Water Sanitation Health

Mr Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze, Director-General, United Nations Office, Geneva

Welcoming remarks

World Water Day, Geneva, Switzerland, 20 March 2008
20 March 2008

Your Royal Highness, Madam Director-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a distinct pleasure and a privilege for me to welcome you to the Palais des Nations for the celebration of World Water Day 2008. Allow me, first of all, on behalf of the Secretary-General and the entire United Nations family to thank His Royal Highness for his commitment to the United Nations and his important efforts as the Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

In raising awareness of the challenges in water management and by mobilizing support for action, you are making a highly valuable contribution to the work of the Organization. Your efforts in support of the United Nations are greatly appreciated.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We turn on the tap, and clean water flows. This is the reality for all of us in this room. But, every 20 seconds, a child dies from a preventable disease associated with lack of clean water. That is nearly 2 million children a year. 2.6 billion fellow human beings do not have access to proper sanitation. We have to work to change their reality.

Our planet’s water supplies continue to be under stress due to population growth, unsustainable consumption patterns, poor management practices, pollution and inadequate investment in infrastructure. Climate change is likely to worsen this already dire situation, with devastating consequences for development and for stability.

This year, we are at the halfway mark towards the deadline of 2015 for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Despite pockets of progress in some regions and across a number of Goals, overall we are not on track to meeting these Goals. Access to drinking water and sanitation are among the areas where we are falling way behind. Yet, attaining many of the Goals is closely linked to improving access to a safe water supply and to sanitation facilities.

Water is a shared resource. Partnerships between Governments, international organizations, private business and civil society are crucial to finding common solutions. The International Year of Sanitation 2008 and World Water Day are important opportunities for highlighting the scope of the challenge and for strengthening these essential partnerships. Together, we need to enhance water management capacity and governance at all levels, promote technology transfer and help to marshal additional resources.

On this International Day, let us pledge to scale up efforts to ensure a safe water supply and adequate sanitation for all. Lives depend upon it. As the human family, we have a responsibility to act.

Thank you very much.