By Ariel Vered
Photos by Chris Roussakis
In honour of World Water Day 2017, the Global Water Institute at Carleton University held its first official event: a seminar entitled Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the Era of SDGs – New Directions and Emerging Trends presented by Clarissa Brocklehurst, an internationally recognized expert in the field of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Brocklehurst, an independent consultant based in Ottawa and former chief of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene section, presented some of the trends that have emerged in the WASH sector following the announcement of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015.
“It’s a new era,” said Brocklehurst of the SDGs, which target all countries and promote progress and global co-operation. “For the water and sanitation community, the most important news was, for the first time, unlike in the Millennium Development Goals, there was a standalone goal for water and sanitation.”
UN SDG goal 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for everyone by 2030. Brocklehurst focused on two of the goal’s targets: access to safe and affordable drinking water and access to sanitation and hygiene for all, with special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
Water Quality Standards Still Not Met
“In some countries, large numbers of people use improved water sources that (still) do not meet quality water standards,” said Brocklehurst, noting that all countries have progress to make in meeting the SDGs, including Canada, where people in some communities don’t have access to safely managed water.
Brocklehurst identified seven sector trends: the ambitiousness of the SDGs; the focus on inequity among socio-economic groups; the need for better use evidence and data to illustrate issues at hand; building capacity in communities by taking a systems approach; establishing new sources of financing and better sources of aid; encouraging behaviour-based approaches to improve sanitation and hygiene; and looking beyond households and introducing WASH in health-care facilities.
The informative presentation drew upon Brocklehurst’s three decades of experience in the WASH sector. Her resumé includes working on the water and sanitation needs of First Nations communities, acting as WaterAid Country Representative for Bangladesh and serving as Regional Urban Specialist for the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program in South Asia. Brocklehurst is a strategic adviser for the World Health Organization/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation and Sanitation and Water for All (SWA).
Equipping Communities with the Tools They Need
Throughout her talk, she underscored the value of encouraging and implementing systems, processes and behaviours that equip communities with the tools they need to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services.
“When I first started working in water and sanitation, I was told that what we needed was a maintenance-free hand pump, that if we had a hand pump that never broke down, that would be the solution. And I don’t think that,” said Brocklehurst.
“I think we need hand pumps that break down all the time. Because if they break down all the time, people learn how to fix them and then being able to fix them becomes part of the norm of how services are run.”