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Conference theme

Water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone, everywhere

Conference report available now (PDF)!

WASH 2014 conference report

Within the overall theme of “WASH for everyone, everywhere” were three sub-themes:

A) Equitable access, universal services
B) Achieving health outcomes with WASH
C) Sustaining and improving services

Parallel streams in the two day conference explored the following sub-themes. Handwashing

A. Equitable access, universal services

In moving towards universal WASH services there is renewed emphasis on providing services to a broad range of marginalised communities, households and individuals - people that are often the hardest to reach. As a sector we need to explore how WASH programming might change to ensure that equity and inclusiveness in WASH access improves, reducing inequality between: rich and poor; urban and rural; informal and formal urban settlements; and disadvantaged groups and the general population.

 Recognition of the Human Right To Water and Sanitation (RTWS) may offer support in this effort but only in so far as it empowers citizens and motivates governments to tackle the issues of availability, safety, accessibility, affordability, participation, non-discrimination and accountability. A renewed emphasis on equitable access to universal services will challenge our traditional approaches to monitoring WASH improvements. New approaches are required that disaggregate data by marginalisation and can inform us about our progress towards greater equality.

B. Achieving health outcomes with WASH

WASH is a foundation of preventative health and yet has not featured strongly in health policy and programs in recent years. This is set to change; both The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's new aid policy, An Effective Aid Program for Australia, and the emerging 2015 framework seek to foster greater coordination between related sectors, such as WASH and health, to maximize outcomes.  This shift points to the importance of integrated programming yet we know little about how this might best be achieved and what has hindered such approaches in the past.

Areas of particular interest for Australia and the region include; how WASH can best be addressed in a health system-strengthening approach; and how best to integrate WASH and programs addressing particular health issues such as nutrition and stunting, Neglected Tropical Diseases, HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health.

C. Sustaining services and outcomes

With MDG targets in our sights, the focus of WASH efforts over recent decades has been on promoting first-time access to safe water and improved sanitation. Some impressive results have been achieved, yet as a sector we continue to face challenges around sustaining these outcomes and progressively improving the quality of services provided. There is now widespread acknowledgement of the need to consider the full water, sanitation and hygiene service chains when planning, designing, implementing and evaluating WASH programs. This requires extending our view to encompass all aspects of service delivery including the wider institutional contexts and financing mechanisms through which service delivery occurs.

At the same time, in a resource-constrained world with uncertainty presented by climate change, the conversation is shifting away from discussion of environmental and economic ‘trade-offs’ towards prioritisation and approaches that maximise the value of resource use and reduce vulnerability. Reflecting this there is a growing evidence base in the WASH sector on innovative approaches to management of water and waste, including re-framing WASH ‘waste’ products as resources.

The WASH 2011 Conference began exploring such ideas. For 2014 – with an emerging post-2015 global agenda, new ideas and increasing understanding of what it takes to ensure sustainability – it was timely to build on and extend discussions.

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