Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Africa Water Week 3

Fleur Anderson
International Campaign Coordinator
End Water Poverty

This week's Africa Water Week opened yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 1000 government officials, civil society representatives, and partners such as the EU and representatives from rich country governments. Lots of End Water Poverty members are here from all over Africa and others like Wash United too. The facts on the lack of clean drinking water and toilets for the African continent were presented in several different ways, and the challenge of increasing provision dramatically during the next five years to reach the Millenium Development Goals by 2015. Everyone is committed to bring fresh water and toilets to the millions of people across Africa who don't have these. So, after the big introductions and starting speeches, the recurring theme is that of HOW can we do this?

So much has already been done - and so many more people have access to drinking water, but the challenge is how to keep up with increasing populations and runaway urbanisation. It's great to hear stories of campaigning really working in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya and to see such mutual cooperation between civil society and governments officials as dialogue has become the order of the day. Without community participation, projects do not make a lasting change, and this seems to be pretty much accepted in the debates I heard. Themes of debates have been on climate change, urbanisations, developing institutions and financing, and the African Water Ministers will be discussing these later in the week.

It's great for me to learn so much about the many, many organisations working to bring water and sanitation to more people in Africa. Being here at Africa Water Week is a real mixture of hope and recognition of so much work done, with frustration at the scale of the current crisis in water and sanitation.

I've met so many great campaigners here and look forward to working together as we do the World Walks for Water event next March and really use this to make water and saniatation the political priorities they should be.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Africa Water Week 3 - first report - Sanitation and Water for All meeting

Fleur Anderson is the new International Campaign Coordinator at End Water Poverty. She's in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to attend Africa Water Week. Before though, a key meeting of the Sanitation and Water for All initiative took place. Fleur tells us what happened here:

This morning 35,000 people did a 10km run through Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in bright yellow shirts with 'End Poverty' on. That looked a lot of fun, and I am in Addis Ababa, but I didn't run! Instead I went to another event aiming to end poverty. No bright yellow shirts, just suits and a fairly normal looking meeting but no less exciting for that.

I've spent two days at the Sanitation and Water For All meeting - a great process which End Water Poverty campaigned for and is now up and running. Here in the same room were people from Northern countries, Africa and Asia and from governments, development banks, global aid organisations and activists all sitting down together to make progress in solving the crisis in water and sanitation.

Not for a minute did that meeting forget that 2.6 billion people do not have access to sanitation and there is a water and sanitation crisis which results in 4,000 children dying from preventable diseases a day. But this was not a meeting about slogans and just calling for action. These were just the right people who can effect the vision for change through political pressure for more money, providing the real evidence needed to know what the solutions are in the poorest countries, and working in countries to spend the money right - so it really goes to the most marginalised and affected.

The World's Longest Toilet Queue was a fantastic global effort for change in March, and the following High-Level Meeting of Sanitation and Water For All earlier this year was a real success. The meeting this weekend showed that no one is wasting any time in moving forward and keeping up the pressure.

One Northern government representative told me that plans to cut another area of aid funding stopped when there was a public outcry, but he's never seen this on a water and sanitation issue. So here's the clear challenge to all End Water Poverty members: put pressure on all Governments involved to fund water and sanitation work and then to make sure the money is spent for the good of the poorest. Toilets and taps for all!

After the meeting I went to register for the Africa Water Week which starts tomorrow. The process was surprisingly painless and quick and I have my badge - more on that tomorrow.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The power of campaigning

Campaigners in Nepal organized a massive campaign across the country for World Water Day 2010, contributing to the global campaign moment The World’s Longest Toilet Queue. Shikha Shrestha was involved in coordinating the campaign and shares some reflections with us on the political changes following the campaign, and how it proved to be a catalyst for civil society working on water and sanitation… which will really help as she prepares for Nepal’s participation in The World Walks for Water in March 2011:

“The World’s Longest Toilet Queue was a huge event in Nepal – we saw schools, universities, companies and whole communities across the country getting involved to make a stand for water and sanitation.

It was fun and diverse – over 27 districts got involved, including 8,000 people from rural communities. Sanitation is a taboo subject in our culture, so the total number of 30,000 participants was very much impressive and made an impression on the government

The result of this has been increased government commitment to reduce diarrhoea rates in dry seasons, resulting in a significant drop in the number of deaths this year. We’ve also seen an improvement in our policy strategy as we lobby for the inclusion of water and sanitation in the constitution. Furthermore, the country’s master plan of sanitation and hygiene is also in the last phase of development.

Regarding sustaining the trend of increasing budgetary provision to the sector, due to political conflict, the formal budgetary process has been halted, but we are seeing trends of increasing funding to water and sanitation.

And lastly, the campaign provided real opportunities to work with a more diverse network of organisations outside of the water and sanitation sector, such as youth organisations and private sector institutions and even celebrities. This has all helped our campaign messages reach new audiences and we’ve found new voices calling for change.

With all this success, there still remains much to be done. Nepal remains one of the least developed countries in the world (138th of 169 countries in the UN Human Development Report 2010 which was released yesterday). Though the same report shows our enormous progress: A child born today in Nepal can expect to live 25 years longer than a child born in 1970. A fact that truly mobilises us to campaign further and change more lives.”