Call to Action for Survival and Resilient WASH Responses for the UN 2023 Water Conference

Published on Thursday 2 March 2023

We aknowledge:

The convergence of multiple and protracted crises – the Covid pandemic, climate change, violent conflicts, geopolitical instability – has exacerbated fragility across countries and regions. When fragility increases, so do humanitarian needs. The
OECD estimates that fragile contexts account for 23% of the world population. Currently, Humanitarian WASH actors do not have the capacity to respond to everincreasing needs. There is a severe gap in capacity and resources. Humanitarian funds are insufficient to meet requirements, reaching barely 58%¹ of the amount requested for Humanitarian Response Plans, while the total number of people in need is increasing every year, from 80 million in 2013 to 339 million in 2023². More specifically,
emergency WASH funds only cover 38%³ of requirements: the lowest coverage ever was in 2021 and 2020 with respectively only 22% and 21% of the required funding provided.


To address these gaps, 34 Humanitarian WASH actors have joined forces to implement the WASH Road Map, by tackling priority actions in the following areas: (i) Information and Knowledge Management, (ii) Capacity Development and Professionalization, (iii) Coordination and Partnerships, and (iv) Resource Mobilization and Advocacy.

We call to action:

As Humanitarian WASH Road Map actors, we call on governments to champion this Road Map, and make commitments to take concrete action to strengthen the WASH sector in Fragile, Conflict and Violent (FCV) settings. Road Map members are concerned by the lack of attention given to specific WASH challenges in FCV settings during previous high-level water events and proceedings (e.g. 2022 Dakar declaration and 2021 High-Level Political Forum).
Through this call to action, WASH Road Map actors call upon governments to raise the profile of WASH in FCV settings and table the following commitments in March 2023. We therefore call on governments to:

  • Primarily focus their efforts on people living in FCV settings, who are the most severely impacted by the multiple burdens of conflict, climate change, poverty and hunger. Special attention should be given to countries where no progress has been made towards achieving SDG 6, and populations who do not even have access to basic WASH services. It is only by including the most vulnerable that we can hope to reach the SDGs.⁴
  • Increase support for humanitarian WASH responses and coordination to deliver predictable, effective (timely) and sufficient survival WASH responses and ultimately safeguard the lives and health of those living in FCV contexts.⁵
  • Build sustainable and resilient WASH services that can withstand crises. Building back better and adapting existing systems – from infrastructures to communities – should be systematic, especially in countries with the highest exposure to multiple risks (climate crises, conflicts, natural disasters). In these contexts, cooperation between development and humanitarian actors at all levels from local to global will ensure continuity of services and better value for money. Together, let’s build services that last.⁶
  • Actively promote the effective implementation of International Humanitarian Law obligations relating to the protection of WASH personnel and UN Security Council Resolution 2573 (2021). This includes: promoting the identification and exchange of good practices to protect WASH infrastructure during armed conflict; supporting data collection on attacks on or impacting WASH infrastructure and their knock-on effects; and facilitating access to the necessary equipment, spare parts and consumables to restore and maintain WASH services.⁷
  • Support the request to the UN Secretary-General to swiftly nominate a UN Special Envoy for Water, in order to establish an ongoing UN-hosted intergovernmental mechanism to discuss global water issues and ensure the achievement of SDG 6 and all water-related SDGs.⁸


Supporting Documents:


¹ OCHA, Financial Tracking Service, from 2012 to now
² OCHA, Global Humanitarian Overview 2023
³ OCHA, Financial Tracking Service, average on data from 2012 to 2021
⁴ Example: increase donor funding or national budgets in fragile, conflict and violent settings.
⁵ Examples: join or support the Road Map initiatives; fund the WASH Humanitarian Response Plan or CERF.
⁶ Examples: solar water pumps that withstand power cuts; protected/elevated boreholes that resist floods; capacity-building of local WASH providers; developing donor support for humanitarian actors to maintain WASH services in FCV settings.
⁷ Example: a Surveillance System for Attacks on WASH services; exchange of good practices to protect water infrastructure during conflict.
⁸ Examples: an Intergovernmental Committee on Water; an annual meeting to assess progress on waterrelated SDGs.

© Vincent Tremeau