Regional Forum in Tashkent Drives Innovation and Collaboration in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Sector

24 May 2024

The Regional WASH Forum, held in Tashkent from May 22 to May 23, successfully brought together a diverse group of experts, policymakers, academic researchers, private sector representatives, and stakeholders from across the region to address critical issues in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Organized by the CAREC Institute and UNICEF, with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and technical assistance from Vital Strategies, this hybrid forum featured keynote speeches, presentations, panel discussions, and technology showcases, focusing on innovative solutions and best practices to improve access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Distinguished guests, including government officials from Armenia, China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as representatives from the CAREC Institute, UNICEF and ADB, inaugurated the forum. During the opening session of the Forum, Dr. Kuat Akizhanov, Deputy Director Two of the CAREC Institute, emphasized the importance of the event, highlighting that the Forum represents a crucial milestone in tackling the challenges faced by the WASH sector in our region. Dr. Kuat Akizhanov expressed that by fostering collaboration and facilitating dialogue, the Forum aims to not only enhance WASH sector development but also advocate for sustainable solutions that will benefit our shared future. His words underscore the commitment of the participants to work together towards a more resilient and sustainable WASH sector.

Presentations and panel sessions covered a wide range of topics, including WASH and climate financing partnerships and strategy for the CAREC region, climate-resilient WASH challenges and approaches, government and private sector collaboration, the impact of innovations, and innovation in the WASH sector through market policies and South-South collaboration. International experts from the CAREC Institute, UNICEF, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, World Health Organization, and Eurasian Development Bank, along with government officials from the People’s Republic of China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia, and technology providers shared their insights, ongoing projects, and research findings.

Ms. Xin LEI, Chief of the Knowledge Management Division of the CAREC Institute, presented about the collaborative efforts between the Institute and UNICEF on the WASH sector and introduced the Virtual CAREC WASH Center Initiative, which is an online portal designed to serve as a hub for essential resources, empowering stakeholders to strengthen WASH systems efficiently.

Dr. Ilhom Abdulloev, the Senior Specialist for Knowledge and Research Connectivity at the CAREC Institute, presented the study findings funded by UNICEF, which aimed to assess the status of WASH in four CAREC countries: China, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The study sought to identify best practices and solutions in the WASH sector to enhance the resilience of countries with fragile infrastructure and limited capacity to cope with future natural or man-made disasters. Globally, inadequate access to water and sanitation impacts living standards, public health, and the environment. In the CAREC countries, the WASH sector faces challenges related to capacity, funding shortages, and limited private sector involvement. “Additionally, these countries experience a disparity between rural and urban populations, with a predominant focus on drinking water supply rather than sanitation,” noted Dr. Ilhom Abdulloev.

Key results of the Forum:

1. Innovative Solutions: Experts presented innovative solutions to address rural-urban disparities, deteriorating infrastructure, insufficient financing, and severe regional climatic conditions that impact the quality and safety of WASH services in the region.

2. Private Sector Engagement: The Forum emphasized the importance of robust private sector participation in the WASH sector to improve service delivery, promote sustainable solutions, and drive economic growth.
3. Knowledge Sharing: Participants engaged in discussions on strategic initiatives, including the proposed Virtual WASH Centre, to align regional needs with knowledge sharing, capacity building, and networking opportunities.

4. Collaboration and Cooperation: The Forum served as a platform for promoting regional cooperation, stimulating dialogue, and fostering partnerships to address the challenges faced by the CAREC region in the WASH sector.

The Regional WASH Forum in Tashkent was a resounding success, with participants expressing their commitment to advancing WASH outcomes, enhancing public health, and achieving environmental and socioeconomic sustainability in the CAREC region.

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