WSSCC draws attention to urban sanitation with side event at UN Habitat III


A panel of experts discussed equal access to sanitation and hygiene in public spaces.

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) hosted a side event on urban dignity and equal access to sanitation and hygiene in public spaces during the UN Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador.

The one-hour panel which took place on October 18th, sought to draw attention to the importance of sanitation and hygiene in public spaces for the realization of urban dignity.

The WSSCC-organized event consisted of an interactive panel examining three perspectives: people who lack access to sanitation and must develop coping mechanisms; innovative approaches to improve public sanitation and national policy options that engender urban dignity and create incentives and opportunities to improve public spaces.

The discussion kicked off with opening remarks by WSSCC’s Executive Director Chris Williams, which were followed by interventions from representatives of two partner organizations of Slum Dwellers International from India and Zimbabwe, Tanzanian parliamentarian and former WSSCC Chair Anna Tibaijuka, the Deputy Director General of Sida Marie Ottosson, the Nepali Minister of Urban Development Honourable Arjun Narsingh, and WHO/UN-Habitat Chief of Waste Management and Sanitation Graham Alabaster.

In discussing the social and economic impact of inadequate access to basic sanitation and hygiene services, speakers emphasized the need for a holistic human rights approach to urban sanitation in the planning process to ensure equal access and use by those who need it most.

Alabaster, for example, underlined the importance of partnership-building at the local level, including the “involvement of community groups and local authorities in the design and implementation of successful and sustainable sanitation and hygiene programs”.

The session was closed by WSSCC former Steering Committee Member professor Edgar Quiroga, who reiterated the importance of strategic cooperation “with government at different levels as well as civil society organizations in order to improve sanitation and hygiene in urban spaces” and respond to the various related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is estimated that one third of the 2.4 billion people without safe sanitation at the moment live in urban areas, which are growing fast.

The absence of safe and hygienic sanitation options forces the most vulnerable groups to avoid public spaces and prevents them from enjoying many of the economic and social attributes associated with these potentially safe environments.

Aiming to address these issues through the lens of an urban social movement, the global south, donor country, implementing partner and the UN, the event drew around 100 attendees.

Habitat III is a major global summit formally known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, which took place from October 17th to 20th in Quito, Ecuador.