CSO role indispensable in bridging the grassroots - government divide
Lajana Manandhar, National Convenor, FAN Nepal and the Executive Director at Lumanti Support Group for Shelter attended the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting. She tells us about the meeting of Water, Sanitation, Environment and Health Ministers from Africa and Asia that took place from 19-20 April 2012 in Washington DC.
This is the first time that I am attending the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) here in Washington DC, USA. On behalf of the global civil society, I was chosen to speak out our views and concerns on bringing an end to the water and sanitation crisis at the inaugural session of ministers responsible for water and sanitation in developing countries Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting.
I presented a short film on the situation of the water and sanitation in the developing world which shows the daily true lives of the millions of the people. The ministers, secretaries and the high ranking officials watched the film that showed how the people are forced to drink dirty water. Probably most of us won't use that water even for washing our cars. They are forced to dig holes for defecation. Most of us may even have better potty facilities for our pet animals. But the lack of safe sanitation is killing children. We watch but we fail to see the drops of tears and fail to listen the silent cry of the mothers who loose children to such a death!
Watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6FRvyoWx70&feature=player_embedded
I am delighted to make ourselves heard before the presence of high level dignitaries from Governments, the World Bank, UN Agencies and other key development partners who have assembled here to rethink and renew commitment to achieve the global and national water and sanitation targets. I have high hopes that from this time onwards the momentum gained in today's and tomorrow's high profile events will re-energize our mind, heart and soul to strive for universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2020. The meeting was predominantly occupied by the African ministers and Secretaries. I have seen thin participations of the Asian countries –Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka were only present.
Read Lajana's speech at Lajana_speech_HLM.pdf file
My presentation was very well received.
Amb.(Dr,) Godknows Boladei Igali, Permanent Secretary at Federal Ministry of Water Resources from Nigeria was so impressed with my delivery that he told me that he will invite me to speak in the conference that they are organising in Nigeria. He also shared this with his fellow high level colleagues in front of us that they need to invite me. I think I have contributed in raising the profile of civil society that EWP, FAN always encourage us.
Soon after the session was over, Hon. Charity Kaluki Ngilu, Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation, Kenya came and congratulated me and said, "You spoke my passion". She was just so happy. She seemed to be very active and knowledgeable as later I saw she made many important interventions in the meeting.
Two things that's coming into my mind, first at the national level; a sort of key concern or issue coming out of this meeting , although not very put on strongly , is the absorption capacity of the countries / governments. We talk there is no or limited fund being made available and demand for more funding support but the given fund is also not used on time or the governments are unable to spend.
See from my own experience of working with the communities, the people are just so poor that they cannot walk in our steps. It is not their capacity, we have not been able to judge their own limitations and just expect that they stand equal with us and do everything that we have planned for them or we do plan together. The need is of integrated approach - effort need to be there to break the cycle of poverty.
They are the ones who have to absorb the fund. The capacity has to be there and the capacity means bringing them out of poverty. But it is actually the people who need to use the fund especially on water and sanitation. Not spending on time need to be looked from different perspective. Integrated approach is very important, I emphasize.
Although, we regard the access to safe drinking water and sanitation reduces poverty, it is not adequate. There is a lot to be done at the ground level. This is what boiling in me. Because I see there is a huge gap between the grassroots communities and governments in terms of understanding and we the civil society has urging role to play to bridge this gap.
Secondly, we think all the ministers are the governments. It seems that now the water ministers also have to lobby to the finance ministers and to the government. Our work is incomplete just working with one ministry or one department.
I can now clearly see that networks like FAN and EWP has prudent role to play at the global level advocacy. It has to be designed properly if we really want to make an impact. They need to be looking at the ground experience to lobby at the international level and we are together to make it happen.