8 Mar, 2019
On 27 and 28 February, SWA hosted a webinar on how the Mutual Accountability Mechanism is being operationalized, showcasing countries that are already working with the Mechanism to identify commitments and discuss the challenges and opportunities it provides. More than 140 participants from over 42 countries joined the webinar, with 23 governments represented. Many countries participating in the webinar were represented by multiple partners on the same connection – Mali and Nigeria each with 20 partners present.
Representatives from the governments of Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, Viet Nam Costa Rica and Mali, as well the private sector, an external support agency, civil society and research and learning institutions shared their approaches to implementing the mechanism. In their interventions, they detailed some of the multi-stakeholder processes they are using to enact the mechanism and prepare for the Sector Ministers’ Meeting. These processes provided an opportunity for discussion of plans and strategies, as well as for identifying the priorities that will form the basis of the commitments put forward by the countries.
There were also illustrations from other countries which intend to table commitments drawn from existing policy documents and monitor them using national sector processes. Cambodia has submitted four draft commitments drawn from their National Action Plans on Rural Water Supply and Sanitation and Hygiene 2019-2023. In Benin, the commitments tabled at the SMM will be ‘handed’ to the Joint Sector Review in May 2019 and this review will identify the mechanisms to follow up on the commitments.
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The webinar provided an opportunity for countries and partners to ask questions about the Mutual Accountability Mechanism. Some important questions addressed during the webinar are:
Q: Participants wanted to know whether it was necessary for a country or organization to be an SWA partner to make commitments.
A: There is no need to be a SWA partner to make commitments. However, both countries and organizations would benefit from being a partner if they plan to engage in SWA activities. Making commitments could be the first step to becoming a partner of SWA.
Q: What are the pioneer countries gaining from following the Mutual Accountability Mechanism, as it clearly requires time and commitment from those participating in the multi-stakeholder meetings?
A: The processes required by the Mutual Accountability Mechanism encourages rather than duplicates ongoing planning processes. Pioneer countries see the process as helping them to bring key stakeholders to the table such as private sector, research and learning agencies or other external support agencies which are partners of SWA but do not actively engage in national processes. The process will also help to document experiences and lessons necessary to improve ongoing national processes in pioneer countries and beyond. The mechanism gives the multi-stakeholder planning and review processes more impetus.
Q: Do any of the SWA countries have a “WASH parliamentary supporters group” as part of the different constituencies that compose the sector?
A: In Pakistan there is a process to establish the WASH Caucus in Parliament especially as in Punjab Assembly with the support of WaterAid Pakistan. Liberia and Sierra Leone, among others do have WASH parliamentarian groups.
Q: What about regulators – are they also able to join the SWA partnership and make commitments?
A: Regulators obviously have a key role to play in ensuring accountability of sector actors, and may both be responsible for validating the results of commitments made, as well as for making commitments themselves, if so desired.
Q: Is there a minimum or maximum number of partners to have a successful commitments process?
A: There is no specific minimum or maximum, but greater participation of a wide range of actors from different stakeholder groups will ensure stronger and more inclusive decision-making.
Q: Is there an overlap between the committees constituted for the preparation for the SMM and the development of commitments and other WASH sector committees?
A: Existing WASH sector committees can and should be used for SWA activities, including the Mutual Accountability Mechanism. In the case of Mali – the original SWA committee is progressively expanding to include other actors, such that it has become one of the main committees in the WASH sector.
Q: How can countries that are not be able to participate in the SMM engage with the Mutual Accountability Mechanism?
A: Even if countries are not able to attend the SMM, there is benefit to working on the Mutual Accountability Mechanism, the focus on the elimination of inequalities and the tabling of commitments, as they are meant to serve the sector generally. Countries that are not present at the SMM will still have their commitments displayed with the others at the SMM, and the will be expected to report back on these commitments at future High-level Meetings.
This is the beginning of a wider process of documenting and disseminating the experiences of implementing the Mutual Accountability Mechanism, through country stories and the country briefs that are being developed by each country in preparation for the Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM). Beyond the plenary session on the Mutual Accountability Mechanism at the SMM, there will be further opportunities for sharing experience that will take place throughout the year.