By Julian Theseira
Félix Adégnika, WSSCC member and National Coordinator in Benin, has been leading an advocacy campaign over the past year to push for the inclusion of the human rights to water and sanitation in the country’s constitution. WSSCC’s Secretariat has provided strategic financial and advisory support to the campaign, and supplied valuable advocacy tools and techniques that Félix and his colleagues have adapted for use in their country. The campaign is using multiple channels to advocate for the human rights to water and sanitation including dissemination through the local media, television and newspapers and visits to the national parliament and constitutional court.
“A main objective of the campaign is to support the historic opportunity to affect lasting change in Benin,” said Félix. The rise to power of a new government determined to implement institutional and constitutional reforms means prioritization of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector is a real possibility. Félix has built an advocacy coalition that includes fellow members of civil society, the youth parliament for WASH in Benin, and a network of parliamentarians in WASH. The campaign is also receiving technical support from the Embassy of the Netherlands. The Dutch Embassy is an important donor and leader among the WASH technical and financial partners in Benin.
The advocacy campaign aims to persuade those with decision-making authority in the technical committee charged with revising the constitution, parliament and the government that enshrining the human rights to water and sanitation in the national constitution is essential for the long-term protection of such rights. This is because the constitution, unlike national laws, is not likely to be changed according to the varying political priorities of different national governments.
The campaign has faced multiple challenges. Decision-makers have expressed understanding and support for the campaign, but have not yet translated words into actions. Maintaining constant vigilance and pressure on public authorities throughout an advocacy campaign is challenging. Keeping members of the movement motivated in the face of setbacks is also a challenge. The campaign has also faced resistance from some who don’t feel the need to enshrine the human rights to water and sanitation in the national constitution since the country’s legal framework already provides sufficient protection of such rights.
Despite the challenges, the campaign has already achieved successes that will leave a lasting impact on Benin. The government has committed to a 509 billion CFA Francs (approximately 1 billion US dollars) investment for the period 2017 to 2021 to enable universal access to potable water in Benin. The creation of a new Ministry of Water and Sanitation is currently being considered, which will allow for more coordinated management of the WASH portfolio in Benin. Responsibilities for WASH had previously been divided between different ministries. Public awareness of WASH issues has also increased. Going forward, priorities for the campaign will be to continue calling for the inclusion of the rights to water and sanitation in the constitution, holding the government accountable to its promises, and to move sanitation and hygiene further up the political agenda in Benin.
To learn more about WSSCC’s NC-driven activities in Benin and 15 other countries, download our report Connecting the Dots.
Submitted by our member Daniel Karanja, this story reveals how one woman took matters into her own hands to ensure that CLTS reached her home.
WSSCC, in partnership with Global Citizen and the World Bank, celebrates World Water Day with a panel session dedicated to sanitation.
WSSCC Member Daniel Iroegbu’s inspirational work is impacting the lives of women and girls in hard-to-reach areas of the country.