Session FT 3.10
Voicing peoples interests - civil society innovating change in water & sanitation policies
Freshwater Action Network (FAN)
Civil society has many successful examples to share that will demonstrate the value of organized and informed local civil society, able to listen to communities they work with and contributing to progressive policy formulation in their country.
The objective of this session is to highlight the contribution of organised civil society to improved water governance and greater access to water supplies and sanitation for poor people. It is an international session, with case studies from each continent that demonstrate the value of civil society networks for influencing policy and practice in the sector. When NGOs work cooperatively together in alliances or networks, their chances of successful advocacy for progressive change is greater, and thus for translating international commitments into local action in favour of poor people and the environment.
NGO coalitions working in alliance with progressive governments, and other stakeholders, have had some recent international successes, for example: the adoption of an international sanitation target at the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, the prioritisation of water services for the poor, the agreement that cost recovery shall not prevent access to water or the recognition of the Right to Water in General Comment 15 of the UN Committed on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
But international commitments and recommendations on water governance are not always prioritized or acted upon at national level, therefore actions of NGOs at national level is most important to keep governments’ accountable, keep water and sanitation on the political agenda, mobilise citizens, and improve cooperation for better water management and deliver access to water and sanitation for the people.
This session focuses on the impact of NGOs working together in coalitions and networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America suggestions for how such initiatives can be replicated or scaled up to increase the impact. It also discusses the challenges for NGOs advocacy work to remain accountable and representative to the local community.
Lessons learned and key messages
Strong & continued Government-NGO-community partnership and capacity building is prerequisite to achieve total sanitation and access to safe water
Money alone can not solve problems. Social mobilisation is possible with the involvement of NGOs and local institutions at grass roots level. Communities can become effective advocates of policy change if they are properly mobilised. Local actors must be pushed forward to represent themselves. NGOs should not always assume needs of the community and they must be held to account by continuous dialogue with local action groups, water user groups.
NGOs need to learn how to document and improve on record keeping. Activities and experiences need to be shared.
NGOs contribution to water & sanitation provision will be most effectively recognised by Government if they have a well organised, credible NGO networks. These networks should have very clear objectives and strategies. External support is often necessary initially but requires a sensitive approach and the ability to pull back and allow local leadership. Networks can remove the internal (unsustainable) competition between NGOs and government, so that they can plan activities
For collaboration between NGOs and government to be effective, both need to share common goals and work with tolerance & compromise. Common goals result in positive policies for civil society.
Governments appreciate the value of working with NGOs and NGOs are now being recognised as partners of development. This is the key to success.
The collaborative force of NGOs working in parallel with government has resulted in improvements in water supply access and sanitation. They provide direct implementation and can provide direct areas of funding for investment in the sector, and have an important advantage over government and private sector in hard to reach communities, gender mainstreaming, HIV and AIDS.
When there is no competition between government and NGOs, they become development partners (such as in Uganda) and civil society becomes represented at the highest level.
There is still a very big job to do. Good practice needs to be scaled up and success should be replicated.
NGOs used to be seen as vociferous and antagonistic. This has been overcome in Ghana. Now they use government sector processes such as the national water community sanitation policy. The government has a good rapport with network and is asking them to concentrate on advocacy rather than direct service delivery.
Orientations for action
Progress towards the water and sanitation targets and improved water governance needs community mobilisation and involvement in policy, advocacy as well as implementation, this can be facilitated by organised NGOs and networks
NGOs are most effective in advocacy when they work in networks and alliances with various stakeholders, including allies in government, for best results. Strong and continued Government-NGO-Community partnership is prerequisite to attain sustainable success.
NGOs need to ensure that they are working closely with communities they represent and that any issues NGOs are pushing for with governments are understood by the communities themselves – there should be a feed-back
Increase potential for NGOs to network within their own countries and internationally to translate commitments into action.
Local Actions presented
Total Sanitation Campaign in Bangladesh
Joseph Halder, NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply & Sanitation, Bangladesh
NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply & Sanitation is the apex networking and service delivery agency of 665 NGOs & CBOs, and 640 private sector actors who implement water and sanitation programmes to disadvantaged communities in collaboration with the civil society. NGO Forum initiated the Total Sanitation Campaign to progress the 2015 sanitation target in Bangladesh. It is a locally implemented initiative that conducts community awareness building activities and provides appropriate low cost hardware support facilities to meet the increased demand for sanitation facilities. By December 2005, they had covered 2550 villages with 100% sanitation facilities and 56 unions. Tere is high coverage of hygiene practices in the covered communities and civil society and local government representatives monitor the prhogress
NGO Forum built alliances with Government and conducted lobbying this has resulted in political commitment towards Total Sanitation and the Govt of Bangladesh now has a national sanitation strategy 2005 and Bangladesh is on the way to achieving the national goal “100% Sanitation for All” by 2010.
Incidencia de las Organizaciones Sociales en los procesos de elaboración de Leyes de Aguas en Centroamérica
Jeanette de Noack, FANCA & CALAS, Guatemala
There is a lack of legal frameworks for water conservation in Central America. FANCA members are working to introduce water laws in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras to ensure that water supply is properly managed.
In Guatemala CALAS use existing processes and frameworks to conduct public consultations with members of society who are usually excluded as well as entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, local authorities and local water boards. CALAS consult multi disciplinary players in association with pubic consultation in order to reach agreement. Indigenous groups are involved in discussion process. The space is open and their views are incorporated in legal texts. They are given training about legislation in order to form opinions and ensure that all stakeholders are speaking the same language. Lessons will help us know what to include in discussions in the future.
CALAS organises workshops with local communities to make sure that their principles are included in water legislation and legal texts. This way, bills respond to national interest. Using this model, the development of water laws has made significant progress in Guatemala, and similar approaches have been applied by civil society organisations in Costa Rica,l Nicaragua & Honduras. However, ultimately success depends on the political will of the Government.
Incorporation of NGO contribution into water and sanitation sector performance measurement in Uganda
Harriet Nabunnya, Uganda NGO Water & Sanitation Network
UWASNET, is a network of 110 NGOs and CBO member organizations working in the field of water supply and sanitation. The Government of Uganda has a strong commitment to meeting the MDGs on water & sanitation. It monitors progress through a sector performance review. The Ugandan National constitution recognises the right to water and government policy recognises the importance of coordination of all stakeholders.
Until recently, NGO contribution in water and sanitation was not been reflected in central government management information systems so there was a lack of comprehensive understanding of the physical and financial inputs by NGOs, and therefore was not reported upon in the Government Sector Performance Review. UWASNET have successfully changed government policy so that now the NGO contribution to the sector is monitored and reported on by Government in its sector performance measurement. Government recognition of NGO contribution is contributing to change. There is political will to work with NGOs because their contribution is recognised. This is much more effective than a conditional grant that is given to local govt from national govt.
UWASNET are an umbrella network and have managed to develop a working relationship with government. They undertake ‘soft’ advocacy, making recommendations to government based on the field experience of members. The outcome of their non-critical approach is that UWASNET are invited to governmental round table discussions. UWASNET is part of the Sector working group for water supply and sanitation which includes donors and government and their recommendations are fed in to annual sector reports.
The Mole Conference Series: A Rallying Point for Civil Society Advocacy in Ghana
Patrick Apoya, Coalition of NGOs in Water & Sanitation, Ghana
Until the mid 1990s, the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation (GWSC) had sole mandate for water and sanitation and there was no democratic governance over water issues. Amid a public health crisis, ineffective and uncoordinated non-state actors were focusing on stop gap charity services for poor communities and no dialogue was taking place with essential stakeholders.
In 1989 a group of local stakeholders converged in a tiny and remote village called Mole to discuss solutions and took the initiative to facilitate multi stakeholder dialogues with professionals, academia, engineers, politicians, citizens, private sector, traditional authorities, local government on an annual basis.
By ‘Mole’ 4, proposals for drastic water sector reforms had been tabled not to mention that trust and confidence between CSOs and government has been restored. MOLE conference is repeated annual reviewing progress and the processes. The Mole conference is now in its17th year. Vibrant civil society is impacting on national and international processes. They provide leadership within the process and civil society see that, with support and coordination, things can change. For example, investment in rural water sector increased coverage from less than 8% in 1994, to 40% in 4 years, now 52% and the MOLE series created the conditions for nationwide convergence on the Right to Water.