A few years ago, Ian Douglas, then Minister of Health Kenneth Darroux, then-Senator Jahisiah Benoit, and even Prime Minister Skerrit himself were all bragging “EVEN BEFORE THE UNITED NATIONS STARTED ITS ATTACK ON PIT LATRINE PM SKERRIT HAD STARTED HIS PIT LATRINE REVOLUTION IN DOMINICA”
This was a lie then and it is still untrue today, albeit PM Skerrit continues to repeat it. In that regard, it was sad to listen to PM Skerrit repeat the same lie on his Sunday evening Anou Palay program of 29 November 2020. He stated,
“When I decided to eradicate pit latrines in Dominica, I was laughed at only to find out three years later the United Nations declared war on Pit latrine.” Accordingly, the PM Minister is suggesting that the international community ‘stole’ his idea to eradicate pit latrines. This cannot be furthest from the truth. It is false. If what the PM continues to saying were true, it would mean that he would have started eradicating pit latrine prior to 2003, and clearly, he could not and did not. His statement, therefore, cannot stand to scrutiny as a fact. The Prime Minister is a stranger to the truth on the matter.
Here are the facts on the global issue of pit latrine eradication, which has been on the minds of the international community long before PM Skerrit entered into local politics.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were not developed in a vacuum. They were the culmination of SEVERAL DECADES of international deliberations on the subject. The goals and targets relating to water and sanitation and eradication of pit latrine were outlined in the UN Millennium Declaration of 2000.
Over the past 30 years, numerous international conferences and agreements, such as the UN WEHAB Working Group of 2002 have provided a broad background for the MDGs and what is today the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
In the 20-30 years, many international conferences have discussed and agreed on steps required to speed up the implementation of UN Agenda 21. A comprehensive plan of action for sustainable development was adopted by more than 178 governments at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
The issue of pit latrine eradication was discussed as part of the water for sustainable development at the intergovernmental level at the 6th Commission on Sustainable Development way back in 1998, and broad consensus was reached on key water issues and eradication of pit latrine.
Numerous international water meetings (such as the Second World Water Forum in the Hague in 2000 and the International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn in 2001 served as important forums for multi-stakeholder dialogues on the issue. The United Nations Millennium Declaration and the preparatory process leading up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development further affirmed the role of water and associated issues as a key to sustainable development and the urgency of immediate action.
In a 2004 report, the UN Secretary-General proposed the eradication of pit latrine and on 20th December 2006, the UN General Assembly declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation in which pit latrine eradication was highlighted.
The proposal was brought into the General Assembly by 48 countries at the recommendation of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. The International Year of Sanitation provided the global community with an opportunity to raise awareness and accelerate actions for the achievement of the sanitation MDGs through a variety of actions and interventions.
The reference report stated inter alia:
“Around the world, 2.6 billion people do not have a clean and safe place to use for performing their bodily functions – they lack that basic necessity, a toilet. Among those who make up this shocking total, those who live in towns and crowded rural environments daily confront squalor all around them, including human feces, flies, and other disease-carrying agents. This hidden global scandal constitutes an affront to human dignity on a massive scale. The most important outcomes are:
- widespread damage to human health and child survival prospects;
- social misery especially for women, the elderly, and infirm;
- depressed economic productivity and human development;
- pollution to the living environment and water resources.”
The report observed that in the industrialized world, the modern ‘sanitary revolution’ has long meant that everyone has access to a flushing toilet at their home. Water for bathing, laundry, and all domestic use is piped into the household, and once sullied, piped out again. At the touch of a handle, human wastes are removed into a sewer or septic tank. In the developing world, such facilities are denied to the vast majority.
In a 2008 report entitled, “Tackling a global crisis: International Year of Sanitation 2008” was released, which was the culmination of 3 years of analysis, consultation with others, and substantial debate and interchange among the members of a task force. The Taskforce members met in Delhi, Nairobi, New York, and Stockholm from October 2002 to September 2004 and frequently exchanged views through numerous electronic discussions.
The report drew heavily on the interim report prepared by the Taskforce in December 2003 and incorporates the feedback received from various sources.
Therefore, please PM Skerrit, please stop embarrassing yourself and the country.