Long Read

Launch Watershed: Empowering citizens

During the World Water Week 2016 in Stockholm, Simavi, IRC, Akvo and Wetlands International launched the Watershed programme. In this strategic partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have joined hands to increase the sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene services.  The Watershed programme will take up the challenge to meet the targets of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) by 2030.

The Watershed programme  is unique as it focuses on building the capacity of civil society to advocate for WASH and proper watershed management.  The ultimate goal is that local communities will hold the government in their countries accountable for the supply of safe water, clean toilets and hygiene services.

Next five years

Over the next five years, Watershed will advocate for faster results to ensure that water providers, governments and private sector take the responsibility to ensure sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as sustainable management of the water resources on which they draw.

We will deliver improvements in the governance of WASH and water resources ensuring the sustainability of WASH services. Good governance requires meaningful involvement of users (particularly women) of WASH services, service providers, water resource users and polluters. The programme will do this at the international level, in the Netherlands and in six countries (Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Ghana, Bangladesh and India) by strengthening the capacity of local civil society to lobby government and other WASH duty bearers. This will lead to measurable improvements in the quality and sustainability of WASH services in these countries.

A strong civil society

Through a series of interventions, from district to national level, the programme will ensure that evidence, knowledge and lessons from district-scale interventions in target countries are translated upwards to influence governance and policy at national, regional and international levels. Change in policy and practice will be achieved by evidence-based lobbying and advocacy by Watershed partner organisations and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the target countries.

Recognising that local civil society capacity to engage in these issues is limited, Watershed, through its local partners, will invest in strengthening the capacity of CSOs to engage and participate in dialogue and dissent about governance and policy. To this end, the partnership will assess, develop and implement a suite of tools and approaches for building CSO capacity for evidence-based lobbying and advocacy.

The programme

Our programme recognises three indisputable facts:

  1. Sustainable WASH services cannot be achieved without sustainable water resources management, and vice versa.
  2. Achieving universal access to sustainable WASH services is a governance challenge.
  3. A strong civil society is essential to improving governance.

Watershed lobby and advocacy activities will specifically focus on the identification and inclusion of marginalised people in WASH governance. Capacity building will focus on helping civil society organisations to identify and adequately represent marginalised people.

Watershed will use evidence to empower civil society to hold governments accountable and for private sector and others to engage meaningfully in service provision.

Watershed will focus on areas where water resources are scarce or contested and where environmental management is at the core of the WASH sustainability challenge.

The programme will support a global civil society that effectively demands fulfilment of the human right to water and sanitation and equitable and sustainable allocation of water resources.

Watershed aspires to expand the reach of the approach and impact by engaging donors, investors and new partners in additional countries. Now the inception phase of the programme is almost finished, the World Water Week in Stockholm is an excellent opportunity to reach out to partners at global level.

For more information and updates on the programme, have a look at the Watershed website. Or check the interview with Watershed Director, Catarina Fonesca here.


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