Friday, 26 February 2010

Who can solve the water and sanitation crisis? Governments, NGOs or both?

Steve Cockburn
International Campaign Coordinator
End Water Poverty


In a blog post just brought to our attention through twitter, Water 1st ask an important question in response to ONE. Water 1st cites many of the weaknesses of the way the USA (like other countries) targets its foreign assistance - don't we need to demonstrate improvement before increasing aid?


To me, the answer is mixed and points to what we’re trying to promote with our campaign for both more and better aid, as well as mutual accountability from both developed and developing countries.


Achieving sanitation and water for all needs effective and accountable governments working with, and being held accountable by, strong civil society organizations and NGOs.


Sanitation and water for all won’t be achieved if rich countries continue to provide just 40% of their aid to low-income countries who need it most, nor if the share of aid to the sector continues to contract, and nor if national governments across Africa and Asia fail to give it the priority it deserves.


In some countries that will mean support to make a country’s sector function effectively – sometimes well targeted aid can remove blockages and bottlenecks - and in others it will mean more money to scale-up systems and programmes that already function well, and just need resources to reach more people.


Aid can work, has worked, and can be made to work better to reach more people. But it’s only part of the equation, of course.


As civil society we have a number of important roles: delivering services (like those expertly provided by Water 1st), campaigning for better practice and political focus, and holding world leaders accountable.


We need to do them all, but governments must play their part too if the 2.5 billion people without sanitation are to be reached.


In April, politicians will meet in Washington to discuss what need’s to be done in the sector. We need them to change and to step up. Read what we think needs to be done, and join the campaign this World Water Day to do it.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sanitation and Water for All: How far have we come?

Steve Cockburn

International Campaign Coordinator
End Water Poverty

For the last two years we’ve been campaigning for the establishment of a global platform to bring political will, coordination and accountability to the water and sanitation sector. Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we’re getting there.

23rd April 2010 will see the first ever High-Level Meeting on Sanitation and Water take place with ministers and top officials in Washington DC, as part of an initiative we called for - ‘Sanitation and Water for All: A Global Framework for Action’.

We’ve been campaigning to make this happen since our launch in March 2007, and been working to increase the level of ambition of breadth of participation since the idea was first accepted by the Governments of UK and Netherlands at the UN is September 2008.

We’ve come a very long way from an initiative supported by only 2 countries and a handful of other agencies. Around 10 donor countries and 15-20 developing countries are now behind the initiative, as well as all the major UN bodies. There is certainly momentum, so now the challenge is making it deliver tangible outcomes to support national sanitation and water plans.

So advocacy over the next two months could not be more important. If you’re from a donor country your officials will be having a meeting with other donors to discuss their approach on 10th March, so get lobbying. If you’re from a developing country whose government is taking part this year, there will be national level processes ongoing – get in touch with stevecockburn@endwaterpoverty.org to find out how your network can get involved.

We know what we want (see our international manifesto), and over 100 organisations have signed up to support this so far. And to help you achieve it we have a short advocacy guide outlining 5 things you can do, and resources to help you.

Already people are making a strong start, with meetings organized and campaigns planned. For examples, see a letter from the SWAN Canada coalition to their minister, a policy position from the US coalition Interaction, a report from country level meetings in Nepal and Bangladesh, and a media event in Ghana. Add to that the 47 countries now taking part in the World’s Longest Toilet Queue the global campaign is taking shape. Can you play your part?

For more information on Sanitation and Water for All: A Global Framework for Action, see www.endwaterpoverty.org/sanitationandwaterforall.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Together we can make a difference

Shikha Shrestha
WaterAid Nepal

Shikha is helping to coordinate the World’s Longest Toilet Queue across Nepal. Here she shares why and how Nepal will be joining the Queue in March.

Despite an abundance of water resources in Nepal, a quarter of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. Worse still is the sanitation situation: nearly half of the total population is forced to defecate openly. This reality has a devastating consequence for health: last summer, there was disastrous diarrhoeal outbreak in Jajarkot and remote districts of the country that killed 315 people and affected a further 47,000. We cannot allow this to happen again, so we are supporting the global campaign The World Longest Toilet Queue. We will show solidarity with the people who are still waiting for a toilet, and use the opportunity to pressure policy influencers to increase their commitment in addressing the sanitation crisis.

We see the campaign as a way to mobilize the masses to influence political leaders. In Nepal, the End Water Poverty campaign Nepal, Freshwater Action Network Nepal and WASH Chapter in Nepal have joined forces. We’ve held joint communication and planning meetings for a central event in Kathmandu. Mr. Ashutosh Tiwari who has recently joined WaterAid Nepal as Country Representative, has been instrumental in extending partnerships and bringing more innovations.

In rural areas of the country, the campaign will focus on spreading the message of sanitation in culturally suitable ways. A local version of the main toolkit has been provided to support planning and The Federation of Water and Sanitation Users Group Nepal will also be involved here, as well as the Freshwater Action Network.

The big event in Kathmandu will be focused on making political impact. Political leaders will attend to share their commitment for combating the crisis. We’re building momentum for a whole month before – a new tactic. A series of articles will be printed in reputable national papers raising awareness of the crisis. Youth groups are involved and will bring their creativity to the campaign, including web 2.0 applications and online campaigning.

We’ve been brainstorming several fun events including a concert and drama productions – we’re being ambitious! As well as making a political impact, we want to make the campaign fun, so that people will remember it.

So plans will be finalized this week but it would be great if we can have your comments and suggestions to make our event even more influential. And wherever you are in the world, from rural Nepal to a city in Europe, we request you to join the queue because we are confident that together we can make a difference!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Truly global action on World Water Day 2010

Serena O'Sullivan
End Water Poverty

A quick update on The World’s Longest Toilet Queue- an impressive, amazing and inspiring 42 countries are now taking part, with more joining up every day!

In Liberia, campaigners will queue for five days - each day the Queue will be in a different slum, with events concluding on World Water Day in a final joint event. Sitali - our contact there - is working hard to get this massive series of Queues off the ground - we wish him luck and lots of encouragement!

In London, there'll be a huge political focus - organisers are asking people to turn up in suits ahead of their Queue in Westminster at Parliament - details will be revealed.... In the meantime, you can RSVP to the event on facebook - it's taking place in the morning so people can attend before work and I hear whispers of free posh breakfasts for Queuers!

Burkina Faso will be an exciting location for the Queue - they're getting EVERYONE involved! National youth groups are organising petitions ahead of the Queue, disability organisations will be a large contingent of Queuers on the day and the Queue will be at the Palace! Good wishes towards all the organisers there - Aline, Yacouba - keep inspiring us!

That's just three of the hundreds of Queues already registered - in Guinea, Senegal, India, Bangladesh, France, Holland, USA, UK, Australia, Togo, Ghana amongst many others - thank you for taking part. We at End Water Poverty, FAN and WSSCC will be ensuring your voices are heard at the highest level so we can stop this crisis needlessly taking lives every day. Keep going, we can do it!