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About Us: Jan Eliasson

Jan Eliasson

Hall of Fame 2020 Laureate

“The realities of the world are a constant reminder that global action and collective efforts are now needed more than ever.”

Jan Eliasson is the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations from July 2012 to December 2016. He was President of the United Nations General Assembly, from 2005 to 2006.

He has brokered any number of deals between warring parties and negotiated the world’s development targets. But whatever he does, diplomat Jan Eliasson is happiest to be known as the “water man” – the individual who, for nearly 25 years, has ceaselessly pressed governments and the UN to lift water and sanitation up the global agenda.

He was angry that the Water and Sanitation cause has not always been high on UN or government agendas. After seeing how children died from diarrhea in Africa, he decided to never stop fighting for the fundamental right for all to water and sanitation. Eliasson believes that Water and sanitation are relevant to human rights, security, peace and development.

“In the past, there was a silo approach to water and sanitation both in governments and the UN. Sanitation was taboo. Many people made jokes when, at official meetings in New York, I talked about toilets and open defecation. But bringing these words to the diplomatic discourse is, to me, very essential. In fact, they bring the stark realities into our meeting rooms.”

“It’s an investment. By having sanitation, you can save so much on health and productivity. People go to work. Children go to school. “Politicians lack long-term planning. They look at budgetary needs now but don’t see the larger picture. But they must look beyond their mandate periods. Ministers of finance should have responsibility for the long-term effects of public expenditure.

“Water and sanitation cannot drop off the agenda now. There is such a commitment to it. You have the development community, the World Bank and the big development banks, but also the scientific and health communities along with civil society, and philanthropists all backing it.”

In 2013, he was one of the key supporters for the vote for the resolution to adopt 19 Nov as the official UN World Toilet Day, which was unanimously approved by all 193 countries of the UN General Assembly. Today, he serves as Global Ambassador of WaterAid, a leading NGO for Water and Sanitation.

The World Toilet Organization honours him for his lifelong dedication to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene agenda that improves the lives of billions of people.