The impact of COVID-19 is being most devastatingly felt in the world’s urban areas, especially the urban poor communities including in informal settlements. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us once again of the central role that water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) plays in protecting us from diseases. In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council recognized the rights to water and sanitation as vital for leading a life of dignity and as a prerequisite for realizing other human rights. However, despite clear international law on the human rights to water and sanitation, and widespread recognition of these rights, more than a decade later, most of the COVID-19 recommendations were almost impossible to implement in informal settlements due to poor infrastructure and lack of accessibility to basic social services.

To respond to water supply and quality related challenges in the informal settlements of Yangon, both UN-Habitat and WaterAid Myanmar have been implementing projects aiming at construction/ rehabilitation of water supply systems for the delivery of clean, safe, and reliable drinking water to communities in informal settlements. Due to their informal nature, these vulnerable neighbourhoods not only lack basic services, they also face challenges with maintenance of services following upgrading efforts. Therefore, both agencies also provide emphasis on strengthening the capacity of communities to operate and maintain the quality and function of their water supply systems. Much of the innovation in upgrading is in community-driven processes and partnerships with local communities and organizations formed by informal settlement residents. For these initiatives to succeed in the long run, collaborative governance strategies and clearly delineated mandates are needed, with explicit integration of urban green infrastructure into strategies for in-situ informal settlements upgrading and green growth opportunities.

Therefore, on the 16 of September 2022, UN-Habitat and WaterAid Myanmar jointly organized a knowledge sharing session. The objective of the session was to gain insight into, and share experiences regarding different approaches to governance of water supply systems in informal settlements.

The knowledge exchange session involved presentations from each participating organization followed by a Q&A session, and a facilitated discussion. This report summarizes the key points from the session.