More than 350 participants from 57 countries gathered today in Jakarta for the opening of the Sector Ministers' Meeting which will generate urgent prioritization of water and sanitation worldwide.
Among them were 50 ministers of water, sanitation, health, environment and the economy, who met to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and a struggling global economy, which have threatened decades of progress on sustainable development. The event was hosted by the Government of Indonesia and convened by the United Nations-hosted Sanitation and Water for All global partnership (SWA) and UNICEF.
Opening the event, Patrick Moriarty, Chair of SWA's Steering Committee told participants that this triple crisis is deeply intertwined with water and sanitation, making government prioritization of these issues vital.
"Water and sanitation are indispensable for preventing public health emergencies, integral to supporting economic development and imperative for making communities resilient to climate change," he said.
According to event organizers, access to water and soap will generate $45 billion per year, and reduce the spread of infections in a COVID-19-like epidemic by up to 20 per cent.
Approximately 74 per cent of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related, requiring urgent action. Forty per cent of the global population is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
Additionally, universal access to toilets with safely managed waste will generate $86 billion per year in greater productivity and reduced health costs.
"Water and sanitation are the foundation of all sustainable development – and key to helping children survive and thrive," said Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF. "When 300,000 children still die every year from diseases linked to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation, we know we need to do more."
The Sector Ministers' Meeting will equip political leaders with the evidence and best practices they need to prioritize investments in water and sanitation, which in turn will support the Sustainable Development Goals. It also aims to transform inter-ministerial collaboration at the national level around the human rights to water and sanitation, as well as international learning and cooperation.
It was preceded by a six-month-long preparatory process at both global and national levels, involving 126 governments and organizations.