Declaration of 2008 as International Year of Sanitation

international-year-2008Proper sanitation: It’s a seemingly mundane thing that most people in the developed world take for granted. But at least 2.6 billion people – some 41 percent of the global population – do not have access to latrines or any sort of basic sanitation facilities. As a result millions suffer from a wide range of preventable illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which claim thousands of lives each day, primarily young children.

To put the spotlight on this issue the UN General Assembly declared the year 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. The goal is to raise awareness and to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015.

In September 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals that challenged the global community to reduce poverty and increase the health and well-being of all peoples. In September 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg reaffirmed these goals and added access to basic sanitation as a centerpiece of the poverty eradication commitments. The target to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2105 was defined in the Johannesburg Plan of Action (JPOI).

The twelfth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CDS-12), held in New York in April 2004, reviewed the state of implementation of the goals and targets in the thematic areas of water, sanitation and human settlements. CSD-12 identified constraints to, and continuing challenges for, the implementation of these goals, including the JPOI target on access to basic sanitation. On the basis of that review, CSD-13 in April 2005 recommended policy actions to be implemented by member States in addressing these challenges. The international community will review progress towards the implementation of these recommendations during CSD-16 in May 2008.

Despite significant efforts by governments, progress on sanitation targets has been slow and uneven. Recongizing the impact of sanitation on public health, poverty reduction, economic and social development, and the environment, the General Assembly decided to declare 2008 the International Year of Sanitation (GA resolution 61/192 of 20 December 2006). The General Assembly encouraged member States as well as the United Nations system, to take advantage of the International Year to increase awareness of the importance of sanitation to promote action at all levels, taking into account the recommendations of CSD-13.