Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Amplifying over a million voices to demand improved sanitation

Inter Country Working Group (ICWG) meeting held in Nov in Kathmandu


FANSA’s Communications Officer Prakash Amatya spoke to Murali Ramisetty, FANSA Convenor, about his hopes and expectations of the process leading to the next South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN).  
Murali Ramisetty recently attended an Inter Country Working Group (ICWG) meeting. The ICWG was established to maintain dialogue and trust on SACOSAN which aims to accelerate progress of sanitation and hygiene work in South Asia to enhance people’s quality of life. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss SACOSAN V preparation, develop the agenda and agree on the regional monitoring framework.
How do you see SACOSAN contributing to the improvement of sanitation? 
The biggest contribution of SACOSAN is the momentum it has gathered in the region on raising awareness of the importance of sanitation in improving quality of life and health for people. I strongly believe in that SACOSAN has also caused national governments to increase their sanitation commitments.
What outcomes have materialized so far? 
All governments have committed to increasing allocations for sanitation. When I attended the ICWG meeting in Colombo I observed governments acting on their commitments and reporting what budget allocations have been made for sanitation.
They have also set timelines at the national level to achieve country level open defecation free (ODF) status. The government of Bangladesh and the government of Nepal have set a target of ODF for 2017. The Government of India has come up with its plan to invest about  46,000 corers of Indian rupees in sanitation development. 
All the national government s in South Asia are making solid investments in sanitation development. SACOSAN commitments are prioritizing improvements for the poor and marginalized communities who are really struggling for adequate services. Moreover, governments are encouraging WASH in schools which is another important area where we see countries making progress fast.
Other areas of improvement include the monitoring indicators and framework to track how all the countries are progressing with respect to commitments made in SACOSAN III and IV. Once an evaluation (M&E) framework is established, we should be able to more track SACOSAN commitmentsmore accurately and reliably.
How do you see the preparations for SACOSAN V so far?
I think the Government of Nepal is taking the initiative seriously and beginning the process of planning well in advance. They have already established the secretariat and their efforts are effectively building up the momentum.
Do you anticipate any challenges?
I think one of the important issues is logistics. Of course there are lots of enthusiasm among the sector actors to participate in the SACOSAN V, not only among governments but also among bilateral agencies, international aid agencies and civil society organizations. It may be a challenge for the government of Nepal to find a venue which can accommodate so many people.
Agreeing the M&E framework is another crucial challenge. Because each country has its own monitoring and evaluation framework, we have to align their existing M&E frameworks with the SACOSAN commitments. This would need a lot of changes in the M&E framework structures at the country level. I think if that is not achieved we will not be able to clearly measure and track the progress on SACOSAN commitments. If we do not have common M&E framework which provides reliable data to track and measure the SACOSAN progress against the commitments, it will be difficult to assess the extent to which SACOSAN commitments have actually been implemented.
How will grassroot voices will be represented in SACOSAN V?
Civil society organizations, along with the key sector players, will be collecting people’s voices. We will develop something like a people’s charter on sanitation which will be signed by at least a million people from South Asia, particularly poor and marginalized sections of the community and will be handed over to the political leaders at SACOSAN V. The charter will reflect people’s aspirations. Signatures will be collected in communities from April to the end of September 2013.
FANSA members also play an active role in the country-level progress preparations. We will produce a traffic light paper to highlight progress on SACOSAN commitments. FANSA will bring a compendium of 50 case studies on the status of sanitation for the poor and the most marginalized communities like Dalits and tribal people live including problems and solutions to highlight the reality to delegates at the SACSOAN V conference.
What outcomes do you hope for?
FANSA will be continuously pushing to increasing sanitation budgets as well as targeting the allocation to reach to the poorer and marginalized strata of the community. Further, we also need to see agreement on a common M&E framework which incorporates SACOSAN commitments. 
Do you see any differences to previous SACOSAN processes? 
This time it has to be really focused on the implementation of the commitments and the challenges rather than saying we are doing well. Our governments will be held accountable to what extent they have really done well.
What do you expect from ICWG meeting being held in Kathmandu?
We should be able to start some of the ground work for developing the M&E framework for SACOSAN which we have not done much on so far. Secondly, we will develop a good agenda for SACOSAN V. I am expecting progress reports from all countries against the SACOSAN V commitments, particularly those coming out of SACOSAN III and IV. 
Increasing the budget alone will not solve the problem. Yes, adequate financial resources are the first priority and it is an urgent requirement at present but at the same time targeting this budget towards the needs of the most marginalized communities is the most urgent priority.