Distinguished Members of today’s panel,
Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I am honoured to be called upon to open this important event, and I thank the governments of Tajikistan and Bangladesh for organising this timely event in collaboration with FAO, IFAD, WWAP/UNESCO. I also want to thank the many and many different kinds of experts and stakeholders who have joined us at this early hour to discuss a variety of water-related issues in LDCs.
 
Now, we all know that “water is life”, but we sometimes also forget that water is also many other things: a vital means of communications, especially for land-locked nations; a source of essential foods and fisheries; a core element of many ecosystems; an efficient, low-cost means for generating electric power on a variety of scales; a potential source of conflict between and within nations; and much more.
 
Managing, or better put, co-managing our water resources is an emerging challenge for the world as a whole; for a large number of the populations living in LDCs, assuring low-cost access to safe water and providing protection from more frequently occurring floods and the effects of rising sea levels are all existential issues. But water is not only a challenge, sometimes it is also a solution. As H.E. the Prime Minister of Tajikistan explained in the General Debate on Monday, regional cooperation in management of water resources can also bring countries together and help to accelerate development.
 
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Although there are many issues associated with water, one issue is common to all LDCs today: protecting the basic human right of access to low-cost, safe drinking water.
 
We are encouraged by the progress achieved towards access to safe drinking water since 1990. Access to improved sources of drinking-water is relatively high globally, with 87 per cent of the world population having access to safe drinking water. But only 62 per cent of the people in Least Developed Countries took their drinking-water from such sources in 2008.
 
Now I would like to tell you that the situation with respect to access to safe drinking water is fluid; but in fact it appears to be frozen. Simply put, there has been no significant change in the trend of increasing access to improved water sources in LDCs since 2000. Only about one third of LDCs are on track to meet the goal of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. And even if the developing world, as is expected, exceeds the MDG target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking-water, 672 million people world-wide will be left without access to improved drinking-water sources in 2015.
 
The situation is becoming more challenging as needs for water rise along with population growth, urbanization and development itself, which increases household and industrial consumption of water resources. Water issues are, accordingly, an unavoidable preoccupation for the wider group of LDCs, an existential threat to many populations and a significant risk factor for many LDC’s long-term development.
 
Assuring access to clean water for consumption, as well as water for agricultural and industrial purposes, is a fundamental challenge for development.In the pre-conference event organized by my office in January this year on: Promoting Universal Access to Essential Services in LDCs, where many of you have also participated, the issues of access to water and sanitation were highlighted as part of the essential services in LDCs that need to be promoted to accelerate the MDG achievement in LDCs .
 
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Assuring the human right of access to affordable, safe, clean drinking is only one of several important issues – and opportunities – associated with water. 
 
Another vital water-related concern relates to the effects of climate change. If the potential correlation between hydrological variability (mean rainfall) and key economic variables in LDCs is considered, the implications of climate change for the rural poor and for domestic food security are serious. One third of Africa’s population lives in drought-prone areas, and it is projected that by 2020 between 70 million and 220 million people in Africa will suffer from the effects of increased water stress resulting from climate change.
 
Urbanization, the unavoidable concomitant of development presents another challenge. The General Assembly has reaffirmed the need to increase sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation through prioritizing integrated water and sanitation strategies, which include the restoration, upgrading and maintenance of infrastructure, including water pipelines and sewage networks, as well as promoting integrated water management in national planning and exploring innovative ways to improve the tracking and monitoring of water quality.  
 
In this context it is important to note thatthe distribution of both surface and groundwater resources amongst LDCs is uneven. There is a close relationship between water shortages and poverty in LDCs. LDCs are confronted with the lack of  adapted technology and investment necessary to collect, treat, and distribute water among consumers in an efficient manner. Low water quality, as well as the lack of capacity and infrastructure to monitor and control water flows are another critical issues. All these issues require a serious and comprehensive approach on the part of LDCs themselves, the partner countries, international organizations, the private sector and civil society organizations and other expert groups.
 
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
As you know the aim of these special events is to contribute to the concrete deliverables of this Conference. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs provides an excellent forum for a true action-oriented multi-stakeholder forum on a variety of key issues facing LDCs today. None of these issues is more important or more urgent than the one our co-sponsors and our panellists have chosen for today.
 
I am delighted that the Governments of Tajikistan and Bangladesh – themselves world-class experts – are collaborating to help us focus on these issues, to increase awareness and to promote policies that apply a holistic approach. Like many of you, I am here to listen and learn.
 
I very much look forward to listening to the presentations and the exchanges that will follow. And I sincerely hope that this panel can accept the discipline of coming up with specific recommendations and innovative solutions that will become a significant deliverable of this conference.
 
Thank you all.