Wednesday, 23 May 2012

EWP's Campaigns Advisor reports back from Africa Water Week!

Olivier Germain is EWP's Campaigns Advisor. He was at Africa Water Week in Cairo last week following up on the commitments made at the SWA High Level Meeting. Here, he reports back:

Along with AfricaSan, the AWW is the biggest event focusing on WASH in Africa, and was attended by over 1,000 participants, bringing together over 30 African Ministers, donor agencies, research institutes, youth groups, the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

 This year was also an opportunity to commemorate 10 years of the African Ministers' Council on Water’s (AMCOW) existence, both looking back at what has been achieved and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

So what came out of these discussions?   The week was concluded with AMCOW's statement of key messages - rather than emerging with a new set of specific commitments, the underlying message was that it was now time “to implement past declarations on water and sanitation”, and the need for “translation into action and tangible benefits of existing political commitments”.  Several key documents were referred to such as the 2008 Sharm-el-Sheikh Declaration and the Africa Water Vision 2025.  However one glaring omission was the absence of reference to the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting commitments, made by over 30 African Ministers in Washington last month.   This was in stark contrast to the prominence of SWA during the week’s sessions and the numerous references made to the HLM commitments by Ministers in Cairo, pledging to honour these and accelerate progress towards achieving them.

This re-emphasises the need for close monitoring of political commitments and declarations to ensure visions and statements which events such as the AWW are so good at producing, do not remain just words but are acted upon and translate into increased and sustained access to water and sanitation for all.   Civil Society Organisations, including members of End Water Poverty, have a major role to play here, and this was clearly articulated in the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation’s (ANEW) closing remarks at the AWW stating “We call upon our Governments to ensure that all existing agreed plans and commitments are duly harmonized and implemented […] and commit ourselves to monitor and report on progress made by each country (at the SWA HLM)”.

Although, events such as the AWW represent significant opportunities to network, promote key findings and recommendations, and influence decision-makers, the rhetoric that comes out of final declarations is only of value if followed up and implemented.  AMCOW concluded with “Participants are called to resolve to put our words to action, to hold ourselves accountable to our pledges; to do less talk and walk the talk”. As CSOs we have a duty to take them up on their word and seize this opportunity.

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