Long Read
13 April 2017

Blog series: How can we achieve sanitation and water for all? Washington D.C., here I come!

Simavi’s Programme Director, Ewout van Galen, will attend the 2017 Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High-level Meetings (HLM) in Washington D.C. to represent the European Civil Society Organisations working on water, sanitation, and hygiene. In a series of three blogs we will capture his views, expectations and reflections before, during and after, the HLM. In this first blog, we discuss Ewout’s expectations for the HLM and the messages he will put on the agenda on behalf of the European Civil Society Constituency.

Why are the High-level Meetings so important?

Even though access to high-quality drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone, at anytime and anywhere, is recognised as an absolute necessity for a healthy life and has become a recognised priority in UN declarations and orientations, it is still lagging behind in terms of political priorities at national level.

The SWA High-level Meetings on April 19 and 20 offer unique opportunities to make significant progress towards cross-sector collaboration on achieving access to safe, reliable, and affordable water and sanitation for all. There are two main events: a Finance Ministers’ Meeting, convened by the World Bank on behalf of the SWA partnership; and a Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM), convened by UNICEF, involving ministers responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene.

Significantly, the Finance Ministers’ Meeting is part of the World Bank’s formal Spring Meetings agenda for the first time. During this meeting, finance ministers will seek to identify solutions to close the financing gap for sanitation and water. I believe this is of the utmost importance, as the 2015 World Bank Study estimates that the amount of overall global investments needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals’ sanitation and hygiene targets is $114 billion between now until 2030 – that’s three times more than current investment levels!

How will we close the financing gap?

The water and sanitation sector has traditionally been strongly supported by Official Development Assistance (ODA), which nevertheless leaves crucial gaps in institutional capacity that results in mismanagement and structural failure. These failures discourage private financial actors from investing, which results in an increasing gap in aid flows – a situation which cannot be allowed to grow any further. Institutional systems need to be strengthened in order to deliver effective services and attract investment. Innovative finance strategies have never been so necessary!

Whilst packing my bags, I’m wondering if it is really possible to have financially sustainable water and sanitation services while increasing access for the most in need, and ensuring affordability? That certainly must be an important question to raise with the Finance Ministers and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Ministers attending the HLM.

Making sure nobody is left behind in the campaign for universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene

Together with 59 CSOs in The CSO Constituency, Simavi will call upon governments to take into consideration the urgency of addressing the needs of the poorest and most marginalised people through adequate policies, participatory approaches and financial planning and funding allocation.

The CSO Constituency has identified key messages that I will put forward during the SWA High-level Meetings. These are:

– Reaching safe, universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone. Leaving nobody behind must be a priority for action in this goal.
– Reinforcing the four SWA Collaborative behaviours through accountability mechanisms and community participation
– Allowing for additional finances with safeguards
– Making CSOs collaborative partners for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation
– Making Sanitation and Water for All a main partnership for SDG 6.1 and SDG 6.2

With this list of common messages in my bag, I am proud and excited to be able to represent the European Constituency at SWA. Washington, here I come!

The SWA High-level meetings are an important step in the campaign for universal access to water and sanitation. We will keep you updated with updates from Ewout on his progress – stay tuned for more news!


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