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Equitable access to water and sanitation

The Protocol on Water and Health stipulates that "equitable access to water, adequate in terms both of quantity and of quality, should be provided for all members of the population, especially those who suffer a disadvantage or social exclusion". In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council recognized access to water and sanitation as a human right.

The work on equitable access under the Protocol, co-led by France and Hungary and supported by UNECE, aims at enhancing access to water and sanitation for all, including poor, vulnerable and socially excluded people.

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 learnt from throughout the pan-European region on the policies and measures to be enacted to provide equitable access to water and sanitation. It distinguishes three key dimensions of equitable access:

  •     geographical disparities
  •     specific barriers faced by vulnerable and marginalized groups
  •     affordability concerns

It presents a range of available policy options to fight inequities.

The publication was developped by a group of experts, based on the outcomes of the Workshop on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation - Challenges, good practices and lessons learned (4-5 July 2011).

One of the main messages of the publication No One Left Behind is that current governance frameworks are often "equity blind". Ensuring equitable access requires a results-oriented action plan, building on country situation analysis and context specific indicators.

An analytic tool, the Equitable Access Score-card, was developed to support Governments and other stakeholders to establish a baseline measure of the equity of access, discuss further actions to be taken and evaluate progress in ensuring equitable access to water and sanitation through a process of self-assessment.

The publication The Equitable Acces Score-card: supporting policy processes to achieve the human right to water and sanitation contains recommendations on how to plan for the self-assessment and provides concrete examples of the benefits of using the Score-card.

The score card was developed by an Expert Group in 2012-2013 and tested through 3 pilots projects in France (Greater Paris Urban Area), Portugal and Ukraine, where it proved useful to identify inequities and to support the development of action plans to address the identified equity gaps.

The Equitable Access Score-card has then been applied in the Republic of Moldova in 2014 (Moldovan Country report), in Hungary (October 2014 - March 2016), in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (April 2015 - January 2016; country report) and in Armenia (December 2015 - July 2016; Armenian country report). It is currently being applied in Azerbaijan (started in September 2015) and in Serbia.

A draft strategic note on the development of action plans to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation is currently being finalized.

Several activities have facilitated the exchange of experiences related to equitable access to water and sanitation:

Regional Workshop on achieving equitable access to water and sanitation: from assessment to action (Geneva, 21 - 22 March 2016)

Third meeting of the Expert Group on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation (11-12 May 2015)

Second meeting of the Expert Group for the development of an equitable access score card (15-16 May 2013)

First meeting of the Expert Group for the development of an equitable access score card (27-28 September 2012)