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Water Security For All: How Can We Achieve It?

While three billion people lack basic handwashing facilities at home, global access to water continues to be a persistent inequality, if only to wash hands, one of the basic measures adopted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the spread virus.

But, how can we achieve water security for all? This year’s World Water Day (22 March) is an opportunity to focus on the links between water, health, economic prosperity and well-being, and build back better to improve water governance and, in turn, the lives of millions of people.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, Ministers, experts and other high-level speakers join us this week for OECD Water Days (22-26 March) where we will examine the implications for water security from a regional perspective, during sessions on water governance in Africa (24 March), Latin America and the Caribbean (25 March), and Asia-Pacific (26 March). We will also launch the OECD Toolkit on Water Policies and Governance that includes a compendium of good practices to support better water policies in OECD member and non-member countries.

In Africa, COVID-19 has acted as a magnifying glass on pressing water and sanitation challenges, especially for the 56% of the urban population living in informal settlements, lacking access to proper hygiene conditions. Climate change, urbanisation and population growth will add further pressure on water resources. A dedicated session on Water Governance in African Cities will gather high-level speakers including Mr. Abdelkader Amara (Minister of Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water of Morocco) and six Mayors from Africa, to reflect on the main features of Water Governance in African Cities. It will notably focus on the example of Cape Town, South Africa where lessons learned during the 2017-2018 drought proved valuable in managing the COVID-19 crisis. Cape Town will also be the subject of a short film broadcast as part of the side event on films as a communication tool for water (24 March) organised with Let’s Talk About Water (LTAW)engage diverse audiences, especially young people, stimulate conversation and make complex information on water governance accessible to a large audience.

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic recession, which alongside climate change will add pressure on water resources. During the session on Water Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean (25 March), distinguished speakers including Ms. Violeta Bermúdez, President of the Council of Ministers of Perú, will take stock of LAC countries’ efforts to raise the profile of water in their recovery strategies, and build back better water systems, drawing on lessons learned from the new report on Water Governance in Peru.

Asia-Pacific, the world’s fastest-growing region, is facing pressing and emerging water security issues, which will be further exacerbated by climate change. By 2050, regional water demand is forecast to increase by 55% and 3.4 billion Asian people are expected to live in water-stressed areas. During the session Water Governance and Financing in Asia-Pacific (26 March), panellists from Indonesia, Korea and Thailand will share common water challenges across the Asia-Pacific region. The session will discuss how the governance and financing gaps can be bridged to drive better water security in the region reflecting on two OECD reports produced as part of ADB’s 2020 edition of the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO).

Transparent Water Governance for a Stronger Recovery, a joint session with the OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum (23 March), will look at the crucial importance of integrity and transparency to catalyse finance to achieve SDG 6 on “clean water and sanitation for all” building on the OECD Principles for Water Governance, in a panel featuring experts from civil society, government and multilateral financing institutions.

Many countries are still not on track to achieve SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation. SDG 6 and SDG 16, on peace, justice and strong institutions, feature mutually reinforced dynamics and the session on Water Governance and Peace (26 March) will explore how to achieve both SDGs. Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, and others, will discuss how better water governance can improve social well-being.

Water security is essential for societal resilience, inclusive growth and wellbeing. Join us to forge a way forwards that ensures access to clean and safe water for all.

For more information, or to register for the sessions, visit

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Oriana Romano is the Head of Unit, Water Governance and Circular Economy, Urban Policies, and Sustainable Development Division of the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities. In 2018, she initiated a Programme on the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions, which supports governments in developing and implementing circular economy strategies. She heads the OECD Water Governance programme, which she joined in 2013. Before the OECD, she was university lecturer in Environmental Economics at the “Centre for International Business and Sustainability”(CIBS), London Metropolitan University (London, United Kingdom) and the Department of Social Science of the University “L’Orientale”(Naples, Italy). She currently teaches “The Transition to the Carbon Neutral and Circular Economy in Cities ”at Sciences Po, Paris, France. She holds a Ph.D in “Institution, Economics and Law of Public Services”.