The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) hosted the Policy and Practice Forum 2023 on inclusive and affordable water and sanitation solutions for a climate-resilient world from April 25-27, 2023. The forum brought together experts, practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and civil society representatives from various regions, especially the global South, to discuss the challenges and opportunities in water and sanitation management. The forum highlighted the importance of addressing gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) concerns in water and sanitation and proposed a number of potential solutions. GWSC participated in the forum to learn the issues and elaborate the potential solutions into its programs.

Some of the key GESI/social concerns raised during the forum were:

  1. The lack of data to target excluded groups, particularly women, children, and slum dwellers, who face limited access to water and sanitation with dignity.
  2. The need to recognize dignified sanitation as a human right and collaborate with advocacy groups to ensure it.
  3. The disparities in water availability between and within cities and the exclusion of relevant stakeholders from decision-making processes.
  4. The health issues associated with inadequate water and sanitation facilities and the occupational hazards faced by sanitation workers.

The forum also proposed some potential solutions to address these concerns, such as:

  1. The forum suggested that water and sanitation policies and practices should be guided by the principles of equity, sustainability, and climate resilience, considering the socioeconomic conditions and the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. This would require data governance, GESI responsive planning, just and equitable access, and inclusive approaches/strategies.
  2. The forum also emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration among various actors, including communities, regional alliances, public and private sectors, and stakeholders. This would help to coordinate actions, leverage resources, share knowledge, and build consensus for political change.
  3. The forum also recommended that water and sanitation interventions should be supported by adequate financial policies, administrative changes, research activities, and advocacy efforts. This would entail budgeting, insurance, incentives, social impact bonds, policy enforcement, occupational safety, livelihood support, welfare services, tools, applications, behavior studies, communication plans, and buy-in.

The Policy and Practice Forum 2023 highlighted the importance of addressing GESI concerns in water and sanitation. The proposed solutions offer a roadmap for how to achieve inclusive and affordable water and sanitation solutions for all, particularly in the context of climate change resilience. Collaboration, policy reforms, data-driven approaches, and prioritization of equitable solutions will be key in achieving the desired outcomes and fostering sustainable development in the water and sanitation sector.