Over 200 participants from 40 countries attended the fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health (Belgrade, 19-21 November 2019), which reaffirmed the recognition of the Protocol as the regional hub to address water, sanitation and health related issues.
As highlighted by the United Nations Secretary-General in his opening video message, the Protocol helps countries to achieve the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda, to implement the human rights to water and sanitation and to respond to the global call to action for improved WASH services in all health-care facilities by 2030.
The Meeting reviewed achievements and progress in the implementation of the Protocol and addressed strategic issues related to the pan-European agenda on water, sanitation and health. The high-level session on catalysing sustainable development in the pan-European region shed light on the role of the Protocol in achieving the water, sanitation, hygiene and health related commitments of the SDGs and the Ostrava Declaration on Environment and Health. The session also discussed emerging challenges that will require new thinking and increased attention, such as amicrobial resistance, proliferation of legionella and increasing occurrence of extreme weather events. Participants highlighted that the Protocol has accelerated progress towards ensuring access to safe and adequate water and sanitation for everyone and the provision of WASH services in schools and health care facilities.
The Meeting of the Parties adopted a new ambitious programme of work for 2020-2022 addressing key regional priorities. In a round-table on financing Parties and other partners discussed how to achieve sustainable and predictable financing under the Protocol.
Increased membership of the Protocol
• Interest for the Protocol in the region is growing. Seven countries in the pan-European region are considering accession and, having deposited its instrument of accession, Montenegro is soon to become the 27th Party to the Protocol.
• As we enter the decade of action to deliver the SDGs, the United Nations Secretary-General urged all countries to ratify the Protocol and strive for its full implementation.
• The 2019 regional report on the implementation of the Protocol, based on the analysis of 33 national summary reports submitted by Parties and other States within the fourth reporting cycle. The highlights of the report can be found here.
• Six new publications:
1. Protocol on water and health and the 2030 Agenda: A practical guide for joint implementation, providing step-by-step guidance on how to identify, establish and operationalize the links between the Protocol and the 2030 Agenda.
2. Surveillance and outbreak management of water-related infectious diseases associated with water supply systems, presenting technical information and practical step-by-step guidance on how to address the specific aspects of related to surveillance and outbreak management of water-related infectious diseases.
3. Strengthening drinking-water surveillance using risk-based approaches, providing a rationale for decision-makers, regulators and professionals in the fields of public health, environment and water management to promote and support the uptake of risk-based approaches in regulations and surveillance practice.
4. Surveillance of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools – A practical tool, offering ready-to-use surveillance instruments to support education and public health authorities in assessing and monitoring WASH conditions in schools and to inform the development of supportive regulations and improvement planning to safeguard children’s health, well-being, dignity and cognitive performance.
5. Improving health and learning through better water, sanitation and hygiene in schools: An information package for school staff, providing guidance on how to address common WASH problems and deliver improvements at the school level, along with practical solutions, tips and ready-to-use templates.
6. 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, featuring the experience of 11 countries, which carried out work on equitable access, including multi-stakeholder’s self-assessment processes and the development of equitable access action plans.
Other highlights and decisions
• The Meeting of the Parties elected Belarus as its Chair for 2020-2022.
• The Meeting of the Parties adopted a decision on general issues of compliance. It endorsed the outcomes of the Consultation Process with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, including the Interpretive note on the relationship between the Protocol and European Union law on water and health.