CSOs preparatory process at national level for the High-level Meetings: overall picture

Heloise Chicou, Civil Society Advisor, SWA

11 May, 2017 in

The 2017 SWA High-level Meetings were held end of April in Washington DC, gathering around 60 ministers in total and 59 countries ministers  from finance, water, sanitation and hygiene. The other partners of the partnership (International institutions, Civil Society Organisations, Private sector, Research and learning) were also present, with more than 200 participants. Ten CSO representatives attended. 

The SWA CSO constituency identified key messages that they shared at the 2017 Sanitation and Water for All High-level Meetings. The High-level Meetings are an important opportunity to make those messages heard, but they are only one part of the overall work that Sanitation and Water for All assumes. The key issue here is to act towards strengthening the dialogue at the national level and strengthening national systems.

This article gives an overall picture of the HLM preparatory process for CSOs at the national level. CSOs have been pro-active in their countries to inform about the HLMs and advocate to share their vision of the WASH sector. SWA activities aimed at catalysing coordinated action to achieve the water, sanitation and hygiene targets of the SDGs. CSOs role at national and regional levels is to push the Government to enegage in the High Level Political Dialogue and to set up water, sanitation and hygiene-related strategies and targets for the country to achieve the SDGs and collaborative behaviors.

SWA gathers 55 partner countries. In more than 20 countries, civil society organisations were involved to support the preparatory process for the HLMs. It means that in half of countries effectively coming to the HLMs there was an active civil society mobilisation linked to the Meetings.

Some CSOs have organized national CSOs consultations or multi-stakeholder meetings in order to provide common messages around finance on the WASH sector, this was the case in Chad for example around the link between Water and Nutrition and investment needs. The outputs of these meetings are often advocacy guidelines. CSOs then tried to reach out the government to share with the WASH Minister or Finance Minister their vision of the sector.

Either after these meetings or invited by the government a large part of the CSOs had the opportunity to meet the government officials. There were different types of meetings with the government

Some were workshops organized by the governments and in which CSOs took part. In a few countries, CSOs succeeded into organizing small meetings with Ministers, to talk especially about the HLM preparatory process and the country profiles to assess the gaps and actions to take forward to implement the SDGs. 

Some CSOs were also invited to participate alongside their government in preparatory calls and participated in the preparatory webinars organized by SWA. 

However, most of the CSOs underlined the difficulties to meet high officials, especially from the Finance department, and in several countries the Minister or High official had to cancel their meeting with the CSOs due to agenda issues but sometimes lack of time or prioritisation. 

In other countries CSOs, such as the Liberia WASH CSO Network, chose another channel to reach out the public sphere: the media. Either radio show or written articles helped the CSOs to raise awareness on their vision of the WASH sector, the needs in terms of Financing and about the HLMs. Sometimes taking actions in the media helped them to reach out the government, and they could meet them afterwards.

Some also rose awareness with celebrations for the world water day on the 22nd of March and the World Water Month facilitated by End Water Poverty. To celebrate the Water Day and Month they organised meetings, trainings or sit-in actions, with the aim to mobilise citizens to the WASH - SDG issues. These events were covered by the media and were a way to reach out the general public.

 A dozen of CSOs produced reports in the frame of the national preparatory process for the HLMs: reports on the country context, guidelines for the government or other advocacy position documents.

Here is a diagram showing the proportion of the different kind of mobilisation within the HLM preparatory process[1]:

 More than 25% of the CSOs activities were meetings with government. CSOs in 17 countries could effectively meet the government. Even if this did not have everywhere the same impact, it means that around 75% of the CSOs pro-active for the HLM preparatory process achieved the objective to meet their government to share their vision of the sector and engage in a dialogue. 



In all the countries where CSOs were involved in the preparatory process, there are identified CSOs national focal point who led civil society activities to prepare the High-level Meetings 2017. 

They did a great work of coordination of the CSOs working on WASH at national level. Mobilisation wasn’t always easy due to lack of financial resources, political context but also due to the fact that WASH  CSOs networks in many countries still need strenghtening and more capacities to share information on the actions  they undertake with the rest of the actors and  CSOs in country.

In general there has been no actions in countries where a CSO national focal point has not been designated yet. National focal points were really the stark of the preparatory process. 

Now that the 2017 High-level Meetings have been held, the role of the CSOs is to ask for their government reports on the discussion, and to push them to take commitments to undertake actions to implement, on the outputs of the Meetings (i.e development of Financing strategies to deliver the SDGs). 

CSOs are here to work alongside their government to allow for multi-stakeholder meetings to continue to plan together the delivery of the SDGs and strenghtening of the sector. 

The representatives from the CSOs delegation which attended the Meetings will report the discussions at regional level and the outputs of the Meetings. In several countries feedback meetings after the HLM with government representatives are planned, such as Pakistan. 


[1] Please note that on this diagram, countries can be represented several times if CSOs organized different types of events within the preparatory process. For example, the CSOs meetings were often followed by a meeting with government.