CSOs call for strong accountability mechanisms, transparency and community participation at SWA

2017 Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting

WIN attended the meetings of the finance, and water/sanitation ministers of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership in Washington DC, USA.

The HLM2017 meeting focused mainly on the financing gap to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, which is estimated to be more than $100 billion annually. The discussions were in part based on two excellent discussion papers:

The papers point to the need to address inefficiencies in existing financing and suboptimal funding allocation, and to develop innovative financing mechanisms, also from private sources.

During the meeting, Jyoti Shukla, the World Bank’s Water Global Practice Director, specifically mentioned corruption as one of the causes of sector inefficiency.

On Friday, at the meeting of the finance ministers (FMM), discussions were centred on the recommendations of the World Bank and Unicef. These point to the need to ‘help the water sector “get its house in order”’, including through support to and funding for governance, regulation and sector capacity improvements. The issue of corruption was not explicitly addressed.


A joint CSO message highlighting the need for transparency, accountability and participation

‘It is a paradox in many countries that allocated funds for water and sanitation remain unutilized. The causes are many, they can range from lack of capacity to deliver, to policies that restrain cities from delivering to the poorest because of informality, weak utilities, or forms of corruption.’

Sheela Patel, Chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), in her address to the FMM

Alongside the minister discussions, there was a bit of room for contributions by SWA’s other stakeholders, including civil society organizations. The message of the CSO partners to SWA emphasized the importance of:

  • taking the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation as a standard for WASH efforts, addressing the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals and groups;
  • ensuring efficiency by strengthening national systems, insuring further transparency and integrity, and allowing for CSO and local participation;
  • ensuring adequate safeguards when seeking additional finances;
  • recognizing CSOs as a collaborative partners for SDG implementation.

This message was also put forward in a position paper developed jointly by the CSOs which are partners in SWA, including WIN.

-(R) SWA - Ben Zweig
Sheela Patel (SDI), representing SWA partner CSOs, addresses the FMM

Credit: SWA – Ben Zweig

The CSOs consider Sanitation and Water for All’s multi-stakeholder character a key asset to jointly work towards realizing the human rights to water and sanitation. The partnership has established crucial fundamentals to guide action: its Guiding Principles, Building Blocks, Collaborative Behaviours as well as Country Commitments. However, stakeholders now must strengthen implementation, in particular in the partner countries.

‘Additional funds and investments are important but only if we strengthen our country systems in allocating, absorbing, and distributing these funds to truly reach the poor.’

Sheela Patel, Chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), in her address to the FMM

Action needed to tackle huge financing challenge for SDG6

These meetings were important to draw high-level attention to the huge (financial) challenge that the Sustainable Development Goals on water (SDG 6, in particular 6.1 and 6.2) poses. Increasing accountability and strengthening national systems got the attention they need but corruption is still an elephant in the room, even if it is a factor directly impacting the investment climate and thereby the financing gap.

In some ways, the meetings seem to be a slight missed opportunity. It is not yet evident that the finance ministers widely recognize the urgency of  sanitation and water needs, or that they clearly seethe role they need to play, for example by promoting and funding the reinforcement of regulatory and management systems in the sector. More involvement from non-governmental SWA partners— CSOs, research and learning organizations and the private sector—could have contributed to more in-depth discussions. It is important to ‘enable multi-actor involvement in structured processes of knowledge creation, transfer, and mobilization’ and to ‘allow all partners to demonstrate and demand mutual accountability’ at international levels and in forums like the SWA. To be more effective and fulfil the SDGs, we must all practice what we preach, and urgently so.

HLM Infographic 2- MDGs results SDGs Baselines



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