Ensuring Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation for all

The recognition of access to clean water and to sanitation as human rights by the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council in 2010 has been undoubtedly a major milestone towards ensuring sustainable delivery of these basic services. The resolutions confirmed the obligation of governments to ensure that water and sanitation services are available, physically accessible, of good quality and safe, acceptable in terms of dignity and privacy and affordable for all. Governments therefore have to take concrete steps towards ensuring access to safe water and sanitation for all, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations. Some components of the right to water and sanitation are deemed subject to progressive realization, by firstly extending access to the unserved, secondly improving service levels, and thirdly progressively eliminating inequalities in access. Other obligations such as that of non-discrimination are of immediate effect.

A focus on improving service levels and eliminating inequalities is particularly important in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in order to ensure that the targets included in Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) on water and sanitation are relevant to all member states:
– Target 6.1. By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.
– Target 6.2. By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this context, the UNECE – WHO Protocol on Water and Health provides a powerful framework to promote and operationalize equitable access to water and sanitation for all. In particular, the publication “No One Left Behind: Good practices to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation in the pan-European region” presents good practices and lessons learned from the pan-European region on the policies and measures to be enacted to provide equitable access to water and sanitation. And the analytic tool Equitable Access Score-card supports governments and other stakeholders to establish a baseline measure of the equity of access through a self-assessment process, identify priorities and discuss further actions to be taken to address equity gaps.

In two studies led by Agustí Pérez Foguet, these tools were applied at the local level in urban contexts to identify the critical factors in ensuring equitable access to water and sanitation. The approach adopted was based on a participatory diagnosis to produce evidence among local stakeholders on the distributional consequences of water and sanitation services policies on the population, with an emphasis on the level of service supplied to vulnerable groups. In Castelló de la Plana, Assessing access to water and sanitation services of vulnerable stakeholder groups: The case of Castellón (Spain), a two-day workshop allowed for in-depth discussions on the city’s service delivery from the HRtWS perspective. Shortcomings and challenges of equitable access to water and sanitation were identified. For example, in terms of affordability, participants recognized the willingness of Castello’s City Council to promote policies that ensured affordable water and sanitation services for all but highlighted the lack of public information and knowledge about the implementation of tariff and social protection measures. In Lima, Participatory diagnosis of access to water and sanitation services of vulnerable stakeholder groups: the case of Lima, the goal of the diagnosis was to raise awareness on certain data dimensions of access to and quality of water services that are often overlooked in aggregated data at metropolitan scale (i.e. data by neighbourhood). The assessment was based on the 5 components of Human Right to Water and Sanitation (availability, accessibility, quality and safety, affordability, and acceptability).

Both assessments have helped to get a clearer understanding of the gaps in access to water and sanitation and, in turn, to translate the priorities identified into actions to address the equity gaps and in financing the necessary measures to advance towards universal access.


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