Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day at the United Nations General Assembly

Happy to share with you my remarks as delivers at the UN General Assembly today. Happy World Water Day! 
High-level Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly on World Water Day
United Nations, March 22, 2013

Mister President,

Thank you for the invitation to join you today, and Happy World Water Day.

WASH Advocates is a nonprofit advocacy and lobbying group in Washington DC, entirely dedicated to the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge. We are independent and have been fully funded by four private philanthropists: the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Wallace Genetic Foundation, and the Osprey Foundation.

A famous American politician, Tip O’Neill, once said that all politics is local. I would suggest that on World Water Day we recognize that all water and sanitation solutions should be local as well. We at WASH Advocates are pushing not simply for access, but for sustainable solutions that are appropriate to local contexts all across the globe. This call echoes the Deputy Secretary General’s remark earlier today that “Global is somebody else’s local.” In the post-2015 context, we also look for solutions which lean forward into tomorrow’s sustainability challenges and threat magnifiers, including urbanization, climate change, and desertification.

This afternoon session is about cooperative solutions, so I’d like take my time to highlight three efforts of other organizations which push us in that direction:

-          Sanitation and Water for All Partnership (SWA): SWA is a powerful platform from which to create and strengthen the political will necessary to achieve zero open defecation by 2025, and universal coverage of WASH by 2030. I am proud that the US has now joined.

-          Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) of the Water and Sanitation Program at the World Bank: one country in Asia lost the equivalent of 6.4% of its GDP to inadequate sanitation just a few years ago. ESI’s data shows a direct causality between sanitation and GDP growth rates, and is likely to get the attention of Finance and Prime Ministers, when little else will. On World Water Day 2013, let’s be sure we are using this data.

-          End Water Poverty has produced an Elections Toolkit that helps us get every candidate for elected office around the world to prioritize water and sanitation. On World Water Day, let’s redouble our efforts to make sanitation and water a part of every election between now and the end of 2015 at the least.

These are uncertain times, but no one in this room is going to bed tonight worrying that his/her daughter will die from waterborne diarrhea tonight.  This is a solvable challenge, and we can do more. I salute you; I applaud your efforts; and I look forward to doing what we can with my colleagues in US civil society.

John Oldfield, CEO, WASH Advocates

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