WASH affordability consultation

Oxford academics among experts convened by a group of international bodies to explore global monitoring of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) affordability.

Affordability is a normative criteria of the human rights to drinking-water and sanitation, as well as being of fundamental importance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) WASH targets 6.1 and 6.2. However, until now, no global consensus has been formed around how WASH affordability should be defined and measured. Moreover, there remain significant data challenges to presenting WASH affordability at both national and global levels.

WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) and the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS), UNICEF and WHO recently established an Expert Consultative Group to explore global monitoring of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) affordability.

Two Oxford academics will contribute to the initiative: Dr Rob Hope, Director of the Water Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and REACH Director, and Michael Rouse CBE, Distinguished Research Associate at the School of Geography and Environment. Together they bring a wealth of experience to the consultation which comprises a number international experts drawn from the private sector, international organisations, such as the World Bank and OECD, and a global network of academics. The REACH programme, through its partnership with UNICEF, aims to support the work both methodological and empirically.

The objectives of the initiative to which the Expert Consultative Group will contribute are:

  1. To generate clarity and consensus around an understanding of what affordability of WASH services means, so that it can be defined and measured. This includes examining how other sectors have addressed affordability, such as health, education and social protection.
  2. To determine how WASH affordability can be measured with the current data sets available, and assess whether it can be presented at national, regional and global levels.
  3. To propose how to incrementally improve national and global monitoring of WASH affordability through improving the quality and availability of national data sets on WASH expenditure, policy responses, as well as willingness and ability to pay for WASH services.
  4. To identify ways in which analysis of WASH affordability can inform practical actions to make services more affordable, especially for poor and vulnerable populations.

While objective number 4 extends beyond the scope of global monitoring per se, it is important to ensure monitoring is linked to policy responses, and is an issue UNICEF and WHO are interested to explore in its entirety, together with partners.

The Expert Consultative Group, began its work earlier this month and aim to report before the end of the year.