“On the question of water, it’s not just a matter of missed economic opportunities, of entrenched social injustice and poverty; on the question of water, it’s quite simply a matter of life and death”, Michael Moller

The 1st World Summit on Leaving No One Behind was launched in appropriate style with opening speeches from Michael Moller (Director General of the United Nations) and Francis Gurry (Secretary General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)) on Thursday 7th February. Gurry highlighted the need to build on existing low cost and tested technologies and introduced the role that WIPO can play in making these available.

Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commisioner for Human Rights

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

The calibre of the speakers reflects the importance of the subject, the need to find solutions for the very poor, the marginalised, and the people left behind. In order to realise the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 on water there needs to be a more concerted effort by everyone to achieve these goals stated Director General of WaterLex, Amanda Loeffen. This Summit is the first event of 2019 on the topic of Leaving No One Behind, and the start of the UN-Water Campaign:

“whoever you are, wherever you are, water is your human right”. 

Andrew Harper, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, highlighted that inequalities in drinking-water quality and quantity can be a common consequence for displaced people, and undermine the human right principle of non-discrimination.

The format of the Summit is rather different from the usual conference, with a competition to find the most innovative solutions for water and sanitation, that will solve problems for people in marginalised communities.  The Summit Scientific Committee, lead by Michel Jarraud (emeritus head of WMO), based its choices on criteria linked to the human rights to water and sanitation, including a human rights-based approach. The finalists had to demonstrate that the projects could be accessible to local communities, affordable and suitable for scaling up, through replication and policy reform.

The Innovation Award was selected by the judges on day one from the six finalist Flagship Projects, those which had been pilot tested, and which showed the best chance of success. The winner in this category was Shervin Hashemi, a postdoctoral researcher from Seoul National University, with a nature-based solution for sanitation waste re-use as fertiliser. The project will be tested in rural Vietnam, using bio seeds as a source of locally-based biological treatment.

On day two, three prizes were awarded from fourteen finalist Exploration Projects for human rights-based approaches, such as community-managed rainwater harvesting, community-driven solutions in partnership with local government, and sanitation solutions for disabled children.  Congratulations go to Deepthi Wickramsinghe (Sri Lanka), Eva Manzano (Colombia), Ramisetty Murali and Mekala Snehalatha (India).

All award-winning projects and finalists will be showcased during the UN-Water campaign this year, with the goal of sharing the innovations more widely and encouraging more interest in solutions for the people that are being left behind.

As explained by WMO hydrologist Dominque Berod, the next World Summit will be ‘le deuxième’, not ‘le second’, which in French suggests that there will be more than one more Summit to follow. Next year, the UN-Water theme will be on Climate Change, and the planning has already begun for a 2nd World Summit on Leaving No One Behind, in the context of climate change.



Francis Gurry and Michel Moller, copyright: WIPO. Photo by Emmanuel Berrod
Kate Gilmore, copyright: WaterLex.