4 Dec 2013

The right to safe water and sanitation

Submitted by ohsadmin

Third session of the meeting of the parties to the Proto­col on Wa­ter and Health, Oslo 25-27 November. Arranged by the Pro­to­­­­­col, UNECE and WHO regional office for Eu­­ro­pe and hosted by the Nor­we­gian govern­­ment.

The meeting dealt with issues ranging from Equitable access to drinking water and sanitation to safe drinking water and reduction of water-related disease and humus related disease. Present were ministers, country representatives, civil servants, diplomats, experts, UN-officials and NGOs active in the pan-European region.

The human right to water and sanitation was recognized in 2010. This requires that water and sanitation services are available, accessible, safe, acceptable and affordable for all without discrimination.  The Protocol on Water and Health provides a framework for this right to be put into practice in the pan-European region. Targeted and smart solutions are needed at international, national and local levels.  Examples of activities under the protocol are: An Atlas on Water and Health,  WHO has developed technical programmes for the prevention and surveillance of infectious diseases. The importance of access to clean water for vulnerable groups was emphasized as well as increased global urbanisation.

NGOs have accumulated practical information and experience on water management at local levels. Their capacity to mobilize popular participation is crucial in this work. There are many challenges, more data is needed on equitable access, there are great disparities between regions and in some countries the quality is so low it endangers human health. Privatization of water is another problem. The NGOS present via Mama86 from Ukraine, asked the parties to use the document No one left behind, as well as the score card for self assessment and baseline study. The importance of public participation cannot be stressed enough and WECFs (Women in Europe for a Common Future), Guide on public participation under the Protocol on Water and Health, which was presented at the meeting should be a very useful  tool for the implementation of the Protocol.

The NGOs present and HEAL (Health and Environment Alliance),expressed their support for this work on public awareness in a national context. It is to be hoped that, HEAL-member,  One Health Sweden in some way can contribute to data collection in this wide field of water safety and sanitation.

More information is available on the UNECE website.

Eva Haxton