Long Read
3 September 2016

Stockholm World Water Week 2016: all committed to making SDGs a reality

Simavi’s senior Programme Officer WASH, Martine Jeths, joined the World Water Week in Stockholm from August 28 – September 2. In this blog, she shares her thoughts about the event.

This was my first visit to World Water Week and I was very excited to attend. My goal was to find inspiration in the sessions and discussions and meet new people who could be relevant for our programmes. The opening on Monday was impressive seeing over 4000 participants from all over the world. This marked the start of a week in which there were so many interesting sessions that it was sometimes hard to decide which to pick. There was a continuous buzz of people getting together, catching up, developing new ideas, as well as closed meetings where you wondered exactly what interesting subjects were being discussed. Above all, what struck me was the overwhelming enthusiasm of everybody working in the water sector. It made me feel part of something bigger: a large community of experts, all committed to making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality.

Most sessions I attended touched upon how to reach the SDGs; whether it was on how to monitor progress or how to do things differently.  Moving from the MDGs to SDGs will have implications on the way the sector works and the role every actor has to play. This means that it’s more important than ever to join forces, work in partnerships and look for synergy together. Another key message that emerged is that the sector realises we need to move beyond anecdotal evidence and arrive at proof of concepts to show interventions are successful and reach impact.

It is clear that realising the SDGs requires a different approach than the MDGs. If we want to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, we will need to expand our focus beyond infrastructure to include the quality and inclusiveness of the services delivered. Social accountability will become an essential element of this approach: empowering citizens and making governments more accountable will close the gap between what citizens want and what governments actually do – and this is exactly what Watershed: Empowering citizens programme wants to achieve. On the Wednesday, programme director Catarina Fonseca launched Watershed with a motivational speech that stated ‘now is the time for change’. Catarina went on to say that we need technocrats to engage with politicians, to strengthen civil society and to start dialogues.  She concluded that we will all need to move faster if we want to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Simavi will focus on strenghtening social accountability within Watershed. We will work with communities, strengthen CSOs in social inclusion and ensure that the voices of communities are heard. Furthermore, we will work to ensure that everybody has full access to proper water and sanitation services and can practice hygienic behaviour. I’m closely involved in the Kenya Watershed team and the team is eager to start the activities as we reach the end of the inception phase. As we’re in this stage of the process, it meant that it was a good time to go to the conference, which provided the welcome opportunity to investigate potential collaborations with other organisations. Sessions I attended on social accountability also touched upon how to deal with the diminishing space for civil society and how to strengthen CSOs in this area.

In one particularly interesting session, science met practice and touched upon a question at the heart of Simavi’s work: how to sustain behavioural change. Eawag presented a tool it had developed called RANAS, a catalogue of 36 behavioural change techniques, which in collaboration with Helvitas Swiss Intercooperation was translated into a practical field manual. It serves as a kind of decision support tool to choose those behavioural change techniques that will be most effective in supporting the intended goal.

I hope to see more sessions like this in next year’s edition, in which research institutions join hands with practitioners. Conceptual thinking is much valued and provides new insights, yet innovation needs to be implemented in practice as well.

I returned home with many different impressions and highlights. With regards to Simavi, I was proud to see that the FIETS sustainability framework has been adopted by other organisations and was used in their presentations.  On a personal level, I was pleased to meet some of my former colleagues from the RiPPLE team. They have all have moved into other jobs, but remain very committed to make a difference in the WASH sector.

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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