3 Questions

Catarina de Albuquerque

As the Executive Chair of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) network, Catarina advocates for a key role for SWA within the SDGs and for political prioritisation of WASH at a global high-level. We asked her three questions during the Stockholm World Water Week, where she was present as a plenary vision speakers.


You are one of the plenary vision speakers in Stockholm. What message did you voice during World Water Week?

“I’ve been given this opportunity, on the eve of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, at a time when our new ideas on water, sanitation and hygiene offer a new prominence and an opportunity for a fresh start.

With this in mind I talked about the future – and how our past experiences and the human right to water and sanitation must influence the way we do business in implementing the SDG water, sanitation and hygiene related targets. My vision, and my message during Stockholm, is that the human right to water and sanitation (or indeed any human right) may be non-negotiable, but requires dialogue, discussion and mutual accountability, bringing everyone together around the same table. We must make these rights so mainstream that no WASH professional could imagine their work without them.”


What is the role of hygiene in the vision of Sanitation and Water for all?

“Access to improved water and sanitation facilities does not, on its own, necessarily lead to improved health or the other benefits. For instance, communities may have access to water, but it is hand-washing with soap that can significantly reduce the incidence of diarrhoea, which is the second leading cause of death amongst children under five years old. Also, according to UNICEF one in 10 African girls skip school during menstruation. Some drop out entirely because they lack access to sanitary products.

It is impossible to disassociate water from hygiene, from sanitation: without water there is no hygiene; without hygiene, sanitation benefits are weakened and without sanitation, drinking water may become contaminated.  Because of this, SWA’s vision is: Sanitation, water and hygiene for all, always and everywhere.”


Sanitation and Water for all is one of the few multi-stakeholder partnerships on water that operates on an international level. How are the upcoming SDGs changing your work?

“The SWA partnership recently adapted its strategy to the new SDG context. One of the most important developments is a commitment by our partners to playing a pivotal role in the follow-up and review of the water, sanitation and hygiene related SDG targets, as well as in promoting their implementation.

This role would build on the Partnership’s original focus towards countries that need international support the most, while also looking at middle and higher-income countries where there are still many people with needs. We will also coordinate with a wider group of actors, including the private sector.

The new strategy also puts countries ownership even more at the center of what we do. The SDGs’ ambition is universal access (‘no goal or target be considered met unless met for all social and economic groups’), so strengthening the leadership and accountability of countries is a priority for us.”

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