UN designates November 19 as UN World Toilet Day

Singapore’s first UN resolution entitled “Sanitation for All” was co-sponsored and adopted by consensus by 122 countries at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly. With the adoption of the resolution, 19 November is now designated as UN World Toilet Day.

The resolution aims to draw greater attention to the global sanitation crisis. On achieving the key milestone for the global sanitation movement, Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization said: “After 13 years of mobilising global support for the severely-neglected sanitation crisis, we have come very far in our efforts to bring health, dignity and well-being by advocating sanitation for all. Attaining UN recognition for World Toilet Day feels like winning the Nobel Prize for Sanitation.”

Background on World Toilet Day

World Toilet Organization (WTO) was founded on 19 November 2001. To commemorate its founding day, the organization declared 19 November as World Toilet Day. On the same day, WTO held the inaugural World Toilet Summit in Singapore. At that time, the word “toilet” was considered a taboo and the sanitation crisis was largely ignored by the media. In the humanitarian sector, the subject of water and sanitation was bundled into one agenda called WatSan. This resulted in sanitation being overshadowed by the more prominent agenda of water, hence sanitation remained neglected while the area of water (which is equally important) was considered to be deserving of more attention and action.

Legitimacy breeds global support, global support breeds legitimacy

Starting out on a shoe-string budget in 2001, WTO’s activities were successful in drawing attention to the harsh realities faced by 40% of the global population who lack access to basic sanitation. By establishing a number of unique initiatives – World Toilet Day, World Toilet College, World Toilet Summit & SaniShop – WTO established a strong sense of legitimacy for the work carried out by toilet associations and stakeholders in the sanitation sector. By pushing the sanitation issue to the forefront of the global development agenda, sanitation also received a huge boost when the United Nations declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation.

With the designation of World Toilet Day as an official UN day, WTO hopes to mobilize all 193 member countries of the UN to address the needs of the 2.5 billion people without access to basic sanitation. WTO will continue its efforts in ensuring everyone, everywhere has access to clean, safe and sustainable sanitation.


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