(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and gentlemen
Sweden had a warm summer this year. My four-year old daughter has been very keen on swimming.
She loves to swim – just like I did when I was a child. And like most parents, I want to say “yes” when my child wants to play in the water.
But this summer many parents in Sweden had to say no when their children wanted to jump in the sea. Because the water was not healthy. Instead it was a brownish mess of toxic algal bloom.
This is just one of many alarming signs that our marine environment is under great stress. A third of the Baltic Sea now has so little oxygen that it is hard or impossible for fish to live and breed.
This means that things that we for generations have taken for granted are going to be difficult or even impossible for our children to enjoy. Like taking a swim on a warm summer day. Or being able to eat the fish that they have caught themselves.
It makes a mother sad to have to say no to her child’s desire to swim.
Still, I know, that this is nothing compared to the losses that other mothers are suffering around the world.
Like the mother whose child is thirsty – but she has only dirty water to give. Or the mother who can’t work, because fetching water for her family takes up half of her day. Or the mother who can’t let her teenage daughter go to school because there is no proper sanitation. Disease. Poverty. Inequality.
– 650 million people lack access to safe water.
– 2,3 billion lack access to improved sanitation.
– 900 children die every day of diarrheal diseases.
This is what we are really talking about when we discuss water.
So, let’s change the perspective – and look ahead:
Let’s talk about health. About economic development. And equal opportunities for boys and girls. Because this is what we can achieve, if we make the right decisions about water today.
According to the 2016 United Nations World Water Development Report, “Water and Jobs”, three out of four jobs worldwide are water dependent. Three out of four!
The report also shows that there is a positive correlation between water investments and economic growth. So, investing in safe drinking water and sanitation is investing in health. And it is also investing in access to education, in jobs and in sustainable economic growth.
I am honoured to have been appointed by the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as an Advocate to promote the global sustainable development goals.
I am grateful for the opportunities it has brought me to learn more about the challenges that we face about;
And climate change.
One key insight is that the seventeen global goals are not a list of targets. But rather a network or a system. The only way to achieve one goal is by working on the others as well.
It is like a wristwatch: if you lose just one of the cogwheels it will stop. And you are likely to be late. Maybe too late. There is no such thing as spare time. There is, in fact, no time to waste at all.
I believe Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed it very well when he said: "We are the first generation that can eradicate poverty. And the last that can put an end to climate change.”
I am proud that Sweden is truly committed to the 2030 Agenda and the global goals. In the government, the civil society, the business sector and academia there is a strong ambition to take the lead. And to lead by example.
But: leading is not just about showing the way.
It is also about listening About learning from others. And being open to new ideas. And this is why we are here today.
Looking around this room, I see leading researchers, decision-makers and opinion leaders from all over the world.
I see hope.
So much knowledge and ability gathered here, under the same roof.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. Let this World Water Week give us the energy we need to carry on in order to make great things happen.
The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, once said:
”No peace which is not peace for all,
no rest until all has been fulfilled.”