Speech by the Prince of Orange

Beppu, Japan, 4 December 2007

Regional Launch of the International Year of Sanitation 2008 in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Mr. Namiki, Mr. Tanami, Mr Mori, Your Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

When the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board was drafting the Hashimoto Action Plan, we were acutely aware of the lack of progress on sanitation. We knew that real progress is made at the regional, country and local level. And we also knew that bringing sanitation issues to the attention of the highest governmental authorities could create the political commitment on which that regional, country and local level progress depends. So I am truly delighted to see the International Year of Sanitation taking shape in this region as we proposed last year.

Making progress here is vital. We know that of the staggering 2.6 billion people living without adequate sanitation, 1.9 billion live in the Asia-Pacific region. But because this is a region of great cultural, geographic and economic diversity, there is no uniform regional response to the sanitation crisis. Yet solidarity among countries and strong cross-regional support are key to ensuring significant advances in sanitation.

And, ladies and gentlemen, we must make those advances. Clean water and sanitation are not only about hygiene and disease: they are also about human dignity. Relieving oneself in hazardous places means risking everything from urological disease to harassment and rape. Self-esteem can begin with having a safe and proper toilet facility. That is when the utopian vision of further development starts taking a more realistic form.

In India I saw the positive results of the Total Sanitation Campaign, a good example of social innovation implemented by the Indian government. This community-led approach works to end the practice of 'open defecation' in the community as a whole and to promote the use of latrines. By 2012 this campaign should provide rural India with some form of adequate sanitation. Bangladesh is now also implementing this comprehensive campaign that combines community pressure and government rewards.

And when UNSGAB met in Shanghai earlier this year, I was more than pleased to learn that the People's Republic of China is also making impressive progress towards achieving the MDG-7 water and sanitation target, planning to achieve it well before 2015!

The International Year of Sanitation is an opportunity to start addressing these issues in frank language, to remove the "sanitation stigma," which is one reason why this crisis has been ignored. The AIDS pandemic has led to frank talk about unprotected sex and the use of condoms. It is our responsibility to use the IYS to promote the same sort of open discussion about hygiene and the safe disposal of human excreta. Our main dilemma is that we, you and I, policymakers and opinion leaders, are not confronted with the impact of inadequate sanitation. Consequently it takes a lot of effort to generate political will and financial commitment for something that doesn't directly affect us!

At a preparatory meeting this May, participants representing a wide range of stakeholders agreed to a set of eight broad objectives for the IYS. Now is the time to tailor these objectives to regional, national and local contexts. I am encouraged by the substantive focus for today's session and I am looking forward to learning much more about the specific sanitation challenges facing this region.

When I was with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Global Launch of IYS in New York two weeks ago, he called on the international community, national governments and civil society to take up the cause of sanitation with unprecedented vigour. Our rallying cry "sanitation for all" also implies "all for sanitation".

UNSGAB is poised to support your efforts every step of the way. Everyone has a right to sanitation. No one should have to squat in the street or an open field!

Thank you.