Our message going into COP27: WASH is a pathway to climate resilience

A picture of an entry way to COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt with a sign saying COP27 2022

Insights from COP27: Part one 


Together with our partners, Water for Women developed some key messages and learning from our work delivering water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Asia Pacific to share at COP27, which were fed into our own sessions, activities and conversations on the ground in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Many of these messages were reiterated in other sessions that we attended and conversations we had.  


Responding to climate change is the most pressing challenge of our time.  Climate-related events are already having devastating impacts on ecosystems, people and livelihoods.  Many of our global agendas (Sustainable Development Goals, Sendai Framework, localisation, etc) and development progress to date will be negatively affected by climate change. 

Immediate climate action is a global imperative. International and country commitments, policies and guidelines need to drive climate action at all levels.  A strong and integrated systems approach is needed for effective mitigation and adaptation measures which support resilient technological, infrastructure-based and people-centred solutions. Inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a critical entry point for making these solutions a reality, and a foundation for climate-resilient communities.

Working together maximises our ability to thoughtfully navigate the nexus of water, WASH and climate change and identify opportunities for more innovative and responsive solutions to address the challenges of today and those that lie ahead. Key among them is reducing the gender and social inequalities that hinder sustainable development. Harnessing local knowledge and capacities and the lived experience of diverse people, along with science, technology and political drive, offers the most effective pathway to a climate-resilient future. Fostering diverse and equitable partnerships will allow us to ‘push’ all the necessary levers for change at all levels of society - household, community, institutional and industry.

WASH is foundational to building climate resilience. Supporting more inclusive and sustainable services, infrastructure and communities is essential for healthy and resilient populations that can respond to and recover from increasing climate hazards, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, rising sea levels and changing ecosystems. Equity and inclusion are critically important for building resilience in communities. Water for Women projects are influencing power imbalances, social norms and other negative barriers that prevent women and people from marginalised groups from participating equally in society and contributing to climate solutions in local contexts. 

Water for Women has key lessons to share from our own experience  delivering inclusive WASH across Asia Pacific and its critical role in building climate-resilience in communities, which we set out to amplify at COP27.


WASH is a valuable investment and a foundation for climate resilience

  • Improved and inclusive WASH is critical to building climate-resilient communities that can respond to shocks and disasters such as climate change and pandemics. 
  • Climate-resilient WASH systems are not only connected to water security and effective water resource management, but also influence other development issues such as food and energy security, health and wellbeing, gender and social equality, livelihoods, education, urbanisation and economic development. 
  • Investing in climate-resilient WASH solutions before climate disasters occur is more cost effective than post-response. Climate-resilient WASH also contributes to improved health, education, and positive economic impacts. 
  • Leveraging and combining different funding sources (blended finance) and models is key. Additional funding from public and private sources to the WASH sector can be leveraged to complement development funds, including through the work of CSOs and their partners.

Climate resilience needs to reflect social dimensions and local solutions

  • Climate change is a crisis with significant health, social and economic dimensions.  Inequalities tend to be exacerbated in times of stress and crisis, including increased conflict and violence. Effective climate adaptation and preparedness, as well as recovery during disasters, need to address the gendered and social implications of the intervention.  In particular, adaptation needs to consider intersectional impacts on, and interests of, women, men, people with disabilities, children, people from sexual and gender minority communities, people from remote communities, Indigenous people, ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups, with a strong lens on generational inequity and poverty.
  • Climate change is experienced in localised ways. Responses to climate change, therefore, need to be locally led, ensuring people who are the focus of any work are core to the response. Local partners need to be at the centre of all decision-making. Processes to co-define the issues and co-design the solutions need to be inbuilt into the design and implementation of all climate-resilient WASH work.
    • Scientific evidence on climate change can be strengthened and localised by complementary contextual knowledge and practices, and traditional and cultural world views, including aspects of spirituality.
    • Integrating inclusion and climate-resilience into systems strengthening processes and outcomes is needed to better ensure prospects for local ownership and sustainability of efforts into the longer term.
    • Working with local rights holder organisations brings diverse voices, lived experience and GEDSI expertise to the table to ensure more equitable solutions are developed.
    • Focusing on change in different settings (household, community, institutional, systems, services), with financially viable models to support sustainable and locally-led delivery is critical to ongoing resilience and sustainability in these different settings.


Collaboration and partnerships can drive action on climate-resilient WASH on multiple fronts


  • The sum of us is more powerful in achieving change – multi-stakeholder approaches and developing strong partnerships, which enable engagement with other civil society actors, communities, governments and private sector entities are critical in working collectively towards solutions for climate-resilient WASH.
    • Programs that provide funded collaboration with civil society, research and strategic partner organisations (such as climate practitioners and organisations), deliver on multiple SDGs, including SDG 6, SDG5, SDG10 and SDG13.   
    • Targeted research builds robust evidence. Development and use of new evidence, innovation and practice improves inclusive, climate-resilient WASH across the sector.
    • Strengthening mechanisms for cross sector collaboration (eg. with water resource management, health, education, agriculture and energy sectors) is critical for strengthening synergies in maximising impact in climate mitigation and adaptation.
    • Integration of equity and climate-resilience in WASH systems and policy development creates more sustainable and impactful solutions. 
    • Actively engaging with rights holder organisations ensures that women, people with disability, gender and sexual minority communities and other marginalised groups are more likely to be supported and no one is left behind in climate resilient WASH interventions. Cross-sectoral partnerships that integrate WASH into other development sectors such as health, gender, disability, food security, and education, have more far-reaching impacts for the health, wellbeing and resilience of people and communities.




A gif featuring many Water for Women products

Now in its fifth year and extended until 2024, Water for Women brings depth of experience from 20 WASH projects and 13 research initiatives in 15 countries across South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Water for Women is bringing the voices and learning of the Asia Pacific region to COP27 to highlight how equitable WASH is a building block for a climate-resilient future.

Since 2018, Water for Women has directly benefited over 3 million people across 15 Asia-Pacific countries – including more than 1.3 million women and girls, 1.3 million men and boys, 73,000 people with disability, and those attending the more than 700 schools and healthcare facilities now with improved access to WASH.

Water for Women participated at COP27 as part of Australia – water partners for development, a collaboration with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Water Partnership.

Learn more: waterforwomenfund.org


Contact Us