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In Johannesburg, South Africa, Executive Director Chris Williams is representing WSSCC members and colleagues at the first ever meeting of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership. Discussion so far has focussed on the various outcomes that SWA seeks to achieve, and there is general agreement that SWA has been most effective in the area of increasing the priority of WASH issues among high-level political leaders.
Partners, however, see this as an area that can, and must, be taken much further. Lively debate has focussed on how to achieve this, especially in the context of current work to set new goals and targets to follow on from the MDGs. WSSCC, with its extensive membership base, Global Sanitation Fund programme, and colleagues and partners in many of the most sanitation-needy countries of the world, has a clear role to play in bringing country experiences and concerns to this global discourse.
Amanda Marlin, WSSCC’s Programme Manager for Advocacy and Communications is also at the meeting, and facilitated a discussion where partners shared insights about communicating the work of SWA and the importance of WASH with decision makers. WSSCC coordinates the communications and advocacy work of the SWA Secretariat, and SWA Communications Officer, Ceridwen Johnson, is based in Geneva at the WSSCC offices.
The role of SWA in contributing to harmonized global monitoring has been recognized. More controversial, however, has been the question of whether, and to what extent, SWA should contribute to country processes to improve WASH. The majority of partners – countries themselves, and many of the agencies – are actively involved in national work and this will of course continue. The question raised is whether SWA, as a partnership, has an additional role to play, for example in helping the most fragile of states to develop strong, fundable national plans. The question of whether to extend the scope of SWA, for example to seek the active involvement of middle income countries, has also divided the group. None of these are questions that are likely to be resolved quickly, but the engagement of partners in addressing them, and the overarching, shared commitment to achieve sanitation, hygiene and safe drinking water for all people is evident.
The SWA Steering Committee, of which WSSCC is a member, will meet on Thursday 15 November.
More information, including video footage from the meeting, is available at www.sanitationandwaterforall.org.