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2019 SMM: 6 lessons from the preparation of Francophone Countries

SWA Country Engagement Team
18 Feb 2019

In their preparations for the upcoming Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM), countries are making significant, innovative and collaborative strides which are contributing to the strengthening of national multi-stakeholder sector dialogue.

The SWA Country Engagement Team (CET) supports countries – partners, non-partners and those interested – in applying the SWA Framework for sustainable impact in the WASH sector. The preparations, organisation and follow-up of the High-Level Meetings are perhaps the best illustration of this country engagement, and of the SWA’s unique place and impact in the sector.

The CET was particularly impressed by the way countries are preparing for the Sector Ministers’ Meeting. These highly laudable efforts often come in the face of harsh realities – lack of political will and direction for the sector, acute shortages in funding and inability of government to palliate these shortages, fragmentation of the sector due to lack of coordination and governance, etc.

The communications between the SWA Secretariat and the countries, and the road-maps validated and shared by countries, provide interesting insights on the innovative actions partners are taking at country level as they engage around the SDGs and prepare for High-level Meetings. The way that countries are going about organizing themselves, getting partners together, setting agendas and respecting them, diligently preparing technical documents and advocating to the Ministers is certainly inspirational.

The following lessons we have learnt from the Francophone countries’ preparations are also applicable to other countries of the SWA Partnership that may have similar geography, income status, size, governance structures, political and sector challenges. We thus present 6 lessons from the ongoing preparatory process of Francophone African partner countries.

1. Multi-country webinars and country-specific virtual meetings are key for information and experience sharing

The ongoing ‘Leave no one behind’ webinar series is central for creating a global dialogue around the SMM, and around the principle of ‘Leave no one behind’. The webinars also provide partners with:

> The tools (knowledge, resources and peer learning) for better preparation.

> A good opportunity for in-country actors to come In the vast majority of cases, country teams gathered physically in offices of one of their partners to attend the webinars and continue discussions after they are over.

> A platform to discuss specific topics, challenges and areas where support is needed.

The virtual meetings with countries follow a similar pattern: update by the SWA Secretariat on the progress (invitations, guidance note, preliminary agenda of the meeting, etc.); discussion on how the country is organizing its preparations – key activities, partners who are involved and the timeline to achieve their plans; identification of the kind of support the country requires, and how to provide/mobilize this support.

Country experiences:

Guinea recognized the relevance of the SMM’s theme and requested technical support on how to analyse and address inequalities, and examples on how other countries managed to raise the profile of this theme with their Ministers. The importance of the theme became very clear when the partners provided data for the current cycle of the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of drinking Water and Sanitation (GLAAS).


2. A well-planned approach leads to systematic and inclusive preparation

In general, country preparations are taking place in three phases.

> A ‘core committee’ – often comprised of SWA Focal Points in government, External Support Agencies and Civil Society Organizations – meets and prepares the Country Brief which will summarize the sector’s challenges and progress; a special place is accorded to inequalities.

> The draft is shared with the sector at large, through a dedicated workshop. Countries are planning to include members of the media and the Ministry of Finance in these workshops.

> Once the Brief is finalized, it will be shared with the Ministers. The discussion with Ministers is sometimes planned by the entire core committee (as a multilateral meeting), and sometimes by the SWA focal point only (as a bilateral between the Minister and the focal point).

This phased approach is proving to be very effective in preparing for the Meeting, mobilizing the sector and getting Ministers interested in the Meeting.

Country experiences:

The core committee in Togo and Guinea will meet sector-related Ministers in person to submit to them the outputs of the preparatory process; in Benin, these outputs will be presented to the Council of Ministers. In Cameroon, the core committee will organise two meetings with the Minister, to discuss the country’s preoccupations and successes in the sector.

The core committee was formed very early in most countries, and quickly engaged with the sector Ministers – this helped obtain confirmations of Ministers’ participation in the SMM.


3. Government Focal Points are at the center of mobilizing and organizing sector activities including for the SMM

Government Focal Points are leading the mobilization of partners for the preparatory process, and are instrumental in organizing consultations, formulating road-maps and engaging with Ministers and their counselors. They contribute and link to general sector coordination.

The Focal Points also canvas support from Ministers by engaging with their directors of cabinet and meeting the Ministers themselves – to keep them informed of the country’s preparations, to update them on the logistics of the Meeting, and to convince Ministers to confirm their participation if this has not already happened.

Country experiences:

In Burkina Faso, DRC and Madagascar, the government focal points have been the anchors in a rapidly evolving political landscape, and have ensured that Ministers were informed and interested in the SMM. This ensured confirmations of the Ministers’ participation, and is ensuring that preparations are progressing rapidly.


4. The more stakeholders the merrier

Preparation for the SMM requires effective coordination between multiple government agencies – either multiple ministries, or multiple departments within given Ministries. Through the SMM preparatory process, key partnerships in the sector are being identified and strengthened. For instance:

  • The links with Ministries of Health, which are often in charge of the hygiene sub-sector, are being strengthened – these ministries are being more involved in the prep process, and Ministers are being invited to the SMM.
  • External support agencies which provide resources and technical assistance are also informed – by the country teams or through the SWA Secretariat.
  • Countries such as Mali, Mauritania and Chad are involving the private sector in the preparatory process right from the outset.
  • The media are also being engaged, sometimes from the start, but most often at a later stage, when the technical preparations are well advanced.

Country experiences:

Inter-ministerial groups such as those in Burundi, Guinea, Mali and Mauritania – all formed for better sector coordination and/or in response to specific regional and reporting commitments – will be a priority avenue for the preparation for the SMM.


5. Alignment with national processes increases sector effectiveness – and makes for better preparation

The preparation process is usually mapped onto ongoing country processes like Joint Sector Reviews, sector stock-taking and planning, SDG reporting, advocacy events like World Water Day, meetings of inter-ministerial groups, programme reviews and sector syntheses. Recent analyses – notably GLAAS and WASH-BAT – will be used as inputs to the Country Briefs. Finally, participation in AfricaSan will also be partly used to inform their participation for the SMM, and vice versa.

It is also emerging from the preparatory process that most countries will table commitments at the SMM – a majority of these commitments are extracted from existing sector policies and strategies, thus showing a successful start to the implementation of the Mutual Accountability Mechanism in countries.

Country experiences:

Examples of countries linking the Mutual Accountability Mechanism to their national or sector plans: Mauritania - 3-year sector plan of action (2019 – 2021); Chad - Plan National de Developpement; Burundi - National Development Plan 2018 – 2027; Cameroon - Strategies on hygiene and CLTS; Morocco – updated strategic documents like Plan National de l’Eau; and Conakry – “Programme national du développement économique et social”.


In Haiti, the outputs of the preparatory process for the SMM will be used in the Joint Sector Review that will take place in May 2019. The work being done in preparation for the SMM is contributing to the sector more broadly. It is increasingly perceived as a contribution to the sector in the country, rather than a parallel process.


6. Countries are inspiring each other

During our support to the in-country preparations for the SMM – webinars, bilateral conversations, dissemination of country experiences, and other exchanges - the Secretariat evokes the progress being made by the SWA partners countries as a whole, while also highlighting particularly inspirational examples.

Countries are intrigued and inspired by the approaches taken by their peers elsewhere. For instance, the staged approach to preparations taken by some countries has helped others make their own road-maps on similar models: the road-maps of 6 countries show remarkable similarities. Moreover, knowledge of Minister-level participation from some countries is helping advocate for Ministers of other countries to confirm their own participation. Another illustration of this mutual motivation is that countries with similar political realities – notably, recent changes in government – are learning from each other.

Country experiences:

Haiti is particularly inspired by Mali’s clear, strong and multi-stakeholder preparation.