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Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania engage in consultations with the Compliance Committee of the UNECE/WHO Regional Office for Europe Protocol on Water and Health

Published: 07 March 2018

On 6 March the Compliance Committee of the Protocol on Water and Health initiated a consultation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to support those countries in their efforts to improve their water and health situation and deal with emerging challenges by setting national targets under the Protocol.

The three Baltic States are generally speaking water-rich countries that provide access to water of high quality from well-protected groundwater sources and safe sanitation to their populations.

However, the countries also face a number of similar challenges, in particular related to access to and the quality of drinking water supplied by small scale and individual systems, which comprise a large share of the water supply systems in these sparsely populated states. Moreover, the countries share similar problems in terms of limited institutional capacity and lack of financial resources to maintain ageing infrastructure and sustainable water management.

As member States of the European Union, the three countries implement the European Union water and health-related directives, which are closely related to the objectives of the Protocol on Water and Health; however, the Protocol goes beyond the scope of these directives by addressing issues such as equitable access to water and sanitation and small scale water and sanitation supply systems, which are of high relevance to the Baltic States.

The consultation just started under the Committee’s Consultation Process and which will run until November 2018, will support Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in developing relevant targets under the Protocol on Water and Health, specifically addressing the challenge of small scale supplies in rural areas. Setting and implementing such targets will contribute to attaining the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation, ensuring that no one is left behind.  Another expected outcome of the consultation is the clarification of the relevant legal provisions of the Protocol, based on the information and lessons gathered during the consultation, including with regard to the relations between the target-setting obligations of the Protocol and other relevant instruments (e.g., European Union directives), which will take the form of an interpretive note of general scope issued by the Committee.

It is important to highlight that the Consultation Process under the Protocol on Water and Health is not a compliance review procedure. Hence, it is not of an inquisitive nature and its objective is not to establish whether a Party is non-compliant. The objective of the Process is in turn to assist Parties in implementing the provisions of the Protocol on Water and Health by providing advice and assistance, which may vary depending on the specific conditions and needs of the Party involved. It may address scientific, technical, legal and administrative issues. The procedure is guided by the same principles governing the work of the Compliance Committee, i.e., that it be simple, facilitative, non-adversarial and cooperative.

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