Helen Clark: "Water and Co-operation: Spain's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals"

Sep 10, 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group
"Water and Co-operation: Spain's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals"
United Nations, New York
September 10, 2013, 9:00-10:30 am


I am pleased to attend this event on Water and Co-operation, honoring Spain’s steadfast commitment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

I thank Spain for being a good partner of the United Nations development system in the global drive to end poverty.

I also acknowledge the collaboration we enjoy with the Inter-American Development Bank.

The Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) was established by agreement between Spain and UNDP. The Fund was able to be accessed by UN agencies, funds, and programmes for joint initiatives in developing countries.

Spain’s contribution of US$900 million was the largest ever single contribution to the UN development system. It has supported 130 joint programmes in fifty countries across eight thematic areas. The MDG-F helped bring the UN system together in these countries to support MDG achievement.
As we have heard today, promoting access to water and sanitation was one of the eight thematic areas addressed by the Fund. Spain has a long history of working in this area, having established a Water and Sanitation Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean, and highlighted the importance of this cross-cutting theme in its Master Plan for Spanish Co-operation 2013-2016.

Important progress has been made on the MDG target for providing people with safe drinking water: more than two billion people have had access to improved drinking water since 1990. Yet significant challenges remain: 783 million people still lack such access; 1.8 billion drink ‘improved’ but not safe water; 2.5 billion lack improved sanitation; and 1.1 billion of those still lack even basic sanitation.

According to the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, the world remains off track on the MDG target to halve the proportion of the population without access to basic sanitation. If current trends continue, it is estimated that 2.4 billion people would still lack access to improved sanitation facilities in 2015.

Our world is experiencing significant growth in demand for water resources at the same time as wastewater and other water pollution increasingly threaten the integrity of ecosystems vital for life and food security. Climate change further adds to water stress.

To roll out sustainable access to improved water and sanitation services requires integrated approaches. These must address the links between water and health, education, poverty alleviation, environmental protection, job creation, and food and energy security.

Recognizing that, Spain and the UN development system have made critical strides in promoting integrated approaches in their work on water and sanitation. The MDG-F has encouraged joint and co-ordinated efforts to address the multidimensional challenges related to water, through programmes in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, and through contributions to One UN coherence funds and the Expanded Delivering as One Funding Window.  

As well, UNDP, joined by eight agencies, has led the UN-Water Task Force on Country Level Co-ordination. Its role is to improve and scale up the delivery of co-ordinated UN actions on water. Towards this end, the Task Force has mapped agency activities in several countries, and is developing a strategy to deliver co-ordinated responses to meet water goals at the country level.

The MDG-F has focused its support on the development needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. It has focused in particular on addressing inequalities, not least those faced by indigenous populations and women. By bringing together national actors and UN partners – taking advantage of their comparative advantages and expertise - the Fund has facilitated multi-sectoral interventions, supporting countries to manage and conserve water resources and increase access to safe drinking water and sanitation services.

An important element of the Fund’s approach has been the assumption that for long-term and sustainable progress on water and sanitation, investments in physical infrastructure need to be accompanied by investments in institutional strengthening and capacity development.

That has led to a focus on improving water and sanitation governance; first by strengthening technical capacities and national institutions, and, second, by developing mechanisms to increase the transparency and accountability of public water and sanitation services. The latter have played an important role in empowering local communities as active partners in development. To that end the Fund has supported more than 568 local water providers and 669 community organizations.

As well, more than 41 new laws, 78 policies, and 157 plans related to water and sanitation have been developed and approved, contributing to improved lives for an estimated 31 million people.

Water and Sanitation in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

It is to be hoped that the post-2015 development agenda will continue to prioritize access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation.

The importance of water being at the core of the new agenda has been widely recognised in this process so far – including by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals which noted in its recent progress report that there is “broad support for a dedicated water SDG.”

In the global My World 2015 survey on the post-2015 development agenda, citizens from around the world have ranked access to clean water and sanitation fifth amongst the sixteen global priorities for the future agenda.

Recommendations from the UN-led post-2015 consultations on water propose going beyond the drinking water and sanitation MDG targets to achieve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) for all, while simultaneously addressing management of water resources, wastewater, and water pollution.

I am certain that the knowledge gained from programmes supported by the MDG-F around the world will help inform discussion on the future agenda.

Once again, I thank the Government of Spain and all governments represented here today for their commitment to achieving the MDGs. The work of UNDP and the broader UN development system has benefitted a great deal from the support of Spain through the MDG-F over the past six years.

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