In advance of AfricaSan4, West Africa assesses its progress

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The second sub regional preparatory meeting for West Africa for the fourth AfricaSan conference started in the morning of 11 September and continued for two days. It follows the sub regional meeting for central Africa. This meeting will enable representatives of the governments and civil society of each country to assess the progress of the eThekwini commitments and the 2012 Sanitation and Water for All High Level Forum.

None of the West African countries is on course to achieve its sanitation target, according to the 2013 Joint Monitoring Report of WHO and UNICEF. That situation justifies holding preparatory sub regional meetings in advance of the fourth African Conference on Sanitation (AfricaSan4).

At the start of the meeting, David Delinenne, UNICEF regional adviser for West Africa on water, sanitation and hygiene, hailed the attempts at a collective response to the challenges and complexities of sanitation in Africa, and in the West African subregion. The response is influenced by the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration issued by the United Nations in Egypt in 2008, the international year of sanitation. Referring to the AfricaSan2 summit in Durban, Mr Delinenne said that, above all, that collective response would make it possible to "re-establish hygiene and sanitation on the continent's development agenda." In addition to the declaration adopted by each country, the process has led to an Action Plan being put in place. The plan includes deadlines and specific responsibilities.

During his speech, Bai Mass Taal, Executive Secretary of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) said that his institution had been tasked by the heads of state to monitor the implementation of the eThekwini commitments. Mr Taal stated that, today, AMCOW is working to boost and accelerate the achievement of water and sanitation-related goals.

The meeting was officially opened on behalf of the Senegalese government by Amadou Seydou Dia, Director of Management and Planning for Water Resources. Mr Dia said that the choice of Senegal for the meeting was not coincidental. Indeed, in 2014, his country will assume the presidency of AMCOW. Senegal is in a transition phase, giving ever greater priority to sanitation. According to Mr Dia, in order to fulfil its national and international commitments, as of 2013, the Senegalese government has decided to increase the share of the consolidated national investment budget allocated to sanitation. Similarly, Senegal has undertaken to fund 20% of the sector shortfall from its own resources between 2013 to 2015. This is in line with the commitment made during the 2012 High Level Meeting.

Commitments and progress under review
As with the countries of central Africa, during proceedings, reference will be made to the Sanitation and Water for All initiative and, in particular, to the eThekwini commitments and the 2012 High Level Forum. Similarly, as this is an excellent opportunity for review, each country will have the chance to assess progress and identify bottlenecks using various tools such as WASHwatch.

This monitoring exercise opens ample space for dialogue and discussion among actors, including representatives of governments and civil society, as well as with actors from other countries. When signing up to the post-2015 goals, participants will attend a presentation on the sanitation targets that apply after 2015. Within the framework of a WHO/UNICEF joint monitoring programme (JMP) on water and sanitation, a forward-planning process has made it possible to create proposals regarding the targets for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and their corresponding indicators.

As the meeting closes, while constantly evaluating progress, participants will be in a better position to align the various commitments undertaken by each country, looking ahead to AfricaSan4 and the next High Level Meeting.