The three-day World Toilet Summit, held in Surakarta, Central Java, officially closed on Friday with a declaration that among other things highlighted the importance of building and strengthening partnerships at the global, regional, national and local levels on sanitation issues.
The declaration was called the Solo Declaration, after the popular nickname of Surakarta, and it also underscored the need to update, review and implement effective and environmentally sustainable national sanitation policies affecting both rural and urban areas.
'Sanitation is a human right. We cannot afford to have a global sanitation crisis any longer. We can't wait,' chairperson of the summit's organizing committee Naning Adiwoso said on Friday, quoting from the five-point declaration.
Through the declaration, the summit's 386 delegates from 19 participating countries also agreed to develop national sanitation
policies that took into account cultural, religious and socio-economic circumstances as well as the needs of different groups, including urban and rural communities, women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
Also included in the declaration were pledges to encourage and empower communities to become free of open-defecation through sanitation and hygiene programs and to improve the quality of private and public toilets in rural and urban settings.
Naning said all the points contained in the declaration showed the urgency for improving sanitation facilities not only in Surakarta or in other regions across Indonesia, but also globally.
'The declaration hopefully will be able to create awareness among all stakeholders to maintain toilet cleanliness,' said Naning, who is also chairwoman of the Indonesian Toilet Association ( ATI ).
Separately, founder of the World Toilet Organization, Jack Sim, said that it was time to bring issues on toilets before the public and to stop considering them taboo because the reality was that toilets were vital to public health.
'In the past, toilets were not spoken about. Now we will make sure toilets are spoken about at the highest level,' said Sim after announcing the Solo Declaration on Friday.
Sim said he would ask all the participating countries to compete in sanitation, beginning with airport toilet cleanliness.
He also said countries could hold programs like Miss Sanitation and Sanitation Ambassador. Both programs have already been launched by the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works.
Meanwhile, a summit participant, Sarmiyati, 53, expressed her concern that public places in the country
did not have adequate toilet facilities for disabled people, especially for those who were in wheelchairs, like herself.
'Other disabled people might be fine [using public toilets], as most of the toilets have been equipped with handles, but the handles are not enough for those on wheelchairs,' she said.
That was why, she said, she always brought her crutches with her when traveling.
'I do hope after this summit, stakeholder awareness regarding easy access to toilets for the disabled will emerge,' Sarmiyati said.
The World Toilet Summit is an annual event of the World Toilet Organization that was established by Sim, a Singaporean tycoon, in 2000. Surakarta was chosen to host the summit following a meeting between Naning and then Surakarta mayor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, now Jakarta governor, in 2012.
The 2014 World Toilet Summit is scheduled to be held in Bangladesh.