New guide makes rights to water and sanitation ‘real’

29 Nov 2016

WaterAid and WASH United, together with partner organisations the Institute for Sustainable Futures, End Water Poverty, UNICEF and the Rural Water Supply Network, have launched new guidance for local government officials in developing countries, to show how they can become real heroes in helping people realise their rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The ‘Making Rights Real’ project urges people working in local government to recognise how they can succeed and earn recognition by ensuring everyone in their district has access to water and sanitation.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are recognised as human rights by the UN, which means that governments around the world are duty-bound to reach everyone with these life essentials.

In practice, however, this requires practical solutions and incremental steps for addressing huge challenges, including limited budget, shortages of skilled staff, and the tendency to spend on new infrastructure instead of on maintenance, salaries and other critical components of keeping services running in the long term.

A colourful new three-piece guide shows how human rights principles can be applied to the day-to-day work of local government officials, and how they can then better prioritise reaching people least likely to have services while making the best use of scarce resources.

This set of materials is being launched at the Rural Water Supply Network Forum (RWSN) in Côte d’Ivoire, which runs from 29 November – 2 December. The conference explores the challenges, practicalities and successes involved in delivering UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which pledges access to water and sanitation for all, in rural areas and small towns.

Louisa Gosling, Quality Programmes Manager at WaterAid, who helped design the guide, said:

“It isn’t enough to simply recognise that access to water and sanitation are human rights. We must provide guidance on what that means in practice – at the national level for government commitments, for communities to show what they are entitled to, and to those in local governments on what it means for their everyday work. It is everyone’s responsibility to plan and do their part to make it happen. This guide is designed to inspire and guide local heroes in government and the community so that clean water and sanitation become reality for everyone.”

Hannah Neumeyer, Head of Human Rights at WASH United, said:

“There is a challenge with human rights. They are legally binding, but to local government, they are at best an abstract concept without practical value. We took care to understand why local government officials are often hesitant about human rights, and what is important to them. In designing the materials, we found ways to explain rights without using jargon and in steps that are common in local government processes.

“The advice is aimed at local government employees but also shows communities how to help influence change, through the media and by working with doctors, religious and community leaders as well as government.”

The ‘Making Rights Real’ project has been made possible with US$200,000 of funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.


For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Marina Thomas, Senior Media Officer, at [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4995, or Laura Crowley, PR Manager, at [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4965, or Carolynne Wheeler, News Manager, on [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4485, or Fiona Callister, Global Media Lead, on [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 5022. Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected].

About WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit, follow @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • Around 315,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s almost 900 children each day, or one child every two minutes.
  • An estimated 663 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water.
  • Nearly 2.4 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation.
  • For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.
  • For details on how individual countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, please see the online database,

About WASH United

WASH United is an international social impact organisation with operations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. WASH United develops innovative solutions to create awareness and change people’s attitudes and behaviours around WASH & MHM. In addition, we work to influence relevant policies and to advance the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation. For more information, visit, follow @WASHUnited on Twitter or visit us on Facebook at