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Regional water action agenda: Towards universal access to clean water and sanitation

31 March 2023|Briefing note

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 25% of the population lacks access to drinking water, while 66% have no access to safe sanitation services. The Regional Water Agenda provides a call to action for SDG6 and achieving a sustainable and inclusive water transition.

Clean water and safe sanitation are the foundation of life and good health. Still, many people in our region cannot access these essential services. The most vulnerable are hit the hardest, with 25% less access to these services. In addition, unequal water pricing systems cause a situation where the quintile with the greatest needs can pay up to twice as much, proportionally to the wealthiest quintile.

With regional action and financing for the SDGs, the situation can be changed. According to ECLAC, a public and private investment push equivalent to 1.3% of regional GDP is needed over a 10 years to secure financing for SDG6. Outcomes from the Regional Water Dialogues were presented at the UN 2023 Water Conference, supporting the call for action to scale up regional efforts, especially regarding investments in the most vulnerable communities.

Leveraging action for SDG 6 in Latin America and the Caribbean

The third edition of the Regional Water Dialogues for Latin America and the Caribbean, organized by ECLAC in February was part of the regional preparatory process for the UN 2023 Water Conference.

Representatives from more than 70 countries attended, with 20 countries of the region presenting, together with representatives from academia, the private sector, NGOs and civil society with the ambition of accelerating regional progress on SDG6, related to clean water and sanitation for all.

Participants approved a The Regional Water Action Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean which aligns with and reinforces several treaties, agreements and strategies around water management. It is a call to action to move towards a sustainable and inclusive water transition based on four pillars of action:

  • Guaranteeing the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation through a strong boost to investment in the sector that leaves no one behind.
  • Promoting regulatory and policy changes to foster equitable and affordable access, and thus eradicate water poverty, with innovative instruments including social tariffs.
  • Reverse the growing negative externalities associated with pollution, overexploitation and socio-environmental conflicts by promoting oversight and regulation.
  • Change the current linear management to circular systems to reduce pressure on water resources, establishing a decoupling trend between extraction and gross domestic product (GDP).

In addition, the Latin American and Caribbean Network and Observatory for Water Sustainability (ROSA) was launched to strengthen collaboration on sustainable water management in the region.

Moving towards clean water solutions for everyone, everywhere

ECLAC participated at the global UN Water Conference 2023 in New York, March 22-24, sharing Latin American and Caribbean perspectives on SDG6 progress. It is the first event of its kind since the 1977 United Nations Water Conference in, Argentina, 46 years ago. 

Countries agreed on a global Water Action Agenda consisting of a set of voluntary commitments, and a roadmap to 2028 and 2030. They reinforce that water is, among others, a driver for equality, a solution to the climate crisis, and a facilitator of peace. For Latin America and the Caribbean, the Regional Water Action Agenda (in Spanish) was presented in multiple instances. 

ECLAC stressed the need to promote democratic water governance through strengthening technical capacities for decision-making and to move forward in the construction of a sustainable and inclusive water transition. It stressed the region’s urgent need for integrated water resources management practices to increase climate change resilience and mitigate the impact of disasters; to adopt new investment models and form private-public partnerships to finance this transition; and to harmonize political processes for decision-making, monitoring, and management of transboundary waters. With this, the vision, concern, needs, lessons, and commitments of Latin America and the Caribbean have been reflected in the global Water Action Agenda.