Sustainable development:
Social issues & the environment


UNECE Water and Health Convention

In the European part of the UNECE* region alone, an estimated 120 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. That is, one person in seven is vulnerable to water-related diseases such as cholera, bacillary dysentery, coli infections, viral hepatitis A and typhoid. It is believed that cleaner water and better sanitation could prevent over 30 million cases of water-related disease in Europe each year.

The 1999 Protocol on Water and Health, which entered into force in 2005, is the first major international legal approach for the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases in Europe. States are required to establish national and local targets for the quality of drinking water and the quality of discharges, as well as for the performance of water supply and waste-water treatment.

The Protocol is an addition to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. WHO/Europe and the UNECE provide the joint secretariat for the Protocol, coordinating activities for its implementation. WHO handles the health aspects, while UNECE takes care of the legal and procedural aspects. The two institutions jointly organized the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on 17-19 January 2007 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

* The United States and Canada are also members of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.