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Business Leaders Urge Action On World Water Crisis

Business leaders with UN Global Compact urge action on water crisis

7 May 2008 - Governments of the Group of Eight (G8) countries need to take urgent action on the emerging global crisis in water and sanitation, say business leaders from some of the world's largest companies who have endorsed the United Nations Global Compact.

In a letter released today by the UN Global Compact Office, the chief executive officers of 19 corporations call on G8 leaders to actively address the issue of water during their upcoming summit in Japan in July. The business leaders are all endorsers of the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, which was launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year.

"It is increasingly clear that lack of access to clean water and sanitation in many parts of the world causes great suffering in humanitarian, social, environmental and economic terms, and seriously undermines development goals," the letter states.

It is estimated that approximately one billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. The letter cites a recent UN Development Report, which argues that the costs to sub-Saharan African economies of not having basic universal access to water and sanitation represent about five per cent of gross domestic product.

"Water is not just an environmental issue - it is a poverty and development issue, an economic issue, and therefore a business issue," the chief executives state.

The letter notes that in 2000, world leaders committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including a concrete target to "halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation."

"We are pleased that business leaders have taken the initiative and are urging governments to take seriously this emerging crisis," said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact.

The Global Compact pledges participating businesses - now numbering some 3,600 in over 100 countries - to observe principles regarding human rights, labour rights, environmental sustainability and the fight against corruption.

ENDS

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