This year’s World Water Development Report on “Leaving No One Behind”, co-authored by UN-Water members and partners, highlights the annual theme on vulnerable people. This launch event served as an opportunity to highlight the challenges being faced in water and sanitation, and the lessons that the EU can learn from other regions of the world. WaterLex (Cynthia Bleu-Laine, Africa Programme Manager) joined UNESCO and WssTP in the European Parliament on 3rd April. 

Paul Rübig, member of the European Parliament for Austria, stressed the importance of the water/food/energy nexus to support the European economy, and the key role of water.  With 2.1 billion people still without safe drinking water today, and 40% of the world’s population suffering from water scarcity linked to climate change, he called on the EU to make its member states accountable for mapping and reporting of SDGs. 

This Report, published every year on World Water Day, explores the symptoms of exclusion and investigates ways to overcome inequalities. People who are “left behind” include women, minorities, disabled, refugees, migrants, forcibly displaced people, and recognises the inequalities between rural and urban areas. People without access to water and sanitation face many challenges linked to poor health, living conditions, malnutrition and lack of opportunities for education and employment. 

The Report makes the case that investment in water and sanitation supply makes economic sense, especially when including broader socioeconomic benefits such as health and productivity in the return on investment (ROI). The multipliers for ROI on drinking water and sanitation investment range between 2 and 5.5 respectively.  

The EU takes water and sanitation for vulnerable people seriously having spent over 2.5 billion Euros in the last decade in 62 countries. It is recognised that further steps should be taken. Initiatives such as the water diplomacy work of the EU Council last November, when it adopted in its conclusions that water is a prerequisite for human survival and dignity and noted the potential of water scarcity to affect peace and security. The European External Action Service (EEAS) is currently working on human rights guidelines which include water. 

WaterLex discussed the need for a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in addressing the issue of “leaving no one behind”. Through its’ country legal mappings and methodologies, WaterLex can help to identify gaps in governance, not only to help in improving water governance but also to make duty-bearers and right-holders accountable of their actions.  

L-R: Cynthia Bleu-Lainé (Programme Manager Africa Region WaterLex), Hans Goossens (CEO, De Watergroep), Raluca Anghel (Spokesperson, Permanent Representation of Romania to the European Union), Paul Rübig ( Moderator, Member of the EPP Group and MEP Water Group), Veronica Manfredi (Director for Quality of Life, Air & Water Quality, Marine Environment, Industrial Emissions & Safety, DG Environment), Durk Krol (Executive Director, WssTP), Stephan Uhlenbrook (Coordinator and Director , UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme – WWAP-), Louise Haxthausen (UNESCO Representative to European Institutions), Mariëlle von der Zouwen (Manager Knowledge  Management Group, KWR Water Cycle Research Institute).

Launch of World Water Development Report on Leaving No One Behind, European Parliament Brussels, 3rd April 2019