.5 billion people live without improved sanitation.
1.1 billion people still practice open defecation. Without
significant policy change and investment, around 1.4 billion
people are projected to be without access to sanitation in
2015.
Also there is widespread discrimination and inequalities in
the access to drinking-water and sanitation services. As an
example, in many countries, women and girls carry the
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burden of fetching water. Poor water and sanitation
conditions also affect their health negatively, including
sexual and reproductive health. There is also clear evidence
of the linkages between the lack of sanitation and
malnutrition, with long-lasting effects on human capital and
growth.
The focus of the MDGs on aggregate global outcomes tends
to mask these inequalities. Improvements in access often do
not reach those groups who suffer most — the elderly,
persons with disabilities, women and children. This is also
reflected in the fact that schools and health centers too often
lack appropriate drinking-water and sanitation facilities.
Another clear lesson from the MDGs is that the Target for
drinking-water and sanitation does not address the wider
water agenda as called for at Rio+20, including water
resources and wastewater management and issues of water
quality, which are critical for sustainable development.
Access to safe drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene, food
and energy production, disaster risk reduction, industrial
development and healthy ecosystems rely on the availability
and sustainable management of the water resource.
Over 1.7 billion people live today in river basins where
water use exceeds recharge often by a large margin, leading
to the depletion of groundwater and rivers. As countries
develop and populations grow and urbanize, their demand
for water is projected to increase by 55% by 2050. Two
thirds of the world’s population could be living in waterstressed
countries by 2025 if current consumption patterns
and demographic evolution continue. 80% of wastewater
from human settlements and industrial sources worldwide is
discharged directly untreated into water bodies, with
detrimental effects on human health and the environment.
At the same time climate change is anticipated to increase
the spatial and temporal variability of the hydrological cycle
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and in particular the frequency and intensity of several
extreme events such as floods and droughts.
These trends could increase the risk of conflicts over water.
To achieve poverty eradication and universal human
development, while respecting the Earth’s finite and
vulnerable water resource base, water productivity needs to
be enhanced significantly, appropriate infrastructure
developed, an integrated approach to water resources
management implemented, water governance systems
improved at all levels (including transboundary level), and
ecosystems protected and restored.
On a positive note, there is a growing body of evidence that
shows that, in all water-related investments, the benefits far
exceed the costs. For example: the value of wetlands for
human well-being has been estimated at several trillion US
dollars; The benefits of achieving universal access to
sanitation outweigh the costs by a factor of 5.5 to 1, whereas
for universal access to drinking-water the ratio is estimated
at 2 to 1.
However, to fully realise these benefits, we need to move
from a sectoral approach to a nexus approach. We need to
analyse and exploit better the inter-linkages and
interdependencies among water and food security, energy,
health, environment, job creation, peace and security. Wise
water management stands at the core of this nexus approach
that calls for a better synergy between technical solutions
and political will and commitment.
***
Ladies and Gentlemen
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Let me now consider the approaches that have been put
forward to respond to these challenges, in particular with
respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
Several proposals for integrating water and sanitation issues
into the SDGs framework have been made so far. These can
be broadly grouped in two categories.
The first category proposes to integrate the social, economic
and environmental dimensions of the water challenge in one
single water-related SDG. Proposals falling under this
category tend to combine an access to safe drinking-water
and sanitation target, with a water resources management
and water use efficiency target, as well as with a
wastewater/water quality target.
The many proponents of a stand-alone water-related SDG
stress that all water issues are connected through the
hydrological cycle. The complex interrelations between the
various water-related needs require an integrated approach
which would be better catalysed by keeping these aspects
together in one SDG.
The second category identifies the development dimensions
first such as, for example, basic human needs,
environmental sustainability, equality and gender. Thematic
targets are then assigned under each dimension. In this case
different water-related issues would be addressed in
different goals.
Proponents of this approach stress that bringing together
different related policy objectives along different
dimensions would limit the number of goals and allow
numerous related sectors (e.g. energy, food security, health,
water) to be addressed jointly.
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While the Issues Brief produces an objective summary of
various positions, I wish to underline that UN-Water
Members and Partners overwhelmingly support the option
of the “One SDG on Water”.
***
Excellencies, distinguished participants,
In your last meeting, it was noted that conceptualizing the
SDGs is not an exact science, but ultimately a political
endeavour reflecting what is possible or, as it was also
suggested, reflecting what is the highest common ambition.
To help define this highest common ambition, a number of
processes and consultations have been organised at the
global as well as at the regional and the national levels. In
particular, I would like to mention the Global Thematic
Consultation on Water, which was co-hosted by the
Governments of Jordan, Liberia, Mozambique, Netherlands
and Switzerland, and facilitated by UN-Water under the
UNDG umbrella on the “World We Want” platform.
All stakeholders from around the world were encouraged to
take stock of the lessons learnt from the implementation of
the MDGs and to indicate the key global water-related
challenges to inform the post-2015 development framework,
in ways that are measurable, inter-generational, ambitious,
pragmatic, and rest on the equitable use of the water
resource.
It is important to mention that the Global Thematic
Consultation on Water has collected opinions, without
influencing the discussions, but just facilitating them.
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The messages emerging from the Consultation confirm that,
as the Rio+20 Outcome Document says, “water is at the
core of sustainable development”.
The participants in the Consultation suggested that the
future agenda should seek to achieve the MDGs and other
existing commitments but also to build on and go beyond
them. The new agenda should encourage an integrated
approach to water expressed in universally agreed goals
which should be simple and able to focus policies, resources
and all partners on delivering concrete outcomes that
improve people’s lives and protect the future generations
and the environment.
***
Excellencies and distinguished participants,
I would like to conclude my intervention by highlighting the
following four key aspects.
First, water issues are in people’s hearts and this gives us a
strong support for future action.
Second, this future action should be broad and include all
the elements of the hydrological cycle, going beyond a
sectoral approach.
Third, the goals need to be ambitious and inspire
behavioural changes: business as usual will not get the job
done in achieving sustainable development goals.
Fourth, the targets should be realistic, achievable and
measurable, as the experience of the MDGs shows that
aspirational goals, alone, do not work. Instead, a more
realistic and flexible framework would allow to take into
account the existing differences among countries.
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Such flexibility will allow the necessary responsiveness to
new technical developments in monitoring and in
infrastructure, and it will also respond to the challenge of
reconciling a global goal with the variety of national, local
or basin-specific realities.
However, these are no small challenges and, for this reason,
we need the collective strength of all stakeholders together,
working in true partnership.
We are at a critical junction and there could not be a more
auspicious time for making bold decisions than during this
year 2013, the International Year of Water Cooperation, and
after the launch of the UN Deputy Secretary-General’s Call
for Action on Sanitation.
I wish to assure you that, in the post-2015 landscape, the
UN System, and UN-Water in particular as the “one
common voice” of the UN and the main lever for action on
freshwater and sanitation, stands ready to respond to needs
and demands, continuing to bring together collective
experience and action.
In the immediate, more work is needed to build the evidence
base on water-related targets and their indicators, and on
identifying data-needs to capture the many dimension and
inter-linkages and to ensure national relevance and
measurability. This is something that UN-Water has already
started to work on, in order to provide you with the
consolidated collective expertise of the UN System and of
its partners, and to inform and support your decisions.
***
Excellencies, distinguished participants,
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As I mentioned at the beginning of my intervention, it has
been a privilege and an honour for me to be here with you
today and share with you some elements for your
consideration. Let us never forget that life is possible only
because we are on a blue planet. Let me conclude by saying
that the importance of water should never be “watered
down”!
I thank you for your attention and I wish you successful
deliberations.
***