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The Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network UWASNET was the host of the first East Africa Civil Society Forum, which took place in Kampala from 16 to 18 April. The Forum was jointly organized by WSSCC, WaterAid East Africa, End Water Poverty, Sanitation and Water for All and the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation ANEW.
About 50 delegates, mainly from East Africa as well as representatives from the Southern and Western African region met under the theme, “Tracking Progress on WASH commitments.”
The Forum aimed at strengthening the capacity of East African water and sanitation CSO networks and organizations to more powerfully engage, monitor and influence WASH policies and practice at national and regional levels.
Those three days witnessed dynamic sessions with many high quality presentations and interventions to close with a sense of renewed engagement and motivation.
Uganda’s Commissioner for Urban Water and Sewerage Services, Eng. Dominic Kavutse on behalf of the Minister for Water and Environment, opened the Forum with an assurance of the Government’s appreciation of the important role of Civil Society Organisations in improving services in the Water and Sanitation Sector. He pointed out a number of challenges which included decreased funding and lack of prioritization by the current government. In Uganda, the water and sanitation sector is ranked 11 out of 16. Therefore, he urged CSOs to advocate for increased resource allocation for WASH, while also stressing that CSOs are a key partners who can monitor as well as implementation of WASH projects.
A panel discussion on the commitments of the 2012 High Level Meeting (HLM) and subsequent presentations on the status of WASH in East Africa shared interesting insights and generated a lively discussion. One of the challenges highlighted included the lack of funding available to support commitments made. Advocating at a higher political level and more efficient use of the available resources were suggested a strategies to address this. Panelist Mr. Mukama Daudi Mukungu, the Sanitation Coordinator at the MWE pointed out that those HLM commitments are made in Washington DC and there is a genuine need for “domestication” of those commitments and reaching out to local governments.
Panelist Catherine Mwango, Vice Chair of ANEW addressed the hurriedly approach in which the commitments were prepared as well as the lack of coordination, and advocated for the inclusion of civil society from the planning stages and a continued communication amongst actors. Eng. Sam Mutono, Chair of the National Sanitation Working Group in Uganda said that at the current growth rate (which is below 0.5%) the country will only reach MDG targets by 2170, yet an increase in access of simply 1% would already make a major difference. An accelerated trend by 3% per year however would mean that the MDG target in rural Uganda is met by 2020.
An entire afternoon was dedicated to peer to peer learning. Through a market place, 8 countries, that is, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ghana shared excellent stories on how they involved their national governments in the HLM preparations and their key actions in following up on the commitments made.
A major objective of the Forum was strengthening CSO networks by sharing the latest advocacy resources and tools. This capacity building endeavor was done through 4 topical learning clinics respectively budget tracking and budget advocacy; sector performance monitoring, tools for monitoring commitments and media advocacy. The selection of the learning clinics was based on the outcomes from a pre-Forum survey amongst the participants scoping for the areas that would be most useful to learn about. All capacity building sessions were well received and there was a particular interest for further training on the budget tracking.
Another pillar of the CSO Forum was the action planning which enabled the participants to further develop already existing national plans by integrating the newly acquired information and tools. Each country group laid out a number of specific action points that they intend to implement after the CSO forum. These inputs vary from country to country but they can be summarized as;
A key outcome at the end of day 3 involved the commitments of the national networks to engage and support its regional counterpart ANEW which was requested to support the continuation of the peer to peer learning, started at this Forum. Besides the commitments of the national CSO networks, members of ANEW also recognized and identified steps to reinvigorate the network by addressing required key actions communications, governance, transparency and financing. In addition, CSOs committed themselves individually to step up their act and contribute to the HLM process and to improve the way in which they advocate for and implement WASH services in order to achieve the various commitments at international and national levels.