Friday, 29 July 2011

Turning a corner?

So, I've been back from AfricaSan for a week, and we're still waiting for the final ministerial statement to be released. At the closing ceremony, there was much positivity, with a real appetite I feel to turn the corner on sanitation. Attendees were especially inspired after seeing the changes achieved in Rwanda on sanitation (it is one of only four countries on the continent on track to meet MDG targets on sanitation).

But my my, what a corner they're going to need to steer around - and quickly. We learnt that 2.1 million children under the age of five had died unnecessarily from diarrhoeal diseases since the last AfricaSan in 2008, and that poor water and sanitation is the BIGGEST KILLER OF CHILDREN ON THE CONTINENT. (I hate capitalizing text, but I really want you to note that point!)

So it was good that the draft ministerial statement from the conference reaffirmed commitment to the eThekwini declaration from 2008, and a commitment to working with others, rather than a new set of targets to chase. We'll publish it here as soon as we get a copy. UPDATE 3 Aug: draft statement here.

Striking things about the conference for me included the shift from talking about aid to talking about innovation, tackling injustice within countries (Zambia is now a lower-middle income country, yet only 49% of the population has access to improved sanitation) and the confidence in which civil society members and End Water Poverty partners engaged with decision makers. They were lobbying their ministers in the hallways, thrusting the CSO Statement into the hands of delegates and easily formed a way forward in holding their governments to account over the coming short years before the MDG deadline.

Of course, now the work to hold governments to account on their statement continues with earnest. I was glad that our new Crisis Talks campaign activity was received so well by civil society actors - I heard exciting plans from DRC, Togo, Liberia, Uganda, Mali and Nigeria! - and I encourage you to get involved too. The activity hopes to be a tool for you to utilize to hold governments to account on their commitments, and put those at the sharp end - those living with even basic access to water and sanitation - at the centre of the debate.

Monday, 25 July 2011

New campaign toolkit: Join Crisis Talks!

We've produced a brand new toolkit for the Crisis Talks campaign on World Toilet Day, 19th November 2011!

Crisis Talks will be meetings in the community with people affected by poor water and sanitation and representatives from government, civil society and the media. The day and campaign is an ideal opportunity to kick-start national planning for the Sanitation and Water for All High-Level Meeting in April 2012.

Please use the toolkit to help you organise your own Crisis Talks in-country to bring attention to the sanitation and water crisis.

It's crucial governments in the Global North and South start effectively planning for the meeting as soon as possible, and the Crisis Talks can act as a catalyst moment.

Read the toolkit here.

Find out more about the Crisis Talks action here.

Find out more about the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership here on the End Water Poverty website and on the main SWA website.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Someone new joins the sanitation gang...

We're in Kigali this week for AfricaSan as you may know, with a great array of civil society organisations, ministers, academic institutions and companies interested in making a difference to the sanitation crisis being faced in Africa.

And yesterday, a new kid joined the block... and in a courageous fashion! With an event at AfricaSan "Reinventing the Toilet", new grants and an announcement of advocacy capacity, the Gates Foundation has burst onto the sanitation scene in a big way.

The Foundation has worked on water and sanitation projects for a long time, but this feels like a real step change in their engagement with the sector, with new capacity working on advocacy and policy, which of course we were eager to learn of.

During the event, speakers who included Frank Rijsberman, Head of the Foundation's Toilet Team, outlined the innovative approach to the sanitation crisis. You can take a look at this video which explains more:

End Water Poverty is really pleased that the Foundation has already joined the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership, which sends a great message out to the sector and beyond. I asked a question of the panel on their advocacy strategy towards the SWA, and happily Frank expressed a clear wish to work with and learn from others in the sector to build their strategy and he reaffirmed the commitment that the Foundation will attend next year's crucial High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington DC. He also introduced me to his new staff member Sara Rogge, Policy and Advocacy Officer, who later talked through some strategic countries they're looking to work with more closely as they go forward in their advocacy work.

It's great that more organisations are talking and working on sanitation. As they find the best ways to make change on the sanitation crisis, movements like End Water Poverty can share learning with them and link them into current debates as well as ensuring the voices of our members and CSO partners are an integral part of their work. It adds to the momentum building around the issue and works to ensure that the crisis cannot be ignored by decision makers in the north and south. New energy and innovation also flows in, as well as bringing in a set of exciting new people like Sara and Frank to work with. Welcome to the sanitation gang!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Civil Society makes its stand at AfricaSan3

A whirlwind day in Kigali! Over just a few hours, seventy members of African civil society – including national networks and grassroots organizations and representatives from international and pan-African initiatives, gathered to finalize CSO messages for AfricaSan 3, which commences tomorrow.

A forum for civil society is a great opportunity to share knowledge and learning and also join together under one key voice so civil society can be a reckoning force within the wider AfricaSan conference, and be better placed to influence proceedings. As the Chair of the forum, Patrick Apoya of Ghana, expressed, “We must speak as one voice so we complement and reinforce each other”.

Patrick Apoya of Ghana, Chair of Civil Society Forum

We heard presentations from Rudy Amenga-Etego, who is the African civil society representative of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, who shared the latest challenges of the initiative and ways for CSOs to be engaged. Catherine Mwango of the Kenya CSO Network KEWASANET shared the key issue of health and sanitation. And Nelson Gomonda of WaterAid presented a traffic lights paper which provides monitoring information on commitments previously made on sanitation, such as minimum sector funding and gender inclusion in plans.

Finally, we tackled the major task of forming messages for AfricaSan 3. Groups broke away to discuss headline messages, which developed into three major themes of financing, monitoring and accountability and coordination and partnerships. The small task team of representatives of staff working in Ghana, Sudan, Malawi and the UK drafted the full messages with input through the afternoon from the rest of the forum.

The resulting messages are a bold statement to the conference – urging them to follow through on commitments, and deliver for the most marginalized.

Civil society representatives will distribute these messages far and wide tomorrow at the start of the conference to set a tone of ambition for the week. We’ll keep you updated!

Read the civil society messages.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sanitation in Africa – the Big Challenge – AfricaSan 3

Serena O'Sullivan, from the International Secretariat, is at AfricaSan this week to work with local partners during an important political moment in addressing the sanitation crisis. AfricaSan is a major sanitation and hygiene conference taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from 19th- 21st July. Follow blogs from AfricaSan here, from both Serena and members of the coalition.

When a member of the WaterAid policy team took a close look at some new figures last year on progress towards the MDGs, the results were startling. The sanitation sub-target of MDG 7- Environmental Sustainability – will be missed by, not two years, or even two decades, but two centuries in Sub-Saharan Africa.*

This desperately lagging progress has devastating consequences across the Africa continent. People suffering from preventable diarrhea take up half of all hospital beds in Sub-Saharan Africa. Girls aren’t going to school because there’s nowhere private or safe to relieve themselves. Businesses are losing money with sick employees. And people’s dignity and rights are being compromised daily.

This is frustrating for those in the sector, as we know the solutions are present and possible – it’s just a matter of politicians pushing through plans and adequate financing for these plans to come to fruition.

Only a few countries, such as Ghana and Liberia, are taking firm steps forwards with the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, which hopes to drastically reduce those living without water and sanitation.

This is why it’s crucially important that ministers from across the continent are pushed, pressured and supported in their work on water and sanitation. And a great opportunity for civil society to hold governments to account is the bi-annual conference on sanitation and hygiene, AfricaSan, held this week in Kigali, Rwanda.

AfricaSan will run from Tuesday to Thursday and will include governments sharing the progress they’ve been making on meeting their targets on sanitation coverage, civil society will share their expectations and their own commitments in holding governments to account, and institutions such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sharing their solutions for the sector too.

End Water Poverty is represented here by myself from the International Secretariat, and by Steering Committee members Doreen Wandera (Uganda), Olivier Germain (Liberia) and Mubu Kalaluka (Zambia). You’ll be hearing from us throughout the week as we move through the CSO pre meeting on Monday, and through the main conference. Do tweet us your questions and use the comment field below too.

*The MDG target is to “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation”.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The rising importance of the ‘Foundations’ – and some advice

Fleur Anderson, International Coordinator of End Water Poverty, shares here some reflections on the potential of Foundations to make an impact on the sanitation and water crisis, and share some advice on how they might do this in partnership with civil society. Do take a read, and discuss through the comments section!

I recently visited End Water Poverty members in the US and was very struck by the increasing importance of the ‘Foundations’ in funding water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. Last year we were involved in a piece of research by the Gates, Buffet and Hilton Foundations looking at the sector to assess where they thought US advocacy efforts should best be put. This considered and collaborative approach to working in the sector also bodes well for future work together.

The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation has already joined the Sanitation and Water for All partnership and later this month will be launching their new sanitation programme at the AfricaSan 3 Conference in Rwanda. It hopes to spark a second ‘sanitation revolution’ and will be funding advocacy for sanitation policies that prioritize the poor and under-served, as well as innovative designs and working with whole communities to reduce the number of people who practice open defecation.

The huge and urgent need to tackle the water and sanitation crisis has led world leaders to get involved in the issue as well. Former US President Clinton is leading a high level panel to provide global leadership on water issues, which includes former Mexican Presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, and former prime ministers Yasuo Fukuda (Japan) and Gro Brundtland (Norway). The Chirac Foundation is also focusing on water as a priority. The Margaret Cargill Foundation was also mentioned several times as another funder.

The Gates Foundation has a clear theory of change which sees the vital importance of research, media and public action, as I have seen before with the Gates Foundation’s partnership with GCAP’s Project Accelerate Programme. So, this new form of funding seems to have good foundations for strengthening civil society’s voice and working with – rather than bypassing – people. Just as international NGOs are always grappling with the challenge of maintaining a meaningful relationship with supporters in the global North and partners in the global South, so the Foundations have a challenge of accountability. But through their strategic, reflective and collaborative approach, they are winning friends and proving effective.

It’s not only in America that End Water Poverty members are working with the Foundations. For example, member organizations in India and Uganda are receiving funding for research and programme work. So far, so good.

Now the main challenge is for the Foundations to keep balancing their desire for results and ability to spend money on big programmes, with an ability to support civil society. Ramisetty Murali is the Regional Convenor for the Freshwater Action Network in South Asia, and he shares this advice for the Foundations: ‘Consultation among the civil society organisations to learn from their experience and perspective of the local realities is vital. Rather than limiting to direct or indirect service delivery projects, strengthen the civil society capacity development process and provide required resource support for civil society organizations to effectively advocate for transparency, accountability and responsiveness of the local governments with regards to their responsibility and mandated role of catering to water, sanitation and hygiene needs of the people.

‘The interventions of these major foundations should not exclude the process of questioning State’s responsibility in providing for the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of the people. When the governments fail to deliver quality services there is a spontaneous response at least from some of the communities and civil society organisations to fight for their services. Thus there is a process of collective citizens action to pressurize the state to perform better. Such local processes must be valued and strengthened by external interventions from these kind of Foundations. Otherwise Governments tend to escape by highlighting these new agencies as gap filling service providers. Finally, the major programmes of Foundations should not induce privatization of water and sanitation services or reducing state subsidies for the poor.’

This requires a real partnership with civil society for development which will requires a long-term view, rather than needing short term results, and a continuing active desire for social change which will lead to the sustainable changes we all want to see. We look forward to these new ways of working. Bring on the Sanitation Revolution!

Join us in Stockholm

End Water Poverty will be at World Water Week in Stockholm this August. The week is well attended by civil society and members of our coalition, so it's an ideal opportunity to meet together to further strengthen our movement for change, and bring an end to the water and sanitation crisis.

End Water Poverty members will be hosting a special event for civil society, and we really hope you can be there!

Details: Tuesday August 23rd 2011
9am - 10.30am
Location: At the main conference venue, room: K13

Rolien Sasse, Simavi (Netherlands)
Rudy Amenga-Etego, Grassroots Africa (Ghana) ANEW representative
Yakub Hossain, Village Education Resource Centre (Bangladesh) and a FANSA representative

Please note that only registered attendees of World Water Week can attend this meeting.

End Water Poverty is a growing movement for change with members all over the world. In March 350,000 people globally joined the 'World Walks for Water' action. And we have exciting campaign moments approaching including Crisis Talks and World Water Day 2012.

Come to our lively and interactive meeting to meet other organisations campaigning on WASH, and find out more about the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, and national and global campaign actions for the year ahead.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Help us form our World Water Day 2012 campaign!

The previous two global campaigns that End Water Poverty coordinated - the World Walks for Water and the World's Longest Toilet Queue were a massive success at ensuring national change, as well as championing the cause of water and sanitation internationally, and providing a moment for people to join in solidarity. Together they mobilised nearly half a million people!

And we are going to be even more ambitious in 2012! And to realize our ambitions, we need YOUR HELP!

Help us shape next year's campaign by filling in our short, (very short!) survey. Your help is invaluable and will truly help us to design a campaign that will reach far and wide, and be accessible and enjoyable for as many people as possible.

Please fill in our short survey.

We'll keep you updated through our blog how the campaign plan progresses and let you know when the materials and resources are released.