Universal Realization of the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in High-income Countries is a Myth

March 20, 2023

We usually assume that countries in the global North provide universal access to water and sanitation services. However, this overlooks persistent gaps in access to such services that are caused by social exclusion, discrimination, and racism. 

Prof. Winkler has contributed to a new paper in Lancet Global Health, which is authored by a multi-disciplinary and multi-country author team from countries in Europe, North America and Australia and will feed into the work of the Lancet Commission on water, sanitation and hygiene, and health.

The paper draws on case studies to showcase the discrimination experienced by Roma communities, people experiencing homelessness, migrant and refugee populations, among others.  These case studies powerfully show that universal access to water and sanitation is a myth. The human rights to water and sanitation are left unrealized for many. The paper argues that we need to acknowledge that disparities are rooted in ongoing neglect, deliberate exclusion, and systemic racism as the basis for developing approaches to service provision that center communities and groups without consistent access.