Word from the RWSN Chair:
Louisa Gosling, WaterAid
Dear RWSN colleagues, the 4 months since the last newsletter have been eventful for the RWSN.
It has become clear that covid-19 will be with us for a long time and that people need water to stay safe. But there is still no sign of the long term investment needed to ensure services are sustainable, while the social, economic and health pressures of the pandemic are making existing inequalities worse. 28 July marked the 10th anniversary of the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right by the UN General assembly.
In his statement to mark the anniversary, the UN special rapporteur concludes: “On the positive side, the international community is well aware that it has the obligation, both moral and legal, to ensure access to safe drinking water and to sanitation for all, without discrimination (…) However, without a swift and considerable increase in the efforts currently dedicated to water and sanitation, and a better understanding of the legal and policy changes required by a human rights-based approach to water and sanitation, the international community will not fulfill the ambitious promises it has made.”
The last RWSN webinar series focused on the human right to water as more practitioners are looking for ways to use human rights commitments to leverage progress.
On the positive side, the pandemic has generated a new urgency for agencies and practitioners to collaborate and work out solutions. RWSN has supported many discussions through webinars and online forums, its members bringing a large range of skills, experience and perspectives to the challenges posed by covid and climate change.
An important milestone was the conclusion of the UPGro research on groundwater in Africa, which has released a huge amount of valuable insights about the potential of groundwater and how to unlock it – especially for the poor. This is the result of a long collaboration between institutions in the global north and global south, with RWSN as knowledge broker. Meanwhile, hugely enriching discussions about decolonising WASH knowledge have erupted on the LNOB group, triggered by Black Lives Matter.
Institutionalised power imbalances between water experts from the south and the north and the different value placed on their expertise were exposed. These dynamics are damaging in themselves and ultimately compromise the viability of solutions developed. I encourage everyone to join this discussion and to challenge the systemic discrimination that limits the potential of collaborative learning.
The role of RWSN has never been more important in jointly tackling the multi-dimensional challenges of ensuring sustainable water supplies for rural populations.