U.S. Universities and International Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
March 3, 2010
This preliminary report focuses on the growing response of U.S. institutions of higher education to the global need for drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (“WASH”) internationally.
The lack of access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education presents a profound challenge for human health, economic development, and environmental sustainability in developing countries. Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe water, and 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. This preliminary report presents results of a recent survey designed to determine which universities in the United States are working in the various types of WASH activities abroad. Not intended to be comprehensive, this survey provides only an initial glimpse of the scale of the activity. (Those unaware of the survey or who have not yet responded are urged to take the survey at http://studentvoice.com/csu/WaSHactpubunivFA09.)
Looking ahead, individuals associated with the March 3 Capitol Hill briefing are exploring the possibility of creating a consortium of U.S. universities involved in international WASH programs. One initial purpose of the consortium would be to promote the expansion and greater coordination of WASH activities in higher education, as well as to strengthen universities’ WASH linkages with the U.S. government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academic institutions and governments abroad.
Many U.S. universities and colleges are already engaged in addressing global WASH concerns, or are seeking to expand WASH initiatives, in ways that include the following activities:
- Implementing practical, on-the-ground, WASH projects involving faculty and students;
- Partnering with colleges and universities in developing countries on training programs and other approaches to increase in-country capacity;
- Training the next generation of WASH professionals with an emphasis on experiential learning;
- Initiating and evaluating WASH-related technologies;
- Assisting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Department of State, including individual USAID Missions, as well as other U.S. government agencies working internationally, in researching and developing evidence-based WASH strategies and in analyzing and evaluating outcomes;
- Promoting awareness beyond public health and engineering programs of the economic, gender equity, national security, social, and environmental benefits of advancing activities to address the global WASH crisis;
- Developing public-private partnerships with corporations, civil society, foundations, and faith-based organizations.
A consortium would allow universities and colleges engaged in WASH activities abroad not only to work together in a more coordinated fashion, but also to encourage additional technological innovation, strengthen academic, philanthropic and governmental support, and increase momentum for the global WASH sector generally. A consortium would also facilitate a clearinghouse of information and best practices, which could easily be shared with counterparts outside of academia. As demands grow for effective foreign assistance in the WASH sector, U.S. college and university faculty, staff, and students can respond with technical expertise, knowledge, and personnel in host countries to achieve the goals of sustainable WASH-related development programs.
The eventual purposes of such a consortium will be determined by those choosing to participate in coming years.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., has offered to help facilitate the initial growth of such a consortium. The CSIS Global Water Futures Project, involved with water and sanitation issues for years, has examined in depth the many dimensions of the global challenge. CSIS can provide a neutral venue for U.S. academic institutions and offer a convening for NGOs, the private sector, and the U.S. government.
CSIS is developing a Web site to include the following: a listing of universities and colleges that are engaged in WASH activities abroad; reports noting potential areas where additional research and scholarship are needed; and alerts to the WASH community regarding relevant developments in WASH policy. For further information on CSIS’s role in facilitating such a consortium, please contact Katherine Bliss (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Katryn Bowe (email@example.com).
The prospective consortium is not designed to exclude, but rather to draw together all interested representatives from all universities and colleges in the United States engaged in sustainable WASH activities internationally. Your involvement in this upcoming effort is greatly appreciated.