Tuesday, 1 May 2012

From the World Walks for Water and Sanitation to the High Level Meeting - making positive change happen!


Natasha Horsfield is End Water Poverty's Campaigns and Communications intern. Here she tells us all about her thoughts on the World Walks for Water and Sanitation and the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting which followed.
When I first began working on the World Walks for Water and Sanitation I was excited, but it was difficult to get a real sense of the scale of the campaign. Yet as the months went by and we planned and produced resources for the campaign, we heard about an increasing number of walks which were being planned around the world and the number of people walking crept up every week. As I contacted our partners in various countries across Africa, Asia and Europe to find out more information about their plans for their walks, I began to form a better picture of the creativity and reach of the campaign and my excitement grew as March and the campaign dates approached...and then finally people started walking!

The stories and photos began to flood in from around the world and at last I truly saw the global reach of the World Walks for Water and Sanitation! Children and teachers, women and grass-roots farmers, local activists and politicians, North and South; thousands of people (373,044 of them to be exact!) from every walk of life joined together with the shared goal of making their governments take action to achieve water and sanitation for all - and it has been really inspirational to witness! People walked to raise their voices about water and sanitation issues in their local communities, but also crucially to ask their Ministers, in both developing and donor countries, to attend the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting in Washington, where they would have the opportunity to make firm commitments on providing water and sanitation for all and to build essential alliances allowing this to be achieved.

Three weeks after the World Walks for Water and Sanitation when the High Level Meeting finally came around, the Ministerial attendance was brilliant, with ministers from Uganda and the UK, Nigeria, Nepal and the Netherlands, Togo and Timor-Leste, and many countries in-between all attending! Yet the World Walks for Water and Sanitation was about more than just attendance, it was also about getting them to make the kind of concrete commitments that result in real political change, and we were not disappointed!

At the pre-High Level Sector Ministers meeting, Ministers for Water and Sanitation, Environment and Health collectively responded to our calls by committing to decrease open defecation by 15%, improve water service access by 5% and increase access to safe sanitation services by 7%, which if implemented will provide 56 million people with safe drinking water and 78 million people with sanitation over the next two years. At the High Level Meeting Kenya committed to providing an additional 20 million people with access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. Benin’s minister committed to increasing its budget allocations for 2013-2014 by 100% per year for basic sanitation and Nigeria promised to progressively increase the budget allocation for water and sanitation over the next three years.

On the donor side the UK has doubled their commitment to reach 30 million people with water and sanitation to 60 million over the next three years and Germany has committed to reaching 30 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015, including better targeting funding to the poorest and most vulnerable. The Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen also announced a new initiative between the Netherlands and UK to bring water and sanitation to an additional 10 million people in nine countries in West and Central Africa, and in all, the Netherlands intends to scale up its assistance to reach 25 million more people globally over the next four years.

I was blow away by the scale of global mobilisation achieved by the World Walks for Water and Sanitation and am extremely proud to have been a part of it. However, the real reward for everyone who raised their voices for change and walked in solidarity with those who walk everyday to access water and inadequate sanitation has been these commitments and the positive change which happened and will continue to happen as a result! For everyone who took part, this is confirmation that by coming together we can make positive change happen, but we mustn’t stop there. We must ensure that the promises made are kept and that more people are able to access clean water and sanitation as a result, and now is the time to do so!

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