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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 human rights. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 makes explicit reference to human rights, equality, and non-discrimination principles and the Sustainable Development Goals framework includes a dedicated goal (SDG 6) for water and sanitation: "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all".

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. It includes:

Guidance documents and tools on equitable access

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.

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 Access 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 Guidance Note on the development of action plans to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation aims to help countries in translating the priorities identified through the self-assessment into actions. Specific Equitable Access Action Plans are needed to guide country (or sub-national entity) efforts to achieve equitable access to water and sanitation by identifying priority actions to be implemented and ways of implementing them. The Note describes the content of Action Plans and their process of development.

Projects in countries to improve equitable access

Since 2011, the work under the Protocol on Water and Health has accelerated national and local efforts to improve equitable access to water and sanitation in the pan-European region.

The publication The Human rights to water and sanitation in practice: Findings and lessons learned from the work on equitable access to water and sanitation under the Protocol on Water and Health in the pan-European region capitalizes on he experiences of the region, and particularly of eleven countries, which have committed to improving equitable access. The publication maps out the lessons learnt from the Equitable Access Score-card based assessments, presents concrete technical and policy actions taken by these countries and examines national experiences with the development of Equitable Access Action Plans, considering the practical steps that can be taken to improve the planning and financing of specific action plans.

Projects were carried out in eleven countries to develop situation analysis of the equity of access to water and sanitation services, on the basis of the Score-card.

CountryScale of assessmentProject periodLead organizationsCountry reportCountry highlights
FranceGreater Paris Urban areaDecember 2012 - March 2013Eau de Paris, SEDIF, SIAAP, OBUSASS, Ministry of Social Affairs and HealthPDF (pilot)PDF
PortugalNationalSeptember 2012 - April 2013ERSAR, National Commission for Human RightsPDF (pilot)PDF
UkraineNational + city of SebastopolJanuary - May 2013State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service, NGO MAMA-86, Ministry of Ecology and Natural ResourcesPDF (pilot)PDF
Republic of MoldovaNationalApril - December 2014NGO Solidarity Water Europe in Moldova, Ministry of EnvironmentPDFPDF
ArmeniaNationalNovember 2015 - October 2016State Committee on Water Economy of the Ministry of Agriculture and NGO AWHHE

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PDFpartII

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HungaryNationalOctober 2014 - End 2016National Public Health Center and Office of the Commissioner of Fundamental RightsPDFPDF
AzerbaijanNationalOctober 2015 - July 2018Republican Hygiene and Epidemiology Centre under the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources-PDF
North Macedonia3 districts (Skopje, Veles and Kumanovo)April 2015 - February 2016Institute for Public Health and NGO Journalist for Human RightsPDFPDF
SpainMunicipality of Castelló de la PlanaApril - May 2016Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Jaume I University and City council of Castelló de la PlanaPDFPDF
SerbiaRegion of Sumadija and Pomoravlje

 

July - December 2017Ministry of Environmental Protection, Regional Economic Development Agency for Sumadija and Pomoravlje PDFPDF
BulgariaRegional levelJanuary-July 2018Ministry of Healthcare, NGO EarthForeverPDFPDF
BelarusRegional levelJune 2019 - on-goingMinistry of Health

 Three countries have developed Equitable Access Action Plans:

- in Armenia: a national Action plan for 2018-2020 to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation has been officially approved in August 2017 by the State Committee of Water Economy of the Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources;

- in North Macedonia: three local action plans to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation have been developed;

- In Serbia, an Action plan (with national and local measures) for 2019-2022 to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation in the region of Sumadija and Pomoravlje has been endorsed by the inter-ministerial Joint Body in charge of the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health in February 2019.

 Activities on equitable access to water and sanitation in the 2017-2019 programme of work of the Protocol on Water and Health focus on:

  • Enhancing knowledge of the situation of equitable access to water and sanitation through assessments and awareness-raising;
  • Fostering the adoption of measures to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation.