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Secretary-General's Messages (21)

Message on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - 17 October 2018

Twenty-five years ago, the world commemorated the first International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Since then, nearly 1 billion people have escaped poverty, thanks to political leadership, inclusive economic development and international cooperation.

However, many are still being left behind. Over 700 million people are unable to meet their basic daily needs. Many live in situations of conflict and crisis; others face barriers in accessing health care, education and job opportunities, preventing them from benefitting from broader economic development. And women are disproportionately affected.

Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, as embodied in Goal 1 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, remains one of the greatest global challenges and a major priority for the United Nations.

This year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us remember that ending poverty is not a matter of charity but a question of justice. There is a fundamental connection between eradicating extreme poverty and upholding the equal rights of all people.

We must listen to the millions of people experiencing poverty and destitution across the globe, tackle the power structures that prevent their inclusion in society and address the indignities they face. We must build a fair globalization that creates opportunities for all and ensure that rapid technological development boosts our poverty eradication efforts. On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty let us commit to uphold the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind


Message on International Day of Rural Women

The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet. It is needed for achieving gender equality, ensuring decent work for all, eradicating poverty and hunger and taking climate action. Yet, rural women and girls remain disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, exclusion and the effects of climate change.

On this International Day of Rural Women, I call on countries to take action to ensure that rural women and girls fully enjoy their human rights. Those include the right to land and security of land tenure; to adequate food and nutrition; to a life free of all forms of violence, discrimination and harmful practices; to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health; and to quality, affordable and accessible education throughout their lives.

Achieving this requires investment, legal and policy reforms and the inclusion of rural women in the decisions that affect their lives. By investing in the well-being, livelihoods and resilience of rural women and girls, we make progress for all.


Message on International Day for Disaster Reduction

This year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction falls shortly after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia showed yet again the urgency of resilience and risk-awareness.

Disasters have a steep human cost.

Millions of people are displaced every year, losing their homes and jobs because of extreme weather events and earthquakes.

However, not all countries report systematically on the economic losses from major disaster events, according to a new report prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

This year’s International Day aims to highlight the need for Member States to improve data collection on disasters, including comprehensive accounting of economic losses.

This is crucial for progress on crisis prevention.

For example, a better understanding of the economic losses from extreme weather events can help to generate greater action on climate change and increased ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Measuring economic losses can also motivate governments to do more to achieve the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which seeks a substantial reduction in disaster losses by 2030.

Reducing the economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives and contribute greatly to the eradication of poverty.

As we mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction, let us reaffirm our commitment to this vital endeavour.


Message on World Mental Health Day 2018

Health encompasses both physical and mental well-being.

Yet for too long, mental health has been mostly an afterthought, despite its overwhelming impacts on communities and young people, everywhere.

This year’s World Mental Health Day focuses on young people.

One in five young people will experience a mental health problem this year. Half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14. Most cases are, however, undetected and untreated.

Poor mental health during adolescence has an impact on educational achievement and increases the risk of alcohol and substance use and violent behaviour. Suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

Millions of people are caught up in conflict and disasters, putting them at risk of a range of long-term mental health problems. Violence against women -- physical, sexual and psychological -- results in lasting scars, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Yet despite these challenges, a great deal of mental health conditions are both preventable and treatable, especially if we start looking after our mental health at an early age.

The 2030 Agenda is clear: We must leave no one behind. Yet, those struggling with mental health problems are still being marginalized.

Healthy societies require greater integration of mental health into broader health and social care systems, under the umbrella of universal health coverage.

The United Nations is committed to creating a world where by 2030 everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to in support of their mental health, in a world free of stigma and discrimination.

If we change our attitude to mental health – we change the world. It is time to act on mental health.



Remarks at the opening of the 73rd session of the General Assembly

Permítame empezar esta intervención felicitando una vez más su Excelencia María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés de Ecuador por su elección como presidenta de la sesión setenta y tres de la asamblea general.
She brings wide-ranging diplomatic and inter-governmental experience to the role, as well as deep knowledge of the international agenda.
She already knows the United Nations quite well, having served as Permanent Representative in Geneva.
And of course in addition to being the first woman to become her country’s Permanent Representative, she is now the fourth woman to serve as President of the General Assembly – and the first in more than a decade.  I am sure that this additional perspective will enrich and advance our work.  Your presence Madame President is the guarantee that gender parity is on the move.
We have a busy session ahead of us.
We need action for peacekeeping, gender parity, financing for the 2030 Agenda, empowerment for the world’s young people, urgent steps to end poverty and conflict, and much else.  I encourage you to tell your leaders to come to next week’s high-level week ready to be bold and ready to forge solutions for our global challenges.
Looking farther ahead, there are important gatherings on the calendar that can solidify progress on key global challenges.
The Conference of Parties to the climate convention will gather in Poland in December.  Climate impacts continue to worsen and accelerate – and our actions and ambition are nowhere near where they need to be to avoid catastrophe.  Fortunately, technology is on our side, and much is happening towards a green economy that we can build on.  Let’s make sure that Katowice is a success.
Also in December, Heads of State and Government will meet in Marrakech to formally adopt a landmark Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  Implementing this Compact can help us reap the widespread benefits of migration while protecting people against dangerous journeys, exploitation and discrimination.  I look forward to its formal adoption. 
This Assembly has a vital role to play on these and all other issues.
At a time of fragmentation and polarization, the world needs this Assembly to show the value of international cooperation.
The Secretariat and I are committed to supporting you and strengthening the ways in which we work together.

Madame President, I wish you and all Member States every success as we strive to achieve our shared goals.
Thank you.


Message on International Day of Peace

This year we mark International Day of Peace as we prepare to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This foundational document is a reminder that peace takes root when people are free from hunger, poverty and oppression and can thrive and prosper. 

With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our guide, we must ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I encourage you to speak up. For gender equality.  For inclusive societies.  For climate action. 

Do your part at school, at work, at home. Every step counts.

Let us act together to promote and defend human rights for all, in the name of lasting peace for all.




Remarks on Climate Change - 10 September 2018

Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for coming to UN Headquarters today.
I have asked you here to sound the alarm.
Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat.
Climate change is moving faster than we are.
If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.
That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership – from politicians and leaders, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere.
We must break the paralysis.
We have the moral and financial reasons to act.
We have the tools to make our actions effective.
What we still lack – even after the Paris Agreement -- is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.
My friends,
Let there be no doubt about the urgency of the crisis.

We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures around the world.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since 1850, when records began.
This year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest.
Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods are leaving a trail of death and devastation.
Last month the state of Kerala in India suffered its worst monsoon flooding in recent history, killing 400 people and driving 1 million more from their homes.
We now know that Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people in Puerto Rico last year, making it one of the deadliest extreme weather disasters in U.S. history.
Many of these people died in the months after the storm because they lacked access to electricity, clean water and proper healthcare due to the hurricane.
What makes all of this even more disturbing is that we were warned.
Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again.
Far too many leaders have refused to listen.
Far too few have acted with the vision the science demands.
We see the results.
In some cases, they are approaching scientists’ worst-case scenarios.
Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than we imagined possible.
This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up.
This dramatic warming in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.
Wildfires are lasting longer and spreading further.

Some of these blazes are so big that they send soot and ash around the world, blackening glaciers and ice caps, making them melt even faster.
Oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening the foundation of the food chains that sustain life.
Corals are dying in vast amounts, further depleting vital fisheries.
And, on land, the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making rice crops less nutritious, threatening well-being and food security for billions of people.
As climate change intensifies, water will become more scarce.
We will find it harder to feed ourselves.
Extinction rates will spike as vital habitats decline.
More and more people will be forced to migrate from their homes as the land they depend on becomes less able to support them.
This is already leading to local conflicts over dwindling resources.
This past May, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the planet marked another grim milestone: the highest monthly average for carbon dioxide levels ever recorded.
Four hundred parts per million has long been seen as a critical threshold.
We have now surpassed 411 parts per millions and the concentrations continue to rise.
This the highest concentration in 3 million years.
Dear friends,
We know what is happening to our planet.
We know what we need to do.
And we even know how to do it.
But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be.

When world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on climate change three years ago, they pledged to stop temperatures rising by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to work to keep the increase as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.
These targets were the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
But scientists tell us that we are far off track.
According to a UN study, the commitments made so far by Parties to the Paris Agreement represent just one-third of what is needed.
The mountain in front of us is very high.
But it is not insurmountable.
We know how to scale it.
Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.
We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels.
We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun.
We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm.
We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency.
Our cities and transport sectors will need to be overhauled.
How we heat, cool and light our buildings will need to be rethought so we waste less energy.
And this is where the conversation becomes exciting.
Because, so much of the conversation on climate change focuses on the doom and gloom.
Warnings are necessary. But fear will not get the job done.
No, what captures my imagination is the vast opportunity afforded by climate action.
My friends,

Enormous benefits await humankind if we can rise to the climate challenge.
A great many of these benefits are economic.
I have heard the argument – usually from vested interests -- that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth.
This is hogwash.
In fact, the opposite is true.
We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change.
Over the past decade, extreme weather and the health impact of burning fossil fuels have cost the American economy at least 240 billion dollars a year.
This cost will explode by 50 per cent in the coming decade alone.
By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy 2 trillion dollars.
More and more studies also show the enormous benefits of climate action.
Last week I was at the launch of the New Climate Economy report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change.
It shows that that climate action and socio-economic progress are mutually supportive, with gains of 26 trillion dollars predicted by 2030 compared with business as usual.
For example, for every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 dollars can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction.
Restoring degraded lands means better lives and income for farmers and pastoralists and less pressure to migrate to cities.
Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.
And clean air has vast benefits for public health.

The International Labour Organization reports that common sense green economy policies could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030.
In China and the United States, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries.
And, in Bangladesh the installation of more than four million solar home systems has created more than 115,000 jobs and saved rural households over 400 million dollars in polluting fuels.
So, not only would a shift to renewable energy save money, it would also create new jobs, waste less water, boost food production and clean the polluted air that is killing us.
There is nothing to lose from acting; there is everything to gain.
Now, there are still many who think the challenge is too great.
I disagree.
Humankind has confronted and overcome immense challenges before; challenges that have required us to work together and to put aside division and difference to fight a common threat.
That was how the United Nations came into being.
It is how we have helped end wars, stop diseases, reduce global poverty and heal the ozone hole.
Now we stand at an existential crossroad.
If we are to take the right path – the only sensible path -- we will have to muster the full force of human ingenuity.
That ingenuity exists and is already providing solutions.
Dear friends,
Technology is on our side in the battle to address climate change.
The rise of renewable energy has been tremendous.

Today, it is competitive with – and even cheaper – than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution.
Last year, China invested 126 billion dollars in renewable energy, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year.
Sweden is set to hit its 2030 target for renewable energy this year – 12 years early.
By 2030, wind and solar energy could power more than a third of Europe.
Morocco is building a solar farm the size of Paris that will power more than one million homes by 2020 with clean, affordable energy.
Scotland has opened the world’s first floating wind farm.
In Thailand, the Solar Power Company Group -- led by a woman -- saw potential in the incentives provided by the Government and further unlocked private financing to construct 36 solar farms accounting for nearly 20 per cent of the country’s solar production.
There are other signs of hope.
Countries rich in fossil fuels, such as the Gulf States and Norway, are exploring ways to diversify their economies.
Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in renewables to move from an oil economy to an energy economy.
Norway’s 1 trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund – the largest in the world – has moved away from investments in coal and has dropped a number of palm and pulp-paper companies because of the forests they destroy.
There are also promising signs that businesses are waking up to the benefits of climate action.
More than 130 of the world’s largest and most influential businesses plan to power their operations with 100 per cent renewable energy.
Eighteen multinationals will shift to electric vehicle fleets.
And more than 400 firms will develop targets based on the latest science in order to manage their emissions.

One of the world’s biggest insurers – Allianz -- will stop insuring coal-fired power plants.
Investments are shifting too.
More than 250 investors representing 28 trillion dollars in assets have signed on to the Climate Action 100+ initiative.
They have committed to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to improve their climate performance and ensure transparent disclosure of emissions.
Many such examples are going to be showcased this week at the important Global Climate Action Summit being convened by Governor Brown in California.
All these pioneers have seen the future.
They are betting on green because they understand this is the path to prosperity and peace on a healthy planet.
The alternative is a dark and dangerous future.
These are all important strides.
But they are not enough.
The transition to a cleaner, greener future needs to speed up.
We stand at a truly “use it or lose it” moment.
Over the next decade or so, the world will invest some 90 trillion dollars in infrastructure. We must ensure it is sustainable or we will lock in a high-polluting dangerous future.
And for that to happen, the leaders of the world need to step up.
The private sector is poised to move, and many are doing so.
But a lack of decisive government action is causing uncertainty in the markets and concern about the future of the Paris Agreement.
We can’t let this happen.

Exciting technologies are waiting to come online – cleaner fuels, alternative building materials, better batteries and advances in farming and land use.
These and other innovations can have a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so we can hit the Paris targets and inject the greater ambition that is so urgently needed.
But they will only become a reality if governments and industries invest in research and development.
Governments must also end harmful subsidies for fossil fuels, and institute carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of polluting greenhouse gas emissions and incentivizes the clean energy transition.
Dear friends,
I have spoken of the emergency we face, the benefits of action and the feasibility of a climate-friendly transformation.
There is another reason to act -- moral duty.
The world’s richest nations are the most responsible for the climate crisis, yet the effects are being felt first and worst by the poorest nations and most vulnerable people and communities.
We already see this injustice in the incessant and increasing cycle of extreme droughts and ever more powerful storms.
Women and girls, in particular, will pay the price – not only because their lives will become harder but because, in times of disaster, women and girls always suffer disproportionally.
Richer nations must therefore not only cut their emissions but do more to ensure that the most vulnerable can develop the necessary resilience to survive the damage these emissions are causing.
It is important to note that, because carbon dioxide is long-lasting in the atmosphere, the climate changes we are already seeing will persist for decades to come.
It is necessary for all nations to adapt, and for the richer ones to assist the most vulnerable.

Dear friends,
This is the message I will make loud and clear around the globe and directly to world leaders at this month’s General Assembly in New York.
I will tell them that climate change is the great challenge of our time.
I will say that, thanks to science, we know its size and nature.
I will emphasize that we have the ingenuity, resources and tools to face it.
And I will stress that leaders must lead.
We have the moral and financial incentives to act.
What is missing – still, even after Paris – is leadership, a sense of urgency and a true commitment to a decisive multilateral response.
Negotiations towards implementation guidelines for operationalizing the Paris Agreement ended yesterday in Bangkok with some progress -- but far from enough.
The next key moment is in Poland in December.
I call on leaders to use every opportunity between now and then -- the G7 and G20 gatherings as well as meetings of the General Assembly, World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- to resolve the sticking points.
We cannot allow Katowice to remind us of Copenhagen.
The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands.
We need them to show they care about the future – and the present.
That is why I am so pleased to have such a strong representation of youth in the audience today.
It is imperative that civil society -- youth, women’s groups, the private sector, communities of faith, scientists and grassroots movements around the world -- call their leaders to account.
I call -- in particular -- on women’s leadership.

When women are empowered to lead, they are the drivers of solutions.
Nothing less than our future and the fate of humankind depends on how we rise to the climate challenge.
It affects every aspect of the work of the United Nations.
Keeping our planet’s warming to well below 2 degrees is essential for global prosperity, people’s well-being and the security of nations.
That is why, next September, I will convene a Climate Summit to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda.
Today, I am announcing the appointment of Luis Alfonso de Alba, a well-respected leader in the climate community, as my Special Envoy to lead the preparations.
His efforts will complement those of my Special Envoy for Climate Action, Michael Bloomberg, and my Special Advisor Bob Orr, who will help to mobilize private finance and catalyze bottom-up action.
The Summit will come one year before countries will have to enhance their national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement.
Only a significantly higher level of ambition will do.
To that end, the Summit will focus on areas that go to the heart of the problem – the sectors that create the most emissions and the areas where building resilience will make the biggest difference.
The Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders and partners to demonstrate real climate action and showcase their ambition.
We will bring together players from the real economy and real politics, including representatives of trillions of dollars of assets, both public and private.

I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020 and each net-zero emissions by mid-century.

We need cities and states to shift from coal to solar and wind -- from brown to green energy. Our great host city, New York, is taking important steps in this direction -- and working with other municipalities to spur change.

We need increased investments and innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies across buildings, transport, and industry.
And we need the oil and gas industry to make their business plans compatible with the Paris targets.
I want to see a strong expansion in carbon pricing.
I want us to get the global food system right by ensuring that we grow our food without chopping down large tracts of forest.
We need sustainable food supply chains that reduce loss and waste.
And we must halt deforestation and restore degraded lands.
I want to rapidly speed up the trend towards green financing by banks and insurers, and encourage innovation in financial and debt instruments to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable nations such as small island states and bolster their defences against climate change.
And I want to see governments fulfilling their pledge to mobilize 100 billion dollars a year for climate action.
We need to see the Green Climate Fund become fully operational and resourced.
But for all this, we need governments, industry and civil society reading from the same page – with governments front and centre driving the movement for climate action.
That is why I am calling on all world leaders to come to next year’s Climate Summit prepared to report not only on what they are doing, but what more they intend to do when they convene in 2020 for the UN climate conference.
And it is why I am calling on civil society, and young people in particular, to campaign for climate action.
Let us use the next year for transformational decisions in boardrooms, executive suites and parliaments across the world.
Let us raise our sights, build coalitions and make our leaders listen.

I commit myself, and the entire United Nations, to this effort. We will support all leaders who rise to the challenge I have outlined today.
Dear friends,
Last week I read about 15-year-old Greta Thunberg.
After Sweden’s hottest-ever summer, she decided to go on school strike and sit in front of Parliament to demand that politicians wake up to the climate crisis.
She knows the time for debate is over.
Now is the time for action. There is no more time to waste.
As the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows, the world is changing before our eyes.
We are careering towards the edge of the abyss.
It is not too late to shift course, but every day that passes means the world heats up a little more and the cost of our inaction mounts.
Every day we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants -- a fate that will resonate through generations in the damage done to humankind and life on earth.
Our fate is in our own hands.
The world is counting on all of us to rise to the challenge before it’s too late.
Thank you.


Message on International Day for Biological Diversity - 22 May

The rich variety of life on Earth is essential for the welfare and prosperity of people today and for generations to come.

That is why, 25 years ago, the world’s nations agreed on the Convention for Biological Diversity.

The Convention has three goals: the global conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and the equitable sharing of its benefits. Achieving these objectives is integral to meet our goals for sustainable development. Protecting and restoring ecosystems and ensuring access to ecosystem services are necessary for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Reducing deforestation and land degradation and enhancing carbon stocks in forests, drylands, rangelands and croplands are needed for mitigating climate change. And protecting the biodiversity of forests and watersheds supports clean and plentiful water supplies.

These are just some of the benefits of biodiversity. Yet, despite this understanding, biodiversity loss continues around the globe. The answer is to intensify efforts and build on successes.

This year, Parties to the Convention will begin work on a new action plan to ensure that, by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used for the benefit of all people.

The entire world needs to join this effort.

On this International Day for Biological Diversity, I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to act to protect the nature that sustains us.

Our collective future depends on it.


Message on World Press Freedom Day


3 May 2018

A free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all.

It is crucial to building transparent and democratic societies and keeping those in power accountable.

It is vital for sustainable development.

Journalists and media workers shine a light on local and global challenges and tell the stories that need to be told.

Their service to the public is invaluable.

Laws that protect independent journalism, freedom of expression and the right to information need to be adopted, implemented and enforced.

Crimes against journalists must be prosecuted.

On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists.

Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth.

Thank you.


Remarks at launch of International Decade for Water Action 2018-2028

I am pleased to be with you on World Water Day to launch the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.

I commend President Rahmon of Tajikstan for spearheading this effort at the General Assembly. 

I recall my trip to Tajikistan last year, when I had the opportunity to see the impact of receding glaciers in the Pamir mountains.

During my visit, I also had the chance to attend the forum on the Sustainable Development Goals.

And it is clear these 17 global Goals are inter-related, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

Safe water and adequate sanitation for all – the object of Sustainable Development Goal 6 -- are indispensable to achieve many other goals. 

Safe water and adequate sanitation underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and healthy ecosystems. 

They contribute to social well-being, inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods.

But, growing demands for water, coupled with poor water management, have increased water stress in many parts of the world.

Climate change is adding to the pressure – and it is running faster than we are.

With demand for freshwater projected to grow by more than 40 per cent by the middle of the century, and with climate change having a growing impact, water scarcity is an enormous concern.

By 2050 at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water will be chronic or recurrent. 

Without effective management of our water resources, we risk intensified disputes between communities and sectors and even increased tensions among nations.

So far, water has historically proven to be a catalyst for cooperation not for conflict.

From my own experience, the Albufeira Convention, agreed during my time as Prime Minister of Portugal, continues to promote good relations on water management between Spain and Portugal. 

And, there are many more examples of cooperation on water – between India and Pakistan, Bolivia and Peru, and several others.

But we cannot take peace – or our precious and fragile water resources -- for granted.  

Quite simply, water is a matter of life and death.

Our bodies are 60 per cent water.

Our cities, our industries and our agriculture all depend on it.

Yet, today, 40 per cent of the world’s people are affected by water scarcity; 80 per cent of wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment, and more than 90 per cent of disasters are water-related. 

More than 2 billion people lack access to safe water, and more than 4.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation services. 

What these numbers mean is a harsh daily reality for people in rural communities and urban slums in all regions of the world.

Many of the most serious diseases in the developing world are directly related to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices.   

Today, I am using the launch of the Water Action Decade to make a global call to action for water, sanitation and hygiene – or WASH -- in allhealth care facilities. 

A recent survey of 100,000 facilities found that more than half lack simple necessities, such as running water and soap - and they are supposed to be healthcare facilities.

The result is more infections, prolonged hospital stays and sometimes death.

We must work to prevent the spread of disease. Improved water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities is critical to this effort.

Ladies and gentlemen,We cannot continue to take water for granted and expect to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.Solutions exist and new technologies are in the pipeline to improve how we manage water for nations, communities and households. But often these solutions are inaccessible for those who need them most, perpetuating inequity within and among countries. 

As with most development challenges, women and girls suffer disproportionately. For example, women and girls in low-income countries spend some 40 billion hours a year collecting water.That is equivalent to the annual effort of the entire workforce of a country like France. The time spent could be much better invested in earning a livelihood or – in the case of girls – attending school. It is time to change how we value and manage water. 

Last week, the High-Level Panel on Water delivered its outcome report, “Making every drop count: An agenda for water action”.Their work is deep, serious and inspiring for us all. 

The United Nations stands ready to help countries to implement the Panel’s recommendations, including by promoting policy dialogue, exchanging best practices, raising awareness and forging partnerships.  Member States have also asked me to prepare an Action Plan for the Water Decade, with the support of UN-Water – which I am determined to strengthen. 

My plan sets forth three core objectives.  

First, to transform our silo-based approach to water supply, sanitation, water management and disaster risk reduction to better tackle water stress, combat climate change and enhance resilience.

Second, to align existing water and sanitation programmes and projects with the 2030 Agenda. 

Third, to generate the political will for strengthened cooperation and partnerships.

I look forward to implementing this plan.The growing water crisis should be much higher on the world’s radar.   

Let us work collectively towards a more sustainable world, and an action-packed Decade of “Water for Sustainable Development”.

Thank you.

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