Speech by the Prince of Orange

Bogotá, Colombia, 16 November 2007

9th Meeting of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation Inter-American Dialogue.

Mr. President, your excellencies, dear colleagues. I thank all of you for making the effort to be here for this important discussion. I also wish to express my gratitude to the Government of Colombia, for hosting us so graciously and for supporting our meeting. And, President Uribe, thank you for joining us - your presence demonstrates your firm commitment to water and sanitation issues. I would also like to thank our hosts today, the IDB, Germany's GTZ, and the Government of Japan. The Hashimoto Action Plan is our Board's first report. It also is our last. The Action Plan is concise-just 12 pages long. It makes no new mandates or proclamations. It draws on targets the international community has already set for itself. We believe that now is the time for action. The Hashimoto Action Plan makes many requests of National Governments, regional development banks and regional and sub-regional organizations such as yours. For it is at the regional level that coordinating action on water and sanitation will have the most impact.
Our Board sees these Regional Dialogues as our best opportunity to hear from the real decision makers and on-the-ground practitioners about the challenges you face daily in your efforts to deliver clean drinking water and sanitation services to the people of your Region. According to the latest figures of the Joint Monitoring Programme of WHO/UNICEF, 145 million inhabitants in Latin American and the Caribbean still do not have access to adequate basic sanitation facilities. Only 14% of wastewater is treated, posing a direct threat to the environment and leading to health problems. The challenge may seem enormous, but it can be done! And you each represent a piece of that solution. Today, thanks to the organizors of this meeting, we have before us sets of questions on sanitation, capacity building and governance, financing as well on the International Year of Sanitation. These questions will help frame our discussion. I would like to touch on a few topics that we believe are especially critical. In the Hashimoto Action Plan we proposed that an International Year of Sanitation could be an effective tool to galvanize action and raise political will to make critical advances to meeting the sanitation crisis. The General Assembly endorsed the IYS and now we must seize this historic opportunity to generate the political will to tackle this human development emergency. We must talk frank about sanitation in frank language, and discuss openly the sad fact that 2.6 billion people live their lives without a safe, clean and private place to defecate. It is an issue of human dignity, health and development. And we know, progress in sanitation will bring us closer to reaching at least 5 other MDGs. Objectives for the IYS have been drafted, and they provide a basis for action and next week we will officially launch the International Year in New York. These are positive advancements for the IYS, however, you are the actors who will really make a difference. We have tried to create an enabling environment on the global level, but it is at the sub-national, national and regional scales where real progress is made. Please share with us your ideas, proposals and policies relating to the IYS so we can effectively coordinate to make a radical difference in so many people's lives. We are all aware that water and sanitation infrastructure and service equipment are not free to build or operate. The Hashimoto Action Plan chapter on Financing makes many recommendations including that governments must prioritize water and sanitation in their national budgeting, and I commend Colombia for increasing the financing available for water supply coverage from US $174 million in 1993, to US $921 million for the year 2005, and for the focus on sanitation in the new four year development plan that was recently adopted. I also congratulate the Inter-American Development Bank on their Water and Sanitation Initiative which commits new resources for well-targeted programmes. More money is obviously a key ingredient, however it must be well governed, and capacity building, especially at the municipal level is critical. To address the need for capacity development we proposed the creation of Water Operator Partnerships, commonly known as WOPs, to promote cooperation between local water operators to strengthen local water services. WOPs have been welcomed by the international community and UN-Habitat now hosts this programme in Nairobi, and WOPs are currently being rolled out in Latin America and the Caribbean. Again, we would like to hear from you how WOPs can be most effective in your region, and also how to address the need for sustained financing for water delivery and sanitation. July 1, 2007 marked the half way point in our pursuit of the MDGs. Over seven and a half years have passed since 2000 when countries committed themselves to improving the lives of so many still in need. That means we have less than 7 and a half years to go. Our Board is dedicated to doing everything in our power to reach the water and sanitation targets. But, of course, we can only make progress if we work in concert with you. Thank you all for being here, and thank you President Uribe. I am looking forward to addressing our sets of questions and to our time together today. I am confident we can make progress on water and sanitation challenges to improve health, dignity and development. I also wish you a fruitful dialogue with lively debate and resulting in positive action.