(with thanks to John Chilton, Sharon Velasquez-Orta and Jose Gesti-Canuto)
The UN-Water Annual Zaragoza Conferences serve UN-Water to prepare for World Water Day, which in 2015 will focus on “water and sustainable development” and celebrated the end of the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’, so it was especially important for taking stock of and learning from achievements as well as planning the next steps.
The meeting brought together the UN agencies working in water and invited stakeholders from governments, business, civil society, academia and the media to talk about water scarcity and water quality, risk and risk management and WASH in terms of lessons learnt from the Waterforlife Decade and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to take them forward to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the theme “Academia contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals related to water” on the 16th January, the was a session titled “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Tools for WASH implementation from an equity lens”, led by Jose Gesti-Canuto, with short presentations by three UPGro collaborators:
- Jose Gesti-Canuto (UNICEF/RWSN Executive Steering Committee)
- John Chilton (IAH, Hidden Crisis)
- Sharon Velasquez-Orta (University of Newcastle, IN-GROUND)
- Fabio Fussi (University of Milano-Bicocca, Remote Sensing for Manual Drilling)
The session on WASH went well; a smallish parallel session on the contribution of research to WASH but with lots of good discussion. In discussion with Jose Gesti who was convening the session, we put the general points about the UPGro programme only in my presentation which went first, and then Sharon and Fabio followed. The features of the UPGro programme were generally agreed to be excellent and not common, and the session rapporteur mentioned UPGro favourably in the rounding up plenary. The RWSN good practice guides received a mention from Jose in his plenary introduction.
Our work on unravelling the causes of failure is of course of interest to WHO and UNICEF and others and, alerted to the work, they may be keeping an eye on our progress. There is a lot of material in the case studies and the tool box on the conference website. There was some discussion of “indicators” with regard to SDG targets; a nuanced definition of failure which embraces the things we have been discussing about proportions of pumps out of action for how long, and the time taken to repair could fit the bill here. As you know, the JMP needs to be able to distinguish between gross national coverage figures and real access to reliable supplies of sufficient and safe water.
In terms of innovation, it was considered important to engage civil society during technology development and deployment. This ensures that the local community knows what to do in case of a technical failure and is not fully dependent on providers. The WASH session with civil society, also emphasized the need to adequate the technology to the country of application and motivate their own technological development and ownership.
I consider that this is facilitated in the UPGro programme as all our projects engage local Universities. Building-up the element of trust in our collaborations was considered a key component to facilitate local technological advancements.