Category: News and updates

Three pillars, two anniversaries, one water

Today is the 10th anniversary of the recognition by the United Nations General Assembly of “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

June 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter, established over the three pillars of peace and security, human rights, and development. These pillars are as relevant today as they were in June 1945, when the world was recovering from of the devastation of World War II. There is little disagreement now that collective action and solidarity is essential to tackle the global issues of our times.

Given the significance of these anniversaries, Water Policy Group calls on governments and development partners to rectify the lamentable lack of access to clean water by many in the global community and accelerate efforts to universally deliver this fundamental human right.

Water bridges the three pillars of the UN Charter and is also essential for realizing many other human rights:

Water is necessary to produce food (right to adequate food) and ensure environmental hygiene (right to health). Water is essential for securing livelihoods (right to gain a living by work) and enjoying certain cultural practices (right to take part in cultural life).” [1]

Human rights to water and sanitation are also embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals, which include ensuring access to water and sanitation for all people. Having access to safe water can be a determining element to cut perpetual poverty. In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to clean water and appropriate sanitation is literally a matter of life and death.

Water Policy Group has urged governments to base water decision-making on a human rights approach. This means prioritising the provision of services to the people and communities who are most vulnerable and not protected by existing safety nets.  In many cases, this will require political leadership to reconsider conventional approaches, and change legislation and budgetary priorities.

Water Policy Group calls on governments to take the opportunity of unprecedented investment in COVID-19 response measures, disaster risk reduction, climate change-related initiatives and development actions to deliver on the human rights to water and sanitation. To do so, many governments will need to:

  • empower and engage local communities;
  • ensure frameworks and incentives are in place for the private sector to play a greater role; and
  • find new ways for the disadvantaged, in particular women and youth, those with disabilities and other underprivileged groups, to receive the services they need to enjoy their human right to an adequate standard of living.

The concurrence of these anniversaries with the worldwide pandemic and evolving awareness of structural inequalities provides an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate progress toward the fulfillment of the basic human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Water Policy Group urges governments and partners to seize this moment.

Water Policy Group
28 July 2020


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[1] General Comment No. 15: The Right to Water (Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant  on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), adopted at the 39th Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 20 January 2003.


Supporting the water ‘step-up’

Water Policy Group will contribute to ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (Sustainable Development Goal 6) and support the newly launched Global Acceleration Framework for SDG 6 by issuing a regular Water Policy Report. The report will provide insight into the key issues and constraints facing governments in SDG 6 implementation.

The announcement of the Water Policy Report follows the Group’s call for governments to step up their efforts on SDG 6. The report will be drawn from surveying the views of many people in water policy leadership roles in a wide range of countries in all regions and climate zones and in different stages of economic development. By drawing on a very wide range of perspectives and policy experience from around the world, the report is intended to provide deep insight into the key enablers of and constraints to progress in achieving sustainable water and sanitation for all.

Many countries are not on track to achieve the water and sanitation goal by 2030, yet doing so is a necessary precondition to achieving all other sustainable development objectives, including health, food, clean energy, economic development, decent work, and environmental protection. For this reason, accelerated action on water and sanitation is imperative.

Water Policy Group applauds today’s launch of the Global Acceleration Framework by Secretary General of United Nations, António Guterres, and the collective work and will of 32 agencies of the United Nations and many partner institutions in preparing this through UN-Water. Through the Framework, United Nations agencies will assist governments with five ‘accelerators’: financing, data and information, capacity development, innovation and governance.

The Water Policy Report will cover all these topics, helping governments place the issues they are dealing with in a broader global context and supporting the Global Acceleration Framework.  The survey component will be undertaken in collaboration with the University of New South Wales Global Water Institute.

Water Policy Group
9 July 2020


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Water Policy Group Statement on COVID-19: Governments urged to step up effort on water and sanitation

Water availability is at the core of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is at the core of humanity’s progress. Clean water access is essential as a first line of defence to COVID-19 containment and is also key to effective treatment and recovery.  Furthermore, the monitoring of sewage has emerged as a key surveillance tool for the early detection of the virus in the community.

While access to clean and safe water can largely be taken for granted in some countries, this continues to be a major challenge for many—as evidenced by progress reporting that many nations are not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of clean water and sanitation for all people by 2030 (SDG 6). Many countries with plans and projects to meet the targets lack the necessary finance.  As many countries implement emergency measures to secure essential water access to contain the spread of the pandemic, they are undertaking significant budget reprioritisation. In this context, Water Policy Group calls for water availability to be prioritised.  Countries now have a rare opportunity to ensure that the economic stimulus measures that revive economies and create jobs also focus on water and sanitation sectors and align with a long-term future that is water-secure.

Water insecurity is acknowledged as an enormous risk to global economic development. Safe water availability is crucial to overcoming the pandemic, protecting the health of communities, and for economic development. Water Policy Group calls for governments to step up their efforts to achieve the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, with the support of international programmes, organisations, and partnerships.

Now is the time to deliver on the agreed social justice, environmental, and economic goals so necessary for global development and security.
Water Policy Group urges governments to:

  • Base water decision-making on a human rights approach, with investments in new and improved water and sanitation services prioritising the people and communities who are most vulnerable and not protected by existing safety nets. Investments in water connections, improved supply chains for sanitation products, and decentralised infrastructure can provide better quality of life, improved health outcomes, and resilience to climate change and extreme events for millions.
  • Adopt integrated solutions that create co-benefits, such as with the energy and food production sectors, and that create synergies with broader landscape management and agro-ecology, that hold the promise of more efficient and effective use of resources as well as environmental benefits.
  • Attract new sources of private and public financing to pioneer the innovations needed to drive future sustainability.

Water Policy Group anticipates that the dramatic reprioritisation of national development and resource strategies resulting from COVID-19 should fundamentally change national water and development trajectories in the long term for the better. While it may seem to be conventional wisdom that societies have to go through a period of ‘arrested development’ as a consequence of the pandemic and concomitant economic shock, there is another option: to come out of this challenge stronger, evidenced by the many calls for a ‘green recovery’ and to  ‘build back better’.

Water Policy Group
3 July 2020 


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A boost for water policy

Water Policy Group members are pleased to announce that Mr Ravi Narayanan of India has joined the Group as its tenth member.

On behalf of Water Policy Group, Mr Tony Slatyer said Mr Narayanan would bring a wealth of experience in water policy, programs and initiatives at the national and international level.

“As former Chief Executive of WaterAid UK, and with his other influential roles in India and in global forums, Mr Narayanan’s knowledge and understanding will allow Water Policy Group to better support global and national efforts to achieve universal access to safe water and sanitation for all people,” Mr Slatyer said.

Mr Narayanan’s membership comes at an important time, as global water experts, including Water Policy Group, stress the necessity of basic water and sanitation services for COVID-19 safety and for  achieving most other social and economic development goals.

Mr Narayanan’s other current roles include being Chair of the Asia Pacific Water Forum and Chair of the Water Integrity Network.

On his new membership, Mr Narayanan says, “I am delighted to join such an eminent group and look forward to learning from my new colleagues and contributing with them to better water policy outcomes. I believe strongly in mission of the Group and the opportunities to improve water and sanitation outcomes globally through good policy at all levels.”

Other members of Water Policy Group are Ms Anne Castle, Ms Mercedes Castro, Dr Jane Doolan, Ms Felicia Marcus, Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, Mr Tony Slatyer, Mr Tom Soo and Dr Olcay Ünver.

Water Policy Group
15 June 2020 


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A new partnership is born

Today we announce a new partnership that will connect leading water policy practitioners with an academic network working at the forefront of multidisciplinary water research. Water Policy Group (WPG) and the University of New South Wales Global Water Institute (UNSW-GWI) are pleased to announce the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding to support and advance each other’s agendas to promote sustainable and equitable water stewardship.

Every country in the world faces great challenges in achieving the sustainable and equitable use of water resources by 2030 as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. It is imperative that all public and private sector organisations and institutions that are active across fresh and marine water resources cooperate and collaborate to identify and deliver appropriate technical knowhow and good government water policies.

WPG and UNSW-GWI are joining forces to better connect cutting-edge water research to innovative water policy. Under the new partnership, UNSW-GWI will provide logistical support for WPG activities and WPG will connect UNSW-GWI members into broader water policy networks and activities.

WPG is a global network of water sector experts who have been decision makers and trusted advisers within governments and international bodies handling complex water policy and strategy. The members of the group have had direct experience in working with complex water policy issues, and a common goal that their knowledge, networks and experience can help achieve the sustainable development of water resource to serve the public interest.

Speaking on behalf of WPG, Mr Tony Slatyer said, “Water issues are intrinsically complex and cannot be solved without people working together. The support being provided by UNSW-GWI will enable our members to maximise our services and outreach globally. In turn, we look forward to assisting UNSW-GWI to engage in water policy at the global level.”

UNSW-GWI represents members of the UNSW water community from the faculties of law, medicine, social science, engineering, built environment and science. UNSW has a long history of excellence in fresh and marine water research and is consistently placed in the top ten universities worldwide for water resources.

Professor Greg Leslie, Director of UNSW-GWI, remarked that the new partnership will provide unique insight to how water policy is developed and informed by research.

“This exciting development will provide new opportunities for academics and postgraduate students working across all the faculties and centres active in fresh water and marine research to better connect research to smart water policy and management,” said Prof Leslie.

Over the next 12 months the partnership will co-deliver suite of seminars, podcasts, surveys and policy documents on the most vexing of challenges associated with the sustainable and equitable use of water resources.

Water Policy Group
23 April 2020

Enquiries: Patricia Dalby –

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Mercedes Castro joins Water Policy Group

Water Policy Group members are pleased to announce that Ms Mercedes Castro Garcia has joined the Group as its ninth member.

Water Policy Group is a network of recognised water sector experts with direct experience in working with water policy issues in and with governments. Members share a common goal to harness their unique skills and experience to serve the public interest.

Ms Castro is the group’s first member from South America, where she has led an illustrious career across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

As Director and CEO at NGO Agualimpia in Peru, Ms Castro leads projects financed by international donors and the private sector, generating public private alliances to benefit vulnerable rural and urban populations.  She is also CEO at HIDRIKA, an international consultancy specialising in water issues.

Ms Castro represented the former President of Peru on the High Level Panel on Water from 2016-2018 and is the current Chair of the Steering Committee of the 2030 Water Resources Group in Peru.

Ms Castro says she is eager to assist Governments further with water policy matters and will do so with the critical elements of collaboration and inclusion top of mind.

“I believe strongly in the power of alliances among the public sector, private sector, academia and vulnerable communities,” says Ms Castro.

“Together we can take an inclusive approach to enable the full enjoyment of water by people in Latin America and the rest of the world.”

Other members of Water Policy group are Ms Anne Castle, Dr Jane Doolan, Ms Felicia Marcus, Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, Mr Tony Slatyer, Mr Tom Soo and Dr Olcay Ünver.

Water Policy Group
20 April 2020 


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Water Policy Group Statement on COVID-19: Water and Global Solidarity

Access to clean water and sanitation is essential for containment of COVID-19. Without water, hand hygiene is not possible and without water to the home, home based quarantine is not possible.

Yet it has been estimated three billion people have no water service to the home, 785 million people have no access to any basic drinking water service, and 12% of health care facilities globally have no water service. These facilities must either get their water service from more than 500 metres away, or from an unimproved source.

Five years ago, all Governments committed to rectify this when they agreed to Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goal 6 of ensuring access to water and sanitation for all people by 2030. But many countries are not on track to achieve this Goal.

As efforts are made through high level political processes of the G20 and United Nations to found a new ‘shared responsibility: global solidarity’ agenda to help with the COVID-19 response and recovery, it will be important that sustainable and equitable availability of water for all is prioritised as a core issue for increased focus and action, now and in the future.

Water Policy Group supports the recent statement by United Nations Secretary-General, the Hon Antonio Guterres, “Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.”

Achievement of universal access to water and sanitation by 2030 will be an imperative contribution to this objective. Governments will need to consider how to allow for more adaptive water governance and risk management to increase the resilience of their societies in the face of disruption from COVID-19, climate change and economic pressures.

Reliable access to fit for purpose water for all citizens is necessary for human health and all other dimensions of sustainable social and economic development.

Water Policy Group believes this goal is possible to achieve with sufficient political energy and commitment to put in place the right policies and investments at the national level, supported by the international community.

Water Policy Group
15 April 2020 


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Data and reference sources:


1st World Summit on Leaving No One Behind

The 1st World Summit on Leaving No One Behind was launched with opening speeches from Michael Moller (Director General of the United Nations) and Francis Gurry (Secretary General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)), Amanda Loeffen (Director General of Waterlex) and Tom SOO (IWRA Executive Board Member and member of the Water Policy Group) on Thursday 7th February.

“The summit focussed on solutions for access to water and sanitation for the people that have been left behind is an issue of human rights, whatever the cause, be it poverty, water scarcity, climate change, conflict situations or cultural and gender barriers. Solutions need to be innovative, economical and easy to implement. Overarching these constraints there also needs to be a supportive political climate and strengthened governance to overcome corruption, inertia, and budgetary constraints.The nexus of these three aspects of Human Rights-Based Water Governance, Innovative Technology and Economic Feasibility provides a topic for this Summit, and a platform to bring together ideas and people in a constructive environment.The clear outcome from the two days is to find tangible projects to pilot, with funding attached to them.

Kate Gilmore (Deputy High Commissioner of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) closed the final session on the Friday, with her reflections on the fundamental dignity related to water and sanitation and the link to goal 6 and the “need to inject urgency and justice into a more inclusive process to realise human rights to water and sanitation”, Kate Gilmore.”