UNITED NATIONS. JAN ELIASSON TOILET LEADERSHIP

 

1 SEPTEMBER 2013

JAN ELIASSON TOILET LEADERSHIP

When it comes to reliable toilets, you may say Jan Eliasson is a dreamer. But he's not the only one.

Nawaf Salam is truly serious in going along with him all the way, from General Assembly gavel (to declare World Toilet Day) to gavel. So is Neo Ek Beng (you will have to find out for yourselves who they are). There are several others, especially grass root supporters -- in particular, World Federation for Toilet Seats which was initiated by a disciplined Korean who indeed was relieved over a year ago when received by our distinguished Secretary General.

There are, of course, obvious challenges as Eliasson's sidekick, Waltzing Matilda of the Danube, would clearly tell us. For example, an official press communique admonished that the "laughs" about toilet seats could obscure the need of over 2.5 billion people for them. How true, particularly if you're waiting in line outside the Men's Room, fully occupied by none other than Jan Eliasson himself.

A main problem generally agreed by experts is lack of means to buy these prized seats, particularly in the Third World, where Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. However, a newly introduced problem relates to electronic technology. An InterPress Service story by our ace reporter and friend Thalif Deen previously pointed out that South Korea and Japan have gone upscale: offering automated toilets with piped-in classical music. Luxury users, however, were stunned to discover that their entrusted seats could be remarkably hacked by a jealous geek in another part of the world. A Wall Street Journal report quoted a 27-year-old young American recounting how he was able to remotely flush a seat in Japan and trigger its taped music, to the surprise of its puzzled users. A conference of experts meeting in Las Vegas confessed that "virtually all computerized devices" were vulnerable to hacking.

What's a concerned Jan Eliasson, Nawaf Salam, and Neo Ek Beng (Bang?) to do?

Make more statements. Stand up, or sit down, as the situation requires. But, at any cost, hold on to their seats.

Meanwhile, it may be comforting to reproduce the full text of a statement (more than one was made, both in English and French, but we'll stick to one only for reasons of space). It was made after a General Assembly Resolution (without need of a vote, as participating members were in a rush), to declare 19 November of each year as World Toilet Day. In the absence of the President, Lebanon's Nawaf Salam firmly took charge of the adoption. Following is a special statement on 24 August 2013 about how "grateful and delighted" U.N. Deputy Secretary General felt that day:

"I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day. I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue. This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

"Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet. Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

"Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity. It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities.

"This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s "Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015", agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year.

"I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights. I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality."

HOLD ON TO YOUR SEATS!