United Nations Agencies, Faith Leaders Sign Historic Declaration

UN-Habitat, in collaboration with other United Nations agencies and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, held a closed-door meeting in New York in which a historic declaration was approved by all parties in order to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals through partnerships with Faith-Based Organizations.

783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to sanitation, without which the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved. At the same time, over 83% of the world’s population practices a faith, placing Faith-Based Organizations in a unique position to ensure dynamic change on the ground.

According to the declaration, “Every day, thousands of children die in developing countries due to the lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Taking note of this devastating fact, Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and religious leaders stand committed towards the crucial WASH sector, and towards promoting peaceful, harmonious understanding and friendship in order to realize WASH goals… Thus, it has been agreed that UN Organisations and FBOs, in close association with Communities, Governments and other stakeholders, shall work together”

The declaration was signed at the Round Table meeting that had the goal of developing partnerships between United Nations Agencies and faith-based organisations, and was coordinated in cooperation with the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, in order to help realize a sustainable WASH-related agenda.

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan and Co-Founder/Co-Chair, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, said, “The United Nations and Faith-Based Organizations are joining forces as never before to root out and forever eliminate the causes of the deaths of countless children due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. The time has come for such a bold and historic move, for with so many children perishing every day, time is one thing we no longer have. Together, we will not only make a spirited and memorable difference, but we will also forge closer ties of peace between the faiths as all come together in fellowship to roll up their sleeves and save lives.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, shared the work that GIWA was committed to doing to improve WASH for all and said, “Today, more people perish worldwide due to the lack of safe, sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) than from all forms of violence combined. Our definition of peace must expand to include ensuring that our brothers and sisters, of every country, every culture, every color and every creed, have access to life-sustaining improved WASH. Through our declaration, hands and hearts have formally united across faiths and borders to help ensure the SDGs are realized through a vision of a future in which our water is clean and our environment and lives are healthy.”

Mr. Andre Dzikus, Coordinator, Urban Basic Services, UN-Habitat welcomed everyone and shared the remarkable work that UN Habitat has been doing in collaboration with Project WET and other organizations to bring Water Education and Literacy all over the world. He also shared that according to Transparency International the amount of water lost every year due to corruption could have effectively met the MDGs. Therefore, the innovative and vital work that UN Habitat is doing is to incorporate value and ethic based approach to water so that equal distribution and sustainability of this life giving element could be maintained for all.

Other eminent participants and speakers of the roundtable, included:

  • Morgan Close, International Program Manager, Project WET
  • Dinesh Suna, Coordinator, EWN, World Council of Churches
  • Serik Tokbolat, Bahai Community
  • Luciana Rossi, Brahma Kumaris
  • Jaspal Singh, Paonta Sahib, India
  • Phil Gosselin, Sri Sathya Sai Trust, USA
  • as well as many other stakeholders

The beautiful event also included a sacred Water Blessing Ceremony in which the participants prayed and pledged to work for access to safe and sufficient water for everyone across the planet.

Said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati in conclusion, “The world is a world of faith, and thus hope is in all of our hands. Together, let us clasp the hands of all members of our global family, of all faiths, backgrounds, philosophies, genders and creeds, so that we may, as Mahatma Gandhi so beautifully said, ‘be the change we wish to see in this world.’ Through the concerted uniting of all faiths, great change for the upliftment of our world can be readily.

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