Opening remarks by the Prince of Orange

Tunis, Tunisia, 14 December 2006

at the start of the African Dialogue at the Seventh Meeting of the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In opening this meeting, I would like to pay tribute to the first chair of the Advisory Board, Mr Ryutaro Hashimoto. Sir Isaac Newton once said that he fully realized that - as a scientist - he was standing on the shoulders of giants. Here in Tunis, I have something of the same feeling. Until his untimely death earlier this year, Mr Hashimoto was the driving force behind the Advisory Board. The Board has lost a skilled chairman and an inspiring leader. But his name will live on in the Hashimoto Action Plan.

Launched at the World Water Forum in March and endorsed by the Secretary-General, the Hashimoto Action Plan is our first report. It is also our last. The Action Plan is concise - just twelve pages long. It contains no new mandates or proclamations. Instead, it concentrates on the targets the international community has already set for itself. So our message is a simple one: no more new ideas and policies. We better implement the ones we already have. It's time for action.

Today's Regional Dialogue on Africa - the first of a series - is a critical step in achieving the goals of the Hashimoto Action Plan. I should like to thank the African Development Bank for its support in organising this dialogue. And I thank all of you for coming. This meeting is about identifying specific actions that can encourage action on water and sanitation in Africa. And you are the key players.

I believe it's only fitting that Africa is our first stop. The 2006 Human Development Report and the very recent study by the UN University in Helsinki only reaffirm the urgent need for poverty reduction in Africa. And as we all know, there is a close link between poverty reduction and water goals. Indeed, without access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, poverty will remain part of the daily lives of millions. It's my belief that achieving genuine sustainable development requires an integrated approach to water issues. That's the big picture we have to keep in mind as we work towards 2015.

For this reason it is encouraging that Africa is also home to many notable successes in the field of water management. Tunisia, for example, has made enormous progress on water reuse and sanitation. Mauritania is focusing successfully on simplified water supply systems. And Uganda and Mozambique have raised public investments on water and sanitation to such an extent that the MDG goals are now within reach.

Of course there are many more inspiring examples that we can build on and emulate. And that's where you come in, because regional development banks, national governments, and regional and subregional organisations like yours are at the heart of the Hashimoto Action Plan. The Advisory Board believes that coordinating water and sanitation programmes at regional level will have the strongest impact. In that respect, the African Development Bank is showing us the way with its Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative. It aims to supply safe drinking water and sanitary facilities to eighty per cent of the rural population of Africa by 2015. This means providing drinking water to an estimated 270 million people and sanitary facilities to 300 million. Together these targets will require an annual investment of around 1.2 billion US dollars. We look forward to hearing about the progress you've made later today.

One issue that we as the Advisory Board would like to highlight today is the development of Water Operator Partnerships or WOPs. We are convinced that strengthening cooperation among water operators will greatly improve the functioning of urban water utilities. This will especially benefit slum dwellers and other disadvantaged urban groups. But we need you in order to implement this part of our Action Plan. So I invite you to share your views about how we can best do this.

Finally, I hope you will speak frankly about how the Advisory Board can be most helpful to you. There's a lot we can do. We can engage with your Boards of Governors and with your governments. We can use our mandate from the Secretary-General to act as advocates on your behalf. We can propose meetings. We can write targeted letters. And we can work on donors. And I promise you that we're willing to do all these things. Just tell us what you need.

Ladies and gentlemen, this meeting is meant to be a dialogue, so I will now bring my monologue to a close. Let's go to work, so we can leave here with a defined set of tasks based on the Hashimoto Action Plan.

Thank you.