A blog co-authored by Roel Blesgraaf (Simavi), Jane Nabunnya Mulumba (IRC Uganda) and Elynn Walter (IRC)
On Saturday, July 16, more than 100 representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) shared ideas and experiences and agreed to work with AMCOW and the national governments to prepare for and implement Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) and the Dakar N’gor Declaration on Water and Sanitation. This consensus was reached at the pre 6th Africa Water Week Africa Civil Society Forum at which the CSOs also agreed to strategically engage with their respective Water and Sanitation Ministers. The CSO representatives also used the Forum as to provide inputs on the 5 year advocacy strategy for the African Network for Water (ANEW).
The Forum was organised by the ANEW, End Water Poverty, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and WaterAid and included representatives from 24 countries. The participants discussed the role of civil society in the implementation of the SDGs and the N’gor commitments. As SDG6 includes both WASH and water resources management (WRM), it was great to have all four Watershed partners in the room. That is; Akvo, IRC, Simavi and Wetlands International. This brought the unique perspectives of their individual organizations as well as the collective voice of Watershed to the discussion. The outcome statement was published on 17th July and submitted to the AMCOW President during the AWW opening session.
Sylvester Matemu the Assistant Director (Transboundary Waters) from the Tanzania Ministry of Water and Irrigation called on CSOs to continue working with government and to support the implementation frameworks for the SDGs and N’gor commitments that the different governments are developing. Bai-Mass Taal, the Executive Secretary of African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) acknowledged the contribution of CSOs in the delivery of WASH services and reminded the participants that “there was more urgent work to do to provide clean and safe drinking water to all the people”. He expressed concern that “every time I attend a conference and I see bottles of water I am sad, because it means we don’t trust our tap water”. Both Sylvester and Bai-Mass agreed on the key role of civil society and said they would continue to work in collaboration with civil society to achieve the common goals, “which should be the people’s goals”.
Samson Shivaji representing ANEW, presented the challenges envisioned in the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the ambitious SDGs. He noted that countries need to step up from basic water and sanitation services to safely managed water services which put the emphasis on improving the system and not just infrastructure. He outlined six lessons from the MDG era which would facilitate the implementation of SDGs. These include:
- That it is possible to make great gains within water and sanitation efforts focussing of the progression and providing proper investments that would shift growth in terms of access, eventually reducing open defecation to 25%
- That we should not wait to target the marginalised groups as done during the MDGs
- Sustainability should be emphasised to ensure that WASH systems are kept functioning over time
- WASH country institutions should be strengthened and charged with planning, implementation and oversight roles
- Efficiencies in financing WASH should be increased to encourage more investments
- The ambitions of the SDG aspirations should not be underestimated because with concerted and harmonised efforts, they are achievable
Al-hassan Adam from End Water Poverty stated that progress on sanitation in Africa increased by only 4% from 2000 to 2015 and only 13% percent for water in the same time period. “If we continue with business as usual we will not achieve the SDGs.” He added, the biggest influencing opportunities for CSOs are on national level.
Apollos Nwafor from WaterAid presented the linkages between the N’gor commitments and the SDGs. He noted that both recognise the human right to water as well as the principles in the 2025 Africa Water Vision including the need for more grounded changes in WASH services delivery. He called on CSOs to “produce shadow reports as evidence that can be used to challenge governments and to hold them to account”.
The above stage setting presentations were followed by group discussions on what the SDGs and the N’gor commitments meant for the work of country governments and CSOs in Africa. The conclusions were aligned with the overall objectives of the Watershed program including:
- the need for coordination between Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Water Resources Management (WRM);
- the importance to attract both public and private resources;
- how to address inequalities;
- data transparency and harmonization and unified monitoring; and
- better integration with other sectors i.e. ‘come out of the WASH box’
- the fact that business as usual will not deliver SDGs, hence the need to challenge the status quo and advocate for governments to improve on their leadership role in delivering WASH services
The Forum was also an opportunity to discuss the new advocacy strategy for ANEW. The strategy focuses on three pillars: policy influencing, knowledge management and capacity building. Participants agreed on the need to strengthen ANEW and ensure that it leads civil society engagement with national governments as well as with AMCOW. They further agreed that ANEW should facilitate regional and sub-regional learning and should improve communication and information management ensuring a reliable repository of WASH knowledge in Africa.
ANEW provides good opportunities for collaboration and coordination with the Watershed programme based on the key components in the ANEW advocacy strategy such as the integration of WASH and WRM and the three pillars. Participant suggestions for improvement of the strategy included the need for a bottom-up approach as well as top down approach; prioritisation of issues; and the need to define terms as WASH & IWRM to make it more concrete.
Overall the Forum showed that Africa’s CSOs were gearing up to work together to ensure the achievement of the SDGs and the N’gor commitments. The Watershed – Empowering Citizens partnership is happy to see the improved coordination and looks forward to collaboration and capacity building in the region to effectively improve WASH and IWRM governance in Africa.
To view the collective civil society statement, click here.
To learn more about AMCOW and the 6th Africa Water Week, click here.