Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Response to the UN post MDG water paper

Together with End Water Poverty and WASH United, FAN Global has responded to the UN water consultation report, suggesting room for improvement around governance and accountability, gender, targeting of aid and sector budgets, inequalities and rights. Areas that could be addressed further:

Governance and accountability

WASH and governance is mentioned on page 12 of the paper but there could be more on overall governance throughout the Water thematic area.

The section on accountability in WASH should include more information around participation and access to information. Participation is mentioned in the Youth and Civil Society voices section but not in the actual recommendations.

Beyond2015 paper inputs for governance:
The current framework lacks accountability and coordination mechanisms to ensure that agreed aims are fulfilled. Progress against the current MDGs targets is routinely monitored, which is a key tool to ensure accountability. Yet, even with this tool, progress has been uneven – some targets have already been achieved, while others, and most notably sanitation, are considerably off track. Additionally, the current MDGs framework does not set any regional or national targets. Hence, at the global level, targets may be reached masking the fact that some regions are left far behind. For example, progress against the water target has largely occurred in China and India, while it is markedly slower in sub-Saharan Africa. 33 Likewise, access within countries is often uneven. For example, 84% of the global population without access to an improved drinking water source lives in rural areas.

The future framework must therefore include robust accountability and coordination mechanisms at the global, regional and national levels to ensure that gaps in progress towards agreed aims and regional disparities are progressively addressed and closed. One tool to improve accountability towards future aims is the targeting and prioritisation of aid and sector budgets with regard to those regions, people and issues most often left behind. Progress in sanitation, for example, will not be achieved unless the budgetary gap is closed (see page 3 above) and legal and policy frameworks are created to ensure that narrowing gaps is given priority. Accountability of governments towards their citizens is also vital and civil society must be empowered with the legal tools that ensure access to justice when their rights are violated or not effectively taken into account.

Participation and access to information oblige governments to engage in genuine consultation with all societal groups and at all stages of decision-making, from priority setting to planning, implementation and monitoring. This, in turn, requires governments, donors and other development actors to make information easily accessible to communities, thereby also empowering the whole community to engage in progress and claim entitlements. The needs of potentially affected communities must be considered, with particular attention to those most vulnerable and marginalised. There is growing consensus and evidence that development interventions are most effective when people are empowered to engage and their needs are at the centre of government planning. Public participation also ensures the legitimacy of the process, so that plans, programs, policies and projects can proceed with the endorsement of those potentially affected.

Consultation processes must include awareness raising and sensitisation so that communities understand and are well aware of the detail and impact of any planned interventions and have the confidence to express their position. With respect to sanitation and hygiene, the taboos and misinformation that often surround these topics must be understood and overcome.

With respect to WASH, only interventions that are planned in genuine consultation with communities can ensure that the needs of communities are met and increase efficient usage and maintenance of services. Particular attention needs to be given to consulting all groups within a community, including women, children, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups, to ensure WASH infrastructure is accessible to all. One of the major reasons for WASH infrastructure to fall into disuse is because the needs, including cultural preferences, of people are often not taken into account.

Gender

There is not enough in the paper around gender and WASH. It is included in the MDG section but should be more explicit under WASH.

From the Beyond2015 paper:

Women are in many ways disproportionately affected by the lack of water and sanitation, and have to literally carry the burden when water resources are scarce, as they are most often responsible for water collection. Lack of access to safe and private sanitation facilities increases women’s and girl’s vulnerability to sexual violence, especially when they wait to relieve themselves under cover of darkness to try to have some privacy. Waiting long hours to relieve themselves also means that women risk severe long-term health impacts, such as urinal tract infections, which can lead to more serious infections, and have been associated with low birth weight babies.

Targeting of aid and sector budgets

There doesn’t seem to be anything in the paper around the targeting of aid and sector budgets.

 

This is one of Beyond 2015’s key recommendations under ‘Governance and Human Rights’:
The future framework must include robust mechanisms to ensure that disparities in progress are addressed through targeting of aid and sector budgets as well as the establishment of credible plans at the national level. Financial investments must integrate comprehensive approaches, including prioritisation of those most in need, awareness raising and participation. Woefully inadequate progress in areas such as sanitation must be directly addressed.

The future framework must therefore include robust accountability and coordination mechanisms at the global, regional and national levels to ensure that gaps in progress towards agreed aims and regional disparities are progressively addressed and closed. One tool to improve accountability towards future aims is the targeting and prioritisation of aid and sector budgets with regard to those regions, people and issues most often left behind. Progress in sanitation, for example, will not be achieved unless the budgetary gap is closed (see page 3 above) and legal and policy frameworks are created to ensure that narrowing gaps is given priority.

Inequalities

There should be more focus on equality and non-discrimination in the paper, and on how to actually reduce inequality rather than just summarising the problem.

The current text: 

Ending inequality in WASH cannot ignore current imbalances, since decision makers concentrate power & authority, while those who lack services are dispersed with weak voices. The resulting discrimination may be intentional or unintentional, rural vs urban, within communities or households. WASH equality demands transparency and accountability, but numbers add clout.

Beyond 2015 paper:

The future framework must therefore include robust accountability and coordination mechanisms at the global, regional and national levels to ensure that gaps in progress towards agreed aims and regional disparities are progressively addressed and closed. One tool to improve accountability towards future aims is the targeting and prioritisation of aid and sector budgets with regard to those regions, people and issues most often left behind. Progress in sanitation, for example, will not be achieved unless the budgetary gap is closed (see page 3 above) and legal and policy frameworks are created to ensure that narrowing gaps is given priority.

Eliminating all inequalities must be central to the future framework. Governments must commit to identifying groups that face discrimination and injustice or particular barriers in realising their rights and must ensure that development efforts are designed and implemented in a way that focuses on removing barriers and closing existing gaps, including through mechanisms of affirmative action. This necessitates the collection of data that is disaggregated by, for example, wealth quintiles, rural-urban, formal-informal settlement status, age, sex, gender and disabilities.

Rights

Good to see a section on rights, but this could be integrated into the section on water, sanitation and hygiene itself. The recognition and developments since 2010 around the normative content can bring much to the debate on the post-2015 agenda, most notably also in discussions on targets and indicators. This can also contribute to overcoming the disconnect between the pre-existing human rights framework and the development agenda.

Beyond 2015 paper:

The normative content of the human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. The human right to sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sanitation services that are physically accessible and affordable, safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable, and which provide privacy and ensure dignity.

A human-rights based approach further commits governments to observe important principles closely related to the governance principles set out above. In addition to participation, equality and accountability, governments are obliged to progressively realise the rights for all, with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised. With respect to the right to sanitation, awareness raising and education about sanitation and hygiene are crucial elements in fulfilling the right, as taboos surrounding sanitation must be addressed to ensure its sustainability. The implementation of these principles and activities must be monitored within the future framework.