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Remarks by Gilbert Houngbo, President of IFAD at the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB+5)

Online Conference

Où: Virtual event

12 février 2021

Your Majesty the Emperor of Japan,

Your Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

In 2004 the United Nations set up a group of distinguished people to identify solutions to the world's water and sanitation challenges. They issued a final report in 2015, The UNSG Advisory Board Journey, with seven clear, concise and actionable recommendations. Six years on, these recommendations remain a benchmark for measuring our progress on these vital issues.

The Board built its actions and proposals upon three elements: vision, conviction and determination. First, the Advisory Board had the vision to draw attention to water and sanitation and highlight their critical role in achieving the 2030 Agenda. Today we see clearly that we will be successful only through a whole-of-society approach.

The SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework is a new, unifying initiative designed specifically to deliver the promise of water and sanitation for all by 2030. High-level support from the UN Secretary-General and Chief Executives Board was crucial to putting this Framework in place. I sincerely believe that the Advisory Board’s demand for, I quote, "the will to act now", end quote, for water and sanitation helped build the necessary support for the Global Acceleration Framework within the UN system and beyond.

Secondly, the Advisory Board’s conviction that water and sanitation are a key issue led to a focus on gathering proof. This has brought a big improvement in the way progress towards SDG6, delivering water and sanitation for all, is monitored.

In 2015, there were three separate mechanisms for monitoring; today, there is a single overarching initiative. The Advisory Board was a vigorous advocate of holistic and accurate monitoring. This has borne fruit. Last year, the UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 undertook a data drive to collect information on the 11 indicators of SDG 6. Now we have a comprehensive assessment of where we are and where we need to increase and accelerate our efforts.

Lastly, I would like to mention the Advisory Board’s determination: the results from our 2020 data drive show that while progress has been made in areas such as access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, much remains to be done.

2.2 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water, 55 per cent of the world’s population lacks safe sanitation, and 3 billion people lack a basic handwashing facility at home. That is unacceptable, especially during a pandemic where hygiene is our first line of defence.

In addition to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), the 2015 UNSGAB Journey report identified four areas as desperately needing accelerations. These were: transboundary issues, wastewater management, ecosystems and financial flows. Our data drive confirms this assessment. For example, only 22 countries reported having operational arrangements for transboundary cooperation and one fifth of the world's river basins are experiencing rapid changes in the area covered by surface waters. Equally concerning: although official development assistance commitments to the water sector increased by 11 per cent from 2015 to 2019, disbursements only rose by 3 per cent.

The determination displayed by the eminent persons in UNSGAB is matched by the determination we see in the countries, organizations, institutions and individuals unifying through the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On World Water Day 2004, the then- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked UNSGAB to galvanize global action for water and sanitation. I believe you have more than delivered on his request.

So I wish to thank UNSGAB, personally, for your legacy in charting a course for us to steer by.

The journey is far from over and a great deal remains to be done. I encourage you to use your vision, conviction and that famous determination of yours to contribute to the global acceleration efforts to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Thank you.

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