Scanning the 2020 horizon: An analysis of trends and scenarios in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector

Publication coverWhat will the international Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector look like in, let us say, 10 years from now? Will access to sanitation still lag behind water supply, or will it evolve into a stand-alone sub-sector with its own set of dedicated institutions and organisations? Will aid continue to play a predominant role in investing in WASH infrastructure, or will emerging economies increase their investments in the sector? And, how will trends outside the sector, such as urbanisation or changes in food prices, affect the sector?

Scanning the 2020 horizon presents 21 trends that the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre considers most critical to WASH sector development. It examines trends both within the WASH sector, as well as those outside the sector which have the potential to impact on the sector. Many of these are updates of factors identified in a similar exercise undertaken five years ago by IRC.

In general, compared to five years ago, IRC sees little change in the main paradigms employed in the sector, the issues discussed, the stakeholders involved, or the type and level of financing. This is not surprising as reforms take time.

Based on these trends we developed four possible scenarios, representing diverging futures for the WASH sector:

Scenario 1: Two steps forward; one step back for the sector
Scenario 2: New players in a less stable environment
Scenario 3: Towards a post-aid WASH sector
Scenario 4: A multi-polar WASH sector

The document concludes with reflections on how IRC has used these trends and scenarios to inform its strategic choices and the development of its business plan 2012-2016.

Finally, IRC calls upon other sector organisations to undertake similar exercises, not only to support individual organisational development, but also to ensure a contribution to a better understanding of what will be required within and from the WASH sector as we near the 2015 MDG target date and beyond.

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