International and inter-institutional cooperation to define a model regulatory framework for community water and sanitation systems in Latin America and the Caribbean
Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (
Community water and sanitation systems (SCAS; Spanish acronym) are valuable forms of organization for water management and guarantee access to a large part of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin American and Caribbean Parliament (PARLATINO) approved the new SCAS Model Law priority for the regional agenda, in light of the pandemic and given that water is a crucial resource in disease prevention practices, among other diverse uses. Now, the most vulnerable communities of the region have an instrument to demand the guarantee of their human right to water and sanitation, while the equitable and sustainable management of water in the region is recognized and strengthened.
The main purpose of this Model Law is: • To establish a legal framework of reference that allows each State to adopt, strengthen and complement their respective policies, strategies and legislation on water and hydric matters; • to recognize and guarantee the development of SCAS, in harmony, coherence and alignment with international instruments on the subject, starting with the legal recognition of community organization, as a first step to recognize the strategic role of these systems in the management or administration of water; and • to deliver results within a framework of water justice; sustainability; social, intergenerational and gender equity; as well as responsibility, transparency and accountability.
Water is a key determinant in all aspects of social, economic and environmental development and should therefore be a central focus of politics, in order to achieve poverty and hunger eradication, food security, resilience to disasters and emergencies, and global sustainable development. This Model Law helps leaders make water an integral part of their decision-making processes, so that water productivity is enhanced, appropriate infrastructure is developed, an integrated approach to water resources management is implemented, and water governance systems are improved at all levels.
The efforts towards PARLATINO’s new SCAS Model Law began on June 2020 with the presentation of the proposal by the Parliamentary Front against Hunger (FPH Spanish acronym) of Mexico, AMEXCID, the Mexican Institute of Water Technology (IMTA) and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico (SEMARNAT), in close coordination with FAO. The entire legislative process happened within the framework of the high-level political dialogue promoted by the "Mesoamerica Hunger Free AMEXCID-FAO" program. The institutions involved submitted the proposal to diverse parliamentary commissions of PARLATINO (Public Services; Health; Environment; Agriculture; and Indigenous Peoples), which determined the relevance of the issue and the formation of a committee that would provide parliamentary follow-up to the proposal. In November 2020, the FPH and its partners launched a series of thematic conferences called "Zero Hunger Parliamentary Sessions", with the aim of generating recommendations and uniting wills to raise food security to the category of strategic issue in the countries of the region. The first session focused on community water and sanitation systems. During the session, representatives of FPH chapters of Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico, as well as of PARLATINO, presented the efforts of these parliaments towards guaranteeing the rights to water and sanitation. On February 2021, eight months after the legislative process began, PARLATINO’s Directive Board met at its headquarters in Panama to discuss regional social projects. The parliamentarians approved 11 Model Laws considered of priority for the regional agenda regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, including, the new SCAS Model Law, as water is a crucial resource in disease prevention practices.
The SCAS Model Law allows for the official recognition of SCAS and contributes to their efficient management by the communities themselves, establishing some rules for their operation; it unveils the possibility for communities to be responsible for the local drinking water service and for guaranteeing the resource to their members. It includes a reference to the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 6, as well as a chapter on emergency management with the responsibility of States and inhabitants to establish mechanisms and strategies to address emergencies. The Law also encourages and promotes the implementation of actions to strengthen the capacities of the communities for the sustainable management of water and the SCAS by themselves, the improvement of the infrastructure of the systems they manage, and the exchange of experiences regarding water culture.
IMTA contributes to sustainable water management through knowledge, technology, training and innovation. Based on its experience advising on the identification of priorities in the hydric sector, IMTA provided technical assistance to the process through a multidisciplinary approach. AMEXCID and FAO promote actions that contribute to sustainable development and to improving the standard of living of the population through the transfer, reception and exchange of experiences and resources. Through their joint initiative “Mesoamerica Hunger Free AMEXCID-FAO”, and together with PARLATINO, they support the FPH of Latin America and the Caribbean.
SCAS are a regular practice, not only in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also in other continents and regions of the world. The SCAS Model Law is currently an ongoing discussion within different parliaments of the countries that belong to PARLATINO, for its adoption, adaptation and approval at a national level, and will probably get the attention of other international parliaments as well. Due to its relevance, it is considered pertinent to continue with the actions to disseminate the Law and the water, environmental, social, inclusion, equity and sustainability issues on which it is based. For this reason, “Mesoamerica Hunger Free AMEXCID-FAO” developed a communication strategy, to contribute to accelerate the Law’s multiplier effect and to position the issues related to SCAS in public and political agendas. In addition, the Program will translate the Law to English, French and Portuguese so that the document can be easily shared with parliaments in other regions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions is essential for protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks. Access to water is essential for disease prevention. The process overcame COVID-19 challenges in terms of international and inter-institutional communication. The legislative process and all the stages of development of the Law kept going through virtual connection among the institutions involved. The approval of the SCAS Model Law demonstrates the commitment of all the agencies involved to promote relevant regulatory instruments at such an important juncture as that posed by the pandemic, and shows that today, more than ever, alliances and cooperation are essential.
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