East Asia and Pacific take strides in adopting SWA framework and working towards SDGs
While the developing countries continue to grapple with access to safe sanitation and safe drinking water, the East Asia and Pacific Regional office (EAPRO) of UNICEF organised an important week long workshop on mobilising political will to create an enabling environment and ensuring mutual accountability and monitoring for Sanitation and Water for All. The overall purpose of the workshop fitted perfectly with the concept of adopting the SWA framework and localising SDGs to the country contexts. Senior government officials and UNICEF WASH focal points from 12 countries which fall under EAPRO participated during the meeting. The countries represented were Cambodia, China , DPR Korea (North Korea), Fiji, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Timor Leste and Vietnam.
Inside the cosy conference hall of plush Grande Center Point hotel in Ploenchit, Bangkok the atmosphere was mostly charged with a healthy competition among countries to showcase their processes and align their work to SWA framework. The original idea behind bringing the governments, UNICEF, WaterAid and other civil society organisations was to create a common platform in order to develop a common understanding in terms of operationalization of SWA framework and localising of the SDGs. The core purpose in reference to SWA framework was to ensure adoption of Mutual Accountability Framework (MAM) together with laying a platform for multi stakeholder efforts in designing, planning and monitoring of mutually decided commitments keeping in mind the achievement of SDG6 goals. The EAPRO office led by Regional WASH Advisor, Evariste Komlam and Anu Gautam did a fantastic job in meticulously planning and executing this workshop. Other resource persons were Guy Hutton, Tom Slaymaker, Joel Kolkar, Rick Johnston and Siddhartha Das. Sessions on SWA were led by Guy Hutton with support from Anu Gautam and Siddhartha.
The entire SWA framework was covered in detail along with separate sessions and group works on Building Blocks, Collaborative Behaviours and Mutual Accountability Mechanisms (MAM). Separate sessions were also run on the Sector Ministers Meeting and drawing commitments as part of the MAM framework. All the countries were deeply engaged in all the sessions and activities and the level of understanding showed by each of the countries was extremely impressive. An encouraging factor was the drawing up of draft commitments for which most of the countries expressed deep willingness. A clear point at the conference was the diversity of experiences and challenges each country has: China with a population of 1.38 billion to Papua New Guinea having a population of 8.25 million, Philippines having almost 7600 different islands to Fiji having almost 330 islands but spread across widely, with 6.3 million people not having access to safe drinking water in Cambodia to 110 million not having access to safe sanitation in Indonesia. The SWA sessions culminated with the requests to every participating country to initiate a country wise planning on the SWA framework. While partner countries like Indonesia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Timor Leste have already initiated those, it was important to sensitise the non SWA partner to adopt the SWA framework irrespective of whether they become official partners. Non SWA partners like Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Myanmar have expressed interest in gradually becoming SWA members.
A common reflection among participants was the usefulness of the SWA framework and the need of aligning the same to their work. The different tools presented by Guy Hutton were also rated effective by most participants along with a willingness to adopt a few of those tools. Participants were convinced of the fact that a systematic adoption of SWA framework will make it a lot easier in achieving the SDG6 targets.The sessions on localising SDGs reflected a deep understanding of the participants on the need of proper planning, use of data, proper monitoring and involvement of multi-stakeholders for achieving the targets. It also reminded the reality of effective use and mobilisation of proper financing to meet those targets, something which makes the proposed multi stakeholder approach even more important.
Other than the direct benefits from the sessions, the meeting also served as a platform for knowledge sharing and supporting each other in developing commitments. All these benefits are expected to help the countries in the upcoming Sector Ministers meeting where different country governments are expected to showcase their work, present the progress of their countries and also submit commitments.
The workshop was overall quite successful and reiterates the fact that similar types of workshops will be extremely beneficial if planned and conducted in other regions.