World Water Day 2008 - International Year of Sanitation

20 Mar 2008
Bangkok, Thailand

The international observance of World Water Day (WWD) usually held annually on 22 March is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. As in previous years, States are called upon to devote WWD to implement the UN recommendations and set up concrete activities as deemed appropriate in the national context. This year in the ESCAP region, World Water Day 2008 will be celebrated by the UN on Thursday, 20 March at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok. The day will highlight issues on sanitation in accordance with the International Year of Sanitation 2008.

To put the spotlight on sanitation the UN General Assembly declared the year 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. The goal is to raise awareness and to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to reduce by half the proportion of the 2.4 billion people without access to basic sanitation by 2015. The theme for The International Year of Sanitation (IYS) is "accelerating progress on sanitation to help save lives and foster economic and social development".

A special programme has been formulated by key partners for this year's commemoration of WWD to include a week-long exhibition, the main function for the commemoration, and a roundtable workshop on the International Year of Sanitation. The exhibition will take place during the week of 14 -20 March at the public foyer of the UNCC Bangkok, with participation by several water/sanitation-related agencies of Thailand and international organizations working in the region. The programme of the main commemoration function will include a message from the United Nations Secretary-General, statement of the Deputy Executive Secretary of UNESCAP and a keynote speech by the Minister of Public Health, Royal Government of Thailand (TBC), and followed by a panel discussion titled: International Year of Sanitation - 2008: "Strategies and Lessons learned for Action at all levels" with experts from Governments, NGO's, the private sector and international agencies. After lunch, the Roundtable Workshop on the International Year of Sanitation 2008 will build on the momentum generated by the East Asia Ministerial Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene 2007, which was held in Beppu Japan on 30 November and 1 December 2007, to link its follow-up to the implementation of IYS-2008.

At the Asia and Pacific Regional Launch of the International Year of Sanitation 2008 held in Beppu Japan December 2007, it was pointed out that if the MDGs are to be achieved, 2.4 billion people need to gain access to sustainable sanitation services, or 96 million a year between 1990 and 2015. Countries will need to see that enough wisdom, will, resources and creativity are invested to make such a huge change possible. Also, Governments and individuals need to understand the nature, magnitude and urgency of the sanitation crisis. Poor sanitation not only pushes already disadvantaged sections of society into deeper illness, poverty and indignity, which is also a key delimiting factor to sustained economic growth.

The central objective of the International Year of Sanitation is to put the global community on track to achieve the sanitation MDG. Sanitation is the foundation of health, dignity, and development. Increased sanitation access especially for poor people, is fundamental for reaching all the Millennium Development Goals. The International Year of Sanitation aims to:

-Increase awareness and commitment from actors at all levels, both inside and outside the sector, on the importance of reaching the sanitation MDG, including health, gender, equity, education, sustainable development, economic and environmental issues, via compelling and frank communication, robust monitoring data, and sound evidence.

-Mobilize Governments (from national to local) existing alliances, financial institutions, sanitation and service providers, major groups, the private sector and UN Agencies via rapid collaborative agreements on how and who will undertake needed steps now.

-Secure real commitments to review, develop and implement effective action to scale up sanitation programmes and strengthen sanitation policies via the assignment of clear responsibilities for getting this done at the national and international levels.

-Encourage demand driven, sustainable & traditional solutions, and informed choices by recognizing the importance of working from the bottom up with practitioners and communities.

-Secure increased financing to jump start and sustain progress via commitments from national budgets and development partner allocations.

-Develop and strengthen institutional and human capacity via recognition at all levels that progress in sanitation toward the MDGs involves interlinked programmes in hygiene, household and school facilities (such as toilets and washing facilities), and the collection, treatment and safe reuse or disposal of wastewater and human excreta. Community mobilization, the recognition of women's key role and stake, along with an appropriate mix of "software" and "hardware" interventions are essential.

-Enhance the sustainability and therefore the effectiveness of available sanitation solutions, to enhance health impacts, social and cultural acceptance, technological and institutional appropriateness, and the protection of the environment and natural resources.

-Promote and capture learning to enhance the evidence base and knowledge on sanitation which will greatly contribute to the advocacy and increase investments in the sector.
WWD / IYS 2008 is expected to attract key stakeholders from around the region

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