A New Pathway to Fulfilling Human Rights to Water & Sanitation

Water Integrity Seminar at the RWSN Forum 2016

Water is a fundamental resource for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and inequality. Nevertheless, in many countries water crises are not caused by resource scarcity but are attributable to governance failures. Many countries are incorporating the human rights to water and sanitation in their constitution but the lack of integrity in the water sector is a key concern that has been and can continue to hamper its execution. There are many ways to address the issue and experience we can learn from, as shown by the good practice cases presented during a seminar held at the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) Forum 2016 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (29 Nov – 2 Dec) – a joint seminar between Caritas Switzerland, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and the Water Integrity Network (WIN).

26 seminar participants, mainly NGO representatives, but also participants from CSOs, the public and private sector, as well as a representative of the Global Water Programme of SDC, Manfred Kaufmann, came together to learn more about water integrity and share challenges and success stories from the field. Water integrity refers to honest, ethical, transparent, accountable and inclusive and participative decision-making by water stakeholders, aiming for equity and sustainability in water management. It is addressed by partners of the Multi-country Water Integrity Programme (MCWIP) in different ways, places, and levels:

  • A Water Integrity Charter, a tool to promote Integrity at national level in Benin, was presented by Arnauld Adjagodo (Benin Water Partnership) and Francoise Ndoume (WIN) (READ MORE ABOUT THIS BENIN CASE HERE)
  • The Integrity Management (IM Toolbox) for small water supply systems in rural Kenya, a change management approach to help community groups address their immediate management and governance challenges and ensure that they are complying with the national rules and regulations by linking them with local water actors and guiding them to opt for the most appropriate management model, was presented by Lucie Leclert (Caritas Switzerland, Kenya) (READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOOLBOX HERE)
  • Public hearings and reviews, capacity building of rights holders, WASH investment planning with duty bearers, joint monitoring processes, media engagement and national advocacy, all ways to connect local water integrity programmes to national level policy & advocacy processes, were presented by Rubika Shresta (HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal) (READ MORE ABOUT THIS NEPAL CASE HERE).

The presentations covered an interesting mix of experiences and integrity tools and sparked off a lively discussion. According to a representative from the Federation of Drinking Water and Sanitation Users Nepal (FEDWASUN), addressing water integrity opens up new possibilities for discussions with policy makers. He said, that the government in Nepal, for instance, prefers to talk about “water integrity” instead of the “human rights to water and sanitation”. Other participants discussed the link between personal integrity and water integrity, asking whether the first wasn’t the basis for the other. The need for more sensitization and awareness was raised.

Participants considered the impact of using these integrity tools and expressed the need for data to see the change. Surveys with different stakeholders have been conducted and confirm results in Nepal already. In Kenya, a monitoring and evaluation framework for the IM toolbox has been developed and is currently being piloted.

In short, the seminar not only allowed the seminar participants to learn more about water integrity and its tools as a pathway to fulfilling the human rights to water and sanitation, but also opened up the way for further sharing of experiences and knowledge exchange between the MCWIP partners.

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