The annual Water and Health conference organized by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina has become a fixture in the calendar of many water and sanitation stakeholders. The conference attracts over 600 participants from around the world, and offers discussions of policy issues as well as presentations on recent research. Many partners of SWA attend the conference.
This year, the SWA partnership convened a session entitled “What are we learning from engaging Finance and Sector Ministers in High-level Sector Dialogues?” The session was an exploratory discussion to understand what the partnership is collectively learning from the systematic and regular process of engaging key political leaders. H.E. Frenesh Mekuria, State Minister of the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity in Ethiopia participated in a panel discussion on influencing financial decisions and how the partnership can help, with Henry Northover, Head of Policy at WaterAid UK, Luis Andres, Lead Economist at the World Bank and Clarissa Brocklehurst, Senior Advisor to the SWA Secretariat. This was followed by presentations by the governments of Liberia and Ethiopia on their experience in building strong relationships between the WASH sector and ministries of finance. The session also featured a panel discussion on “The Elephant in the Room”, the impact of politics on political engagement during which Mohammed Ali of the government of Liberia, Douglas Singaga of the government of Zambia, Liz Jordan of USAID and John Oldfield of Water2017 spoke frankly about making the sector resilient to political changes.
SWA’s Executive Chair, Catarina de Albuquerque, participated in the opening plenary panel entitled “Understanding Baselines, Indicators and Hurdles to Achieving the SDGs”, joining Brian Arbogast, Director of the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, H.E. Frenesh Mekuria, State Minister of the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity in Ethiopia, Param Iyer, Secretary of India’s Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry and Luis Simas, the drinking water quality regulator in Portugal. Catarina commended the work being done to establish new baselines for the SDG indicators, and the continuing focus of the JMP on shedding light on remaining inequalities.
Catarina delivered a keynote address entitled “Closing the gap: what about the boring stuff?” in which she exhorted stakeholders to put into place data and evidence, strong and accountable institutions, and national plans for the sector, backed with financing.
The SWA partnership also co-convened a session entitled “Walking the talk: how programs are embodying the SWA Collaborative Behaviours” with members of the Agenda for Change movement. The evolution of the Collaborative Behaviours was discussed, and SWA NGO partners described how they are realizing the relevance for their work with governments, and putting them into practice.
During the weeklong conference, Catarina de Albuquerque, Muyatwe Sitali and Clarissa Brocklehurst also visited the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and participated on a panel on reaching the WASH targets of the SDGs.