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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. 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 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 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

Three pilots projects were carried out in 2012-2013 in France, Portugal and Ukraine to test the Equitable Access Score-card and proved useful to identify inequities in access and to support the development of action plans to address the identified equity gaps.

Projects were then carried out in six 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 organizationsReport
FranceGreater Paris Urban areaDecember 2012 - March 2013Eau de Paris, SEDIF, SIAAP, OBUSASS, Ministry of Social Affairs and HealthPDF (pilot)
PortugalNationalSeptember 2012 - April 2013ERSAR, National Commission for Human RightsPDF (pilot)
UkraineNational + city of SebastopolJanuary - May 2013State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service, NGO MAMA-86, Ministry of Ecology and Natural ResourcesPDF (pilot)
Republic of MoldovaNationalApril - December 2015NGO Solidarity Water Europe in Moldova, Ministry of EnvironmentPDF
ArmeniaNationalNovember 2015 - October 2016State Committee on Water Economy of the Ministry of Agriculture and NGO AWHHE



HungaryNationalOctober 2014 - End 2016National Public Health Center and Office of the Commissioner of Fundamental RightsPDF
AzerbaijanNationalOctober 2015 - on-goingRepublican Hygiene and Epidemiology Centre under the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Ecology and Natural ResourcesPDF
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia3 districts (Skopje, Veles and Kumanovo)April 2015 - February 2016Institute for Public Health and NGO Journalist for Human RightsPDF
SpainMunicipality of Castelló de la PlanaApril - may 2016Polytechnic University of Catalonia, jaume I University and City council of Castelló de la PlanaPDF
Serbiato be confirmedTo start in 2017to be confirmed

Projects are currently going on in Armenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to develop Equitable Access Action Plans.

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.