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:
- The development of guidance documents and tools to better understand, assess and address the challenges to ensure equitable access to water and sanitation;
- Support to projects in countries to assess the situation of equitable access to water and sanitation and improve the equity of access;
- Exchange of experiences at the regional level.
This policy brief aims to support the efforts of countries in the pan-European region in the progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Specifically, it intends to raise the profile of affordability issues among policymakers, enhance the understanding of how affordability concerns can be addressed, and inspire and promote further action to ensure affordable water and sanitation services.
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.
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.
These various guidance tools contribute to improve the governance and policy framework needed to develop an inclusive and effective response to epidemics crisis such as the COVID-19 crisis. More information on the importance and relevance of these tools for preparedness and response to the COVID19 is available here.
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.
|Scale of assessment
|Greater Paris Urban area
|December 2012 - March 2013
|Eau de Paris, SEDIF, SIAAP, OBUSASS, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
|September 2012 - April 2013
|ERSAR, National Commission for Human Rights
|National + city of Sebastopol
|January - May 2013
|State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service, NGO MAMA-86, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources
|Republic of Moldova
|April - December 2014
|NGO Solidarity Water Europe in Moldova, Ministry of Environment
|November 2015 - October 2016
|State Committee on Water Economy of the Ministry of Agriculture and NGO AWHHE
|October 2014 - End 2016
|National Public Health Center and Office of the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights
|October 2015 - July 2018
|Republican Hygiene and Epidemiology Centre under the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources
|3 districts (Skopje, Veles and Kumanovo)
|April 2015 - February 2016
|Institute for Public Health and NGO Journalist for Human Rights
|Municipality of Castelló de la Plana
|April - May 2016
|Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Jaume I University and City council of Castelló de la Plana
Region of Sumadija and Pomoravlje
|July - December 2017
|Ministry of Environmental Protection, Regional Economic Development Agency for Sumadija and Pomoravlje
|Ministry of Healthcare, NGO EarthForever
|June 2019 - on-going
|Ministry 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.
Exchange of experiences at the regional level
Several activities have facilitated the exchange of experiences related to equitable access to water and sanitation:
Regional Workshop on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation: New policy developments, impacts of Covid-19 and options to ensure affordability(Virtual and Geneva, 13-14 June 2022)
Sixth meeting of the Expert Group on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation (Virtual, 24-25 March 2021)
Fifth meeting of the Expert Group on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation (Paris, 26-27 June 2018)
Fourth meeting of the Expert Group on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation (Budapest, 13 - 14 September 2017)
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 (Paris, 11-12 May 2015)
Second meeting of the Expert Group for the development of an equitable access score card (Paris, 15-16 May 2013)
First meeting of the Expert Group for the development of an equitable access score card (Paris, 27-28 September 2012)
Workshop on Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation - Challenges, good practices and lessons learned (Geneva, 4-5 July 2011).