In July 2010, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly officially recognized universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right in acknowledgment of its importance in the enjoyment of life and all human rights (UN Resolution A/RES/64/292). The UN and its member states reaffirmed the significance of human rights to water and sanitation in the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 (clean water and sanitation) as part of the 2030 Agenda’s central and transformative promise to “leave no one behind” (LNOB).
Despite these ambitious goals, inequalities continue to persist, as three out of ten people do not have access to safely managed water, six out of ten do not use safely managed toilets and four out of ten people do not have basic handwashing facilities in their households (WHO/UNICEF, 2019). The ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has further exposed these inequalities. Vulnerable populations continue to have limited access to WASH services in several countries due to problems such as high cost, inaccessible services and gender-based discrimination, in addition to sexual orientation and tribal or ethnic discrimination. At the same time, the 2019 UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report revealed policies and budget commitments made by several countries towards achieving and monitoring progress in access to WASH services by those furthest behind (as expressed by SDG target 6.2, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations). In line with these commitments, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) commissioned a study to review the status of the domestication of the HRWS, and measures taken to achieve and track progress in access to WASH by women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
The project was conducted in 8 selected countries in Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Nigeria), Asia (India, Nepal) and the pan-European region (France and Serbia) under the technical leadership of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources (UNU-INRA), with support from UNU-INWEH. WASH and human rights experts (one per country) were contracted by UNU-INRA to lead the review in the selected countries.