Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Landmark SWA mission results in success in Liberia

Yael Velleman of WaterAid
Here Yael Velleman, Policy Analyst at WaterAid, one of End Water Poverty’s founding members, reports on her recent visit to Liberia as part of a Sanitation and Water for All pilot mission.

Officials from the government of Liberia, donor representatives and civil society organizations took part in a Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) pilot mission to Liberia between the 27th April and the 3rd May. It was a key step for the partnership formed at the world’s first ever High Level Meeting on water and sanitation in April last year, as it marked the first time it has been put in to practice on a national level.

Delegates in attendance included representatives from the Liberian Ministries of Public Works, Planning and Economic Affairs and Education, agencies such as UNICEF and the World Bank WSP, Development Partners such as USAID, private companies such as the Liberia Water and Sewerage Corporation and civil society groups such as WaterAid and the Liberia WASH Consortium led by Oxfam and other national civil society organizations. Delegates took part in a week long consultative discussion on measures required for equitable and sustained improvements to access to water and sanitation in Liberia. Key challenges were debated and reported in the media, ensuring a high level of public interest and contributing to the transparency of the mission process. The discussion resulted in a draft “Compact” to be implemented over the next two years, containing commitments by all relevant actors. Among the key points agreed were: inclusion of WASH messages in school curricula, consideration of gender issues in WASH development, annual evaluation of whether the targets are being met and targeted investment in vulnerable areas. The Compact mandates partners to come together to take the necessary actions to provide sanitation and water for all in Liberia.

Women collect unsafe water in Liberia,
herwigphoto/Demotix Images
Liberia has recently been plagued by civil war and the number of people with access to clean and safe water and sanitation is very low. The strength of the “Compact” and its focus on specific and practical actions raises hopes that it will result in real changes for the people of Liberia. It is hoped that the success of this mission will show the value of the SWA partnership and its ability to bring key stakeholders together to support nationally-driven WASH planning processes. This should pave the way for similar processes to begin in other countries.

There was a real sense of optimism and energy during the Mission discussions, and a feeling that the Compact can deliver real results for Liberia. The challenge, as always, is to get past the written statements to make sure that real change takes place on the ground. This has certainly been a problem in Liberia, where key policies have not yet been operationalised, but there is a sense that the timebound commitments made in the Compact could result in the necessary measures for implementation.

For more information on the Sanitation and Water for All partnership please visit http://www.sanitationandwaterforall.org/ or http://www.endwaterpoverty.org/SWA

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