Statement by Ambassador Takahiro Shinyo
Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN

International Year of Sanitation Preparatory Meeting
7 May 2007

Your Royal Highness,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, for chairing this meeting and for his strong commitment to the work of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. Let me share with you Japan's views on the International Year of Sanitation.

In addressing the subject of water development, we must consider water and sanitation together. If water contamination is to be avoided, it is essential that drainage be controlled and waste matter segregated. Only in this way will it be possible to ensure the safety of drinking water. Although the need to make improvements in sanitation is customarily accorded lower priority than ensuring safe drinking water, we should be aware that access to sanitation facilities is of the greatest importance to human life.

In 2003, the Children's World Water Forum was held in Japan as part of the third World Water Forum, with children from many countries participating in discussions. One student, from Bangladesh, mentioned that nearly half of the schools in Bangladesh lacked sanitation facilities and that many students, especially girls, avoided school for the express reason that there were no toilets. We should recognize this as a serious problem that causes children to lose the precious opportunity of an education.

One of the Millennium Development Goals is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by the year 2015. We know that the proportion of the world's population lacking safe drinking water dropped from 23 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2002, and we can therefore say that some progress has been made. On the other hand, the proportion of people without basic sanitation fell only to 41 percent in 2002 from 52 percent in 1990. Clearly, it is necessary to take drastic measures to address the challenge of sanitation at the local, national, and international levels.

That it is why the General Assembly decided last year to designate 2008 the "International Year of Sanitation." Japan took a leading role in promoting this resolution, which succeeded in attracting 57 co-sponsors, a remarkable number which reflects just how serious the issue of sanitation is.

The main purpose of establishing the "International Year of Sanitation" is twofold: first, to raise global awareness at all levels, including the political, and to mobilize human and financial resources; and second, to draw a detailed roadmap that tells each stakeholder the action it needs to take in preparation for 2008 and the years to follow. It is of overriding importance for each party concerned to have a clear sense of what must be done and a feeling of responsibility for acting with all due speed.

For its part, Japan is actively engaged in addressing water and sanitation issues, and, in cooperation with other donors, international organizations, and NGOs, it will continue to provide support in this area through the Water and Sanitation Broad Partnership Initiative (WASABI). Through WASABI, Japan has been providing assistance tailored to each region's circumstances. For projects in densely-populated cities, we mobilize private financial resources to augment official development assistance so that we can meet their large-scale needs for infrastructure such as sewerage to be developed. In rural communities, we support activities to disseminate information on the importance of safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

From the experience we have gained through our ODA programme, we know it is not sufficient to provide sanitation facilities to people who have no experience with them. They will not recognize their importance, and as a result often use them as barns or warehouses. Furthermore they do not have a strong enough understanding of the need to keep them clean. In this regard, it is of vital importance to provide appropriate education on sanitation, especially for children, as well as on the construction of such facilities.

Before concluding, I would like to remind you that unfortunately in developed countries, many people are unaware of the great need for further efforts to improve access to basic sanitation at the global level. It is therefore imperative that we avail ourselves of the opportunity of the International Year of Sanitation to raise public awareness and ask everyone to support further efforts in this vitally important area.

Thank you.

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