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Barbara Frost reflects on the High Level Meeting

Our Chief Executive blogs about last Friday’s Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting.

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15 Apr 2014 | UK

I knew we’d already made progress as I stood in a room twice the size of the last meeting two years ago and watched it fill to capacity with ministers from all over the world. We were all there to review and renew our efforts to end the water and sanitation crisis and you could feel a real sense of purpose in the air.

To kick off proceedings, both the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke about how we cannot eradicate poverty without universal water and sanitation. After so many years it was fantastic to hear the absolute importance of sanitation being talked about so frankly and at such a high level.

Menstrual hygiene was also being discussed for the first time – an issue I know is of particular interest to UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening. Like many of our UK supporters, I was keen for Ms Greening's attend to demonstrate UK Government leadership on this issue. I was delighted to see her in the room and she was right to tell us all that if we want to improve the lives of women and girls, getting access to water and sanitation services is vital.

Barbara Frost at the high level meeting in Washington 2014
Barbara Frost at the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting.
Credit: SWA/Kris Tripplaar

The Secretary of State was sending a clear message that the UK Government wants to see water and sanitation given due priority in the new development goals that will launch in 2015. Our priority remains a dedicated goal for water and sanitation, so that every home, school and health centre has these vital but most basic of necessities.

In total, 265 commitments were made at the meeting. Almost half the attending developing countries promised to reach all their citizens with water and sanitation by 2030. Many promised to end the practice of ‘open defecation’.

When you look at the new data released at the meeting it confirms that rapid progress is possible. Between 2000 and 2012, Ethiopia halved the proportion of people defecating in the open. And in the same time period, more than 30,000 people a day gained access to an improved water source in Sub-Saharan Africa.

We badly need more rapid progress, especially in sanitation provision. After the real political energy I saw on display, I left the meeting feeling we are already making big strides towards a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water and sanitation by 2030.

After all, as the UN Secretary General said, ‘we cannot eradicate poverty without them’.

Find out more about the 265 commitments to improving water, sanitation and hygiene that were made at the High Level Meeting >