Inclusive infrastructure in focus at Geneva
Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub) was a lead contributor at the recent United Nations’ (UN) workshop tackling access to infrastructure for excluded groups including women, differently-abled, and the economically disadvantaged.
The workshop, jointly hosted by UN Environment and UNOPS under the auspices of the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership (SIP), was held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on 14-15 November. The objective of the workshop was to identify various physical and social barriers and co-develop solutions for overcoming them so that infrastructure addresses diverse user needs, and to come up with a series of actionable recommendations for the participants to collectively take forward.
A key focus of discussions was how to address the huge disparities existing in infrastructure access such as 2.2 billion people lacking access to safe drinking water, 4.2 billion lacking access to sanitation, 940 million lacking electricity, and 1 billion lacking access to all-weather roads.
GI Hub Director Morag Baird co-led a session on the topic “Framing the Challenge: Addressing the Needs of All” where she explained the framework and key aspects of GI Hub’s Reference Tool on Inclusive Infrastructure and Social Equity and its six “Action Areas” for making infrastructure more inclusive:
- Stakeholder identification, engagement and empowerment: Who is being overlooked when stakeholders are defined as those with the power to implement decisions?
- Governance and capacity building: Leaders have the ability to transform visions of inclusion into reality, but are they doing it? Are resources being targeted and assets being developed for inclusive outcomes?
- Policy, regulation and standards: What systems exist to guide goals and visions towards implementation? Are policy and legislation followed through and standards implemented?
- Project planning, development and delivery: Is inclusion considered throughout the project lifecycle? Is it part of the overall project strategy or is it an afterthought?
- Private sector roles and participation: Can public and private incentives be aligned beyond innovation and job creation targeting inclusion?
- Affordability and optimizing finance: Is inclusive infrastructure affordable for the end-user and the government in terms of socio-economic returns and fiscal sustainability?
Morag used a case study on subnational water and sanitation inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America to demonstrate how the Action Areas can practically be used to address inequalities in infrastructure access.
The workshop, which was an interactive mixture of plenary and breakout sessions was attended by a cross-section of NGOs, private sector and academic institutions. The outcomes of the workshop will directly inform the development of SIP guidance and an analytical report on inclusive infrastructure which will build upon key ongoing initiatives, such as the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment.