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Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the General Assembly sends a message on World Toilet Day
19 Nov 2020 -  H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to be here, and to help mark World Toilet Day.

My sincere appreciation to the Permanent Missions of Singapore, India, and Nigeria, as well as to UN agencies, for their organization of this event, and of course for their continued commitment, to push for access to improved sanitation and clean water.

While it may seem like such a simple thing, the absence of a toilet, is in many ways indicative of the inequalities in our world.

Consider a young child or teenage girl, whose access to education is hindered, because of a lack of sanitation facilities. Or the women, who fear sexual violence, as they trek out of their homes at night. Consider the untold numbers, who have suffered or perished from diseases, that are spread by poor sanitation – cholera, typhoid, dysentery, or polio.

And these are not a few people… - 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation; - 2 billion people don't have a decent toilet of their own, of which 673 million still practice open defecation; - and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities at home.

The fact that, nearly half the world’s population, doesn’t have basic handwashing facilities in the midst of a global pandemic, should alarm us all.

Unfortunately, progress towards universal sanitation, is off track and uneven in its coverage. At the current rate of progress, it will be well into the next century, before ‘sanitation for all’ is a reality.

Clearly we have to scale up our efforts, rapidly and exponentially.

We have to see the bigger picture, and the interconnected nature of sustainable development. Improved access to sanitation and clean water, can improve access to education; empower women and girls; boost jobs and livelihoods; and protect biodiversity, while fighting climate change.

On these latter, environmental points, it is worth noting that 80% of waste water, goes back into ecosystems untreated. And carbon emissions, from poor or absent sanitation facilities, contribute to climate change.

So how do we close this century long gap?

We do this, by scaling up our investments in water and sanitation, at home and abroad. We do this, by partnering with the private sector, both for financial investments, but also for innovation in new, more affordable and perhaps more efficient systems. And we do this, by raising awareness, and informing people about the impacts, direct and indirect, as we are doing here today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have long stated that, the UN and its Member States must own up to its resolutions and deliver upon them. These cannot be words on paper.

In this regard, I am pleased to note that, as President of the General Assembly, I am mandated to convene a High-Level meeting on the water-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda in 2021.

Through this high-level meeting, we will share lessons and experiences, mobilize actions and resources, provide the space for different sectors, to engage, generate high-level political support, raise global awareness of SDG6, and attract youth participation.

Excellencies, in closing, allow me to reiterate: this is not only a matter of convenience. Unfortunately billions are lacking access to these basic needs, which has also impacted, basic human rights and freedoms – such as health and education. And as COVID-19 has made sure to remind us, all problems are global problems.

So, let us work together, to support each other, to raise each other up, and to meet this most basic need.

Thank you.
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