World Water Development Report 2019 Addresses Exclusion, Inequality
UN Photo/Martine Perret
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According to the World Water Development Report 2019, three out of ten people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, and six out of ten do not have access to safely managed sanitation services.

The report calls for addressing inequities in costs and services, and argues for prioritizing those most in need.

19 March 2019: The UN released its annual report on the role of water in sustainable development, ahead of World Water Day on 22 March. The 2019 report, which was launched at the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, calls for improving water and sanitation access as a means of addressing exclusion and inequality, and “leaving no one behind” – the main objective of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The report titled, ‘The United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Leaving No One Behind,’ notes that three out of ten people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, and six out of ten do not have access to safely managed sanitation services – issues reflected in SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2, respectively.

The report calls for addressing inequities in costs and services, and shows that the poor often do not benefit from government investment in pipe and sewage infrastructure as they lack access to connections. Hence, the poor may pay much higher prices for water that they buy directly from vendors.

A human rights-based approach will ensure that water and sanitation services are safe, available, accessible, affordable and culturally acceptable.

The report argues for prioritizing those most in need. It focuses on equitable access to water for farmers in agricultural production, for refugees and internally displaced people who face barriers in accessing services, and for slum dwellers who lack water pipe and sewage connections.

Illustrating the difficulties faced by many in the world, the launch event in Geneva, Switzerland, featured “water hacks” by a young woman of refugee background, including tips on the care and installation of rooftop tanks and interaction with neighbors “in case you need to borrow water.” The guest speaker was one of many who lack adequate access to water and sanitation. The report notes that, by the end of 2017, more people than ever have been forcibly displaced through conflict, persecution or human rights violations, while another 18.8 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters.

The authors argue for adopting a human rights-based approach that will ensure that water and sanitation services are safe, available, accessible, affordable and culturally acceptable. To successfully bring water and sanitation to populations in need, they propose targeting areas where people have least access to services, collecting disaggregated data to determine which groups are at the highest risk of being left behind, introducing technology that is the “best fit” for local needs, rather than “best practice,” and tracking and monitoring services. They note that subsidies will be needed for achieving universal coverage of services.

World Water Development Reports have been issued annually since 2012, and previously were issued once every three years since 2003. Each report focuses on a specific theme regarding sustainable use of water resources. The 2018 report focused on nature-based solutions in water resource management. The report is coordinated by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), and is published jointly by UN agencies and entities that are part of UN-Water. [Publication: UN World Water Development Report 2019: Leaving No One Behind] [Main Messages] [Executive Summary] [Report Landing Page] [World Water Development Report Series Web Page] [UN Press Release] [Report Launch Event] [SDG Knowledge Hub Guest Article on Water for All]


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