Since the beginning, WSSCC has been a membership-driven organization. The members -- WASH professionals in countries all around the world -- have met periodically, usually every two to three years, at global fora. Members used these meetings to discuss important sector priorities, coordinate activities, and set WSSCC’s operating agenda and goals. Fora have been held in Oslo, Norway (1991); Rabat, Morocco (1993); Bridgetown, Barbados (1995); Manila, The Philippines (1997); Iguaçu, Brazil (2000); Dakar, Senegal (2004). and Mumbai, India, (2011). These fora generated specialized working groups and task forces and produced action plans to direct both WSSCC and key sector stakeholders.
Changing the focus - Vision 21
Prior to 1997, WSSCC's main task was to facilitate knowledge sharing and networking, primarily among sector professionals. In 1997, WSSCC began laying the groundwork for a revolutionary new initiative in water, sanitation and hygiene: Vision 21.
Vision 21 began with a series of more than 100 local consultations in 21 countries across the globe. These meetings were guided by a Vision 21 facilitator and included participation by local NGOs and community leaders and activists. The purpose of the consultations was simple: to ask local communities to visualize how their water, sanitation and hygiene situation would look in the next century. The community meetings were followed by community and household visits and individual meetings in order to develop recommended action programmes, including comprehensive targets, goals and implementation strategies, to present to local and national governments.
At the core of these action programmes, and indeed at the core of Vision 21 as a whole, is the notion that the energy and initiative of local people can generate and implement economical and sustainable solutions to the crisis of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
'Vision 21 - Water for People' was formally presented at the World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference at The Hague, The Netherlands in March 2000. Its presentation marked the beginning of a new phase of advocacy and community-focused action for WSSCC.
Looking to the future - the Global WASH Campaign
The change in direction for WSSCC that began with Vision 21 was expanded later in 2000, at the Fifth Global Forum, held in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil. The Iguaçu Action Programme, which resulted from this Forum, set the WSSCC's priorities as:
- Advocacy and mobilization
- Monitoring by people themselves
- Networking (national, regional and thematic)
- Dissemination of knowledge and best practices
- Working with partners.
One of the first and certainly the most successful campaigns to come out of this new spirit of advocacy was the Global WASH Campaign. One of the first aims of the campaign was to advocate for the adoption of a Millennium Development Goals target on sanitation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. This aim was achieved, and the sanitation target was adopted, which in turn spurred sector professionals around the world to focus increasingly on the issues of safe sanitation and good hygiene.
In 2004, the inaugural Global WASH Forum was held in Dakar, Senegal. The theme of the Forum was “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All – Solutions and Actions; Local and National”, and the overarching goal of the conference was to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for water and sanitation.
The Global WASH Forum also produced the Dakar Statement, the Dakar Statement Actions and Commitments, and the Dakar Roadmap. Taken together, these three documents provided both high-level and practical guidance for governments and sector professionals to move beyond traditional rhetoric and make tangible steps toward achieving global water and sanitation goals.
In 2007, the WSSCC Steering Committee approved a new strategic direction for the organization: to grow, and to focus on sanitation and hygiene. WSSCC's work is far from done because, in particular, 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate basic sanitation and the benefits that come with it: improved health, personal dignity, a cleaner environment, and economic advantages. Current and future activities focus on maintaining WSSCC's commitment to sector knowledge and networking, expanding its advocacy activities, and implementing the Global Sanitation Fund. This strategic direction is designed to facilitate the implementation of practical and sustainable sanitation and hygiene initiatives throughout the world.
WSSCC is an unincorporated membership organization and not a separate legal entity, and so since 1991 the Secretariat has had a host which is a legal entity. From 1991 to the end of 2009, this was the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2007, WSSCC's Steering Committee endorsed a shift in strategic direction which mandated that it grow and concentrate on sanitation. This manifested itself in part with the launch of the Global Sanitation Fund in 2008. So WSSCC became more focused on implementation, and as WSSCC grew and WHO reviewed its own role in hosting partnerships, by mutual agreement a new host was selected for the Secretariat -- the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). UNOPS provides a strong implementation platform that suits the WSSCC very well. On technical subjects, WSSCC remains a close collaborator with WHO.
WSSCC's chairs and executive directors
WSSCC benefitted from the involvement of leading international water, sanitation, and hygiene experts as its Chairs and Executive Directors through the years. These include:
Chairs: Anna Tibaijuka, 2011 – present; Roberto Lenton, 2005 – 2011; Sir Richard Jolly, 1997 – 2004; and Margaret Catley-Carlson, 1990 – 1996.
Executive Directors: Chris Williams, 2012 – Present; Jon Lane, 2007 – 2012; Gourisankar Ghosh, 2001 – 2006; and Ranjith Wirasinha, 1991 – 2000.