“I was recently in Nicaragua and I visited some small villages where communities had organized themselves to provide community water and sanitation services. I met an exceptional man who was the President of one of the local water councils, and he said, ‘The most important thing about sanitation and water is political will’. I believe he is right and this is why the SWA High Level Meeting is so exciting. The HLM brings decision makers and their political will into the same space. Everyone can discuss what the priorities are and make sure that the WASH sector has enough resources, and that we use the resources in an intelligent manner.
What I hear from WASH experts is very similar to what I am trying to promote from a human rights perspective. We are all saying that we must target the poor and invest in low-cost but efficient small systems. We must invest in operation and maintenance, human resources, awareness-raising and education. Bringing all these messages to WASH sector ministers and finance ministers is crucial. We must ensure that political
will flies from Washington to Africa and Asia and all the SWA countries that are represented.
After recognizing the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, the first thing a government must do is draft a national strategy with a proper budget to finance it. This is also the approach that SWA promotes. SWA attaches importance to policy making
and to having national strategies and plans of action on water and sanitation. It identifies this as a crucial step to make sure that everyone gets access.
For me, what matters is that we can measure progress. We must look at the commitments that SWA partners make and ensure they are clear and easy to measure and monitor. Then we can really examine what is happening on the ground and ask: is the situation of the most excluded people improving? Is the situation in rural areas improving? Are there policies put in place to target groups of people that don’t have
access? If this is the case, then yes, we can say that we have achieved something. But of course, we can only be happy the day when everyone gets access to affordable and sustainable water and sanitation. Only then can we say, ‘we did it.’”