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Meeting of the Parties to the UNECE / WHO-EURO Protocol on Water and Health

The second session will take place on 23-25 November 2010 in Bucharest

22.11.2010 |Margriet Samwel




At present, nearly 140 million people – 16 percent of Europe’s population – still live in homes that are not connected to a drinking-water supply and about 85 million people do not have access to adequate sanitation. According to the best estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 13,000 children under the age of 14 die every year from water-related diarrhoea, mostly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  Mortality and morbidity related to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation remain unacceptably high; and water resources are often used in an inefficient manner. Also in the Western part of the region where access to water and sanitation are of lesser concern, a range of pollutants, including nutrients, metals, pesticides, microbes, industrial chemicals and pharmaceutical products have adverse effects on freshwater ecosystems or raise concerns for public health.

The UNECE/ WHO-EURO Protocol on Water and Health is the first international legal agreement adopted specifically to protect human health through the prevention, control and reduction of water-related disease, the improvement of water management and the protection of ecosystems. It aims to attain access to safe drinking water and provision of sanitation for everyone.
 
The second session of the Meeting of the Parties will take place on 23-25 November 2010 in Bucharest, at the invitation of the Government of Romania. Five years after the entry into force of the Protocol, the Meeting will mark an important milestone in the evolution of this instrument and in the improvement of water and health in the pan-European region. It will provide an opportunity to review progress achieved so far and to reflect on and plan for the challenges that lie ahead. A wide variety of topics that have been the focus of work over the past three years will be discussed, including ratification and implementation of the Protocol; equitable access to drinking water; and access to information and public participation under the Protocol.

SUPPORTING SMALL-SCALE WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION SYSTEMS
In the Pan-European Region, approximately 30% of the total population live in rural areas, in which small-scale water supplies prevail and where access to improved drinking-water sources varies between 61% and 100%. Therefore, the specific challenges of small-scale water supply and sanitation systems will also be on the agenda of the Meeting. Based on the outcomes of a workshop on this topic, held 2008 in Germany, awareness-raising material on the specific challenges of such small-scale water supplies was prepared. The Meeting will discuss how to provide further support and the possible assistance for Parties in tackling issues related to small water supplies and sanitation.
A representative of Germany together with a representative of Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) will present the proposed activities in the area of small-scale water supplies and sanitation under the 2011–2013 programme of work. The Meeting of the Parties will be invited to discuss the proposal for future work.

INVOLVING THE PUBLIC
The Protocol on Water and Health puts great emphasis on access to information and public participation, recognizing public involvement as a vital prerequisite for successful implementation of its provisions. At the Meeting in November, Parties will discuss a variety of activities with regard to public participation (trainings, manuals, events) to be carried out under the Protocol, in cooperation with the Aarhus Convention, in the next three years.   A representative of Romania, lead Party for this activity, in cooperation with a representative from the NGO network Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), will present the work carried out in this area, including the concept note on access to information and public participation under the Protocol and the proposed activities under the 2011–2013 programme of work.
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND SIDE EVENTS
A number of side events will take place at lunchtime during the session which allow for in’depth discussions of important experiences and tools in the Protocol’s implementation.  Women in Europe for Common Future, (WECF) in cooperation with the European ECO-Forum organise the side event "Needs and ways of financing public participation under the Protocol on Water and Health – linking with EU policy and Aarhus Convention", taking place at 25 November
 
The meeting is open to representatives of governmental authorities, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector. Additional information regarding the meeting, including the agenda, registration form and further documentation can be found on: http://www.unece.org/env/water/whmop2.htm


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