H. Subramaniam
June 25, 2016

The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the World Bank have jointly formed a new panel to mobilize urgent action towards the sustainable development goal for water and sanitation and related targets. The announcement comes as countries experience water stress and water-related disasters that will grow worse due to climate change without better policy decisions. Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world's population and this figure is projected to rise.

"Water is a precious resource, crucial to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which at their heart aim to eradicate poverty," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The new Panel can help motivate the action we need to turn ideas into reality. The United Nations system, including through UN Water and the United Nations development system's universal operational presence, is committed to promote inclusive and country-led action on SDG6 and related targets."

The panel, to be co-chaired by the Presidents of Mauritius and Mexico, will comprise a group of heads of State/Government from developed and developing countries, convened by the United Nations Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank Group. Its objective is to motivate action - Focus public policy dialogue, private sector models and practices and civil society initiatives towards the Water SDG. The panel also seeks to advocate on financing and implementation, thereby promoting efforts to mobilize financial resources and scale-up investment for the Water SDG, including through innovative financing and implementation strategies.

As per the latest findings, over 663 million people across the world lack access to safe drinking water. 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases. Floods and other water-borne diseases account for 70 percent of all deaths related to natural disasters.

"Achieving the water global goal would have multiple benefits, including laying the foundations for food and energy security, sustainable urbanization, and ultimately climate security" said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "My hope is that this panel accelerates action in many countries so that we can make water more accessible to all."

The World Bank and UN will facilitate access to a variety of technical organizations to support the panel, including OECD, Stockholm International Water Institute, World Economic Forum, World Water Council, and World Resources Institute. Leaders from business and other sectors have welcomed the High-Level Panel on Water, and emphasized the need for this initiative to catalyze practical action.

"The High-Level Panel is an important effort. The mark of success for the panel will be practical action and tangible impact. Let this be an opportunity to break down silos at the highest level and collaborate with the private sector and others, building on existing partnerships and initiatives to bring these efforts to scale and to transform the water agenda," said Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of Nestle and Chairman of the 2030 Water Resources Group.

Such an initiative should hopefully help in aligning different stakeholders better and to provide more concerted action on the ground. Political will has to be combined with financial resources to make a difference on water management issues across the globe.

H Subramaniam H. Subramaniam is Editor, EverythingAboutWater magazine. He can be reached at subrah@eawater.com.

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