November Consultation on water and sanitation called by African professionals
An African Consultative Forum on Water Supply and Sanitation is to be held in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire on 17-20 November 1998. It is being organised by the African Chapter of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (the Chapter has now adopted the name Water and Sanitation African Initiative — WASAI).
The aim is to formalise an African perspective on water supply and sanitation (WSS) priorities in the continent and to combine the many existing WSS activities into a concerted action programme, endorsed by sector professionals, policy makers and the donor community. The 150+ participants will come from all countries of Africa. They will include policy makers and practitioners from the water, sanitation, health and environment sectors, plus external support agencies (ESAs), NGOs and other "stakeholders" from civil society, research and training institutions, and community groups. They will discuss an African Sector Review and assessment of priorities for sector investments.
WASAI has the backing of the other initiatives for this coordinating role. In Abidjan, participants will have the opportunity to hear about the UN Secretary-General's Africa Initiative, the World Health Organization's Africa 2000 programme, UNCHS (Habitat)'s Cape Town Declaration, and regional programmes of the UNDP/World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, the Water Utilities Partnership, and the Union of African Water Distributors (UADE), among others. All external support agencies active in the WSS sector are being invited to take part in an Open Forum/Panel discussion on concerted action. At the end of the meeting, participants will reach consensus on An Africa Statement setting out the priorities for water supply and sanitation programmes in Africa which will have been developed via African-led discussions but in a fully participatory way with the backing of ESAs and other stakeholders.
Themes to be discussed at the Consultation include:
Water supply and sanitation services for the urban poor
Community management of WSS systems
Environmental health and sanitation
Financing the WSS sector
Collaboration at country level
In addition, participants will help to develop the African element of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council's Vision 21 — Water, Sanitation and Global Wellbeing, a comprehensive analysis of global trends and forecasts into the 21st century. They will also formulate a regional perspective on the Global Environmental Sanitation Initiative, which is a major advocacy and communication initiative by the WSSCC, focused on accelerating achievement of 100% sanitation coverage (an estimated 500 million Africans currently lack access to basic sanitation facilities).
Participation in the Consultation will be by invitation, with the organisers aiming at a proportion of 2:1, Africans:ESAs and other stakeholders. The officers of WASAI are listed in the background document attached. Further details on the Consultation can be obtained from WASAI's Assistant Coordinator for the Consultative Forum, Mr Dennis Mwanza, Water Sector Reform Support Unit, 11th Floor Indeco House, P/Bag RW 291X, Lusaka, Zambia; tel: +260 1 226 941; fax: +260 1 226 904; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statistics compiled by the World Health Organization and UNICEF show that in 1994, well over half of Africa's 700 million population had no access to a safe supply of drinking water and two-thirds had no hygienic means of personal sanitation. In 1998, the sanitation situation in particular is estimated to be even worse.
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is an alliance of sector professionals from all over the world, working for agencies active in the sector. Its members come from developing country agencies, donors, NGOs, and other organisations active in the water and sanitation field. It was formed in 1990 and has become the voice for the WSS sector in development circles. It holds a Global forum every two years (Oslo 1991, Rabat 1993, Bridgetown 1995, Manila 1997) and has Working Groups, Networks and Task Forces working continually on the key issues of the day. The outputs include Case Studies, Guidelines, Codes of Conduct and other practical tools for achieving the Council's Mission, which is:
"To accelerate the achievement of sustainable water, sanitation and waste management services to all people, with special attention to the poor, by enhancing collaboration among developing country and external support agencies and through concerted action programmes"
Following decisions taken in 1995 and 1997 at its Global Fora, the Council is establishing Regional Chapters, to help promote and disseminate its tools and advocate for achievement of its goals at country level. The African Chapter is one of six such regional focal points. It's main officers are:
Chairman, Mr Sékou Touré, High Commissioner for Hydraulics, Cote d'Ivoire
Coordinator, Ms Ebele Okeke, Deputy Director, Water Supply, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Nigeria
Assistant Coordinator for the Consultative Forum, Mr Dennis Mwanza, Project Manager, Water Sector Reform Support Unit, Zambia
The Africa Working Group, as it was then called undertook a wide-ranging sector review of water and sanitation in Africa in 1996, and this review is being extended to include as many African countries as possible in time for the planned Consultation in November 1998. It will then form the basis of discussions on African priorities for sector progress. The key point about this WSSCC activity is that WASAI, as the Africa Group is now called, is entirely driven by Africans. Africans set the agenda, Africans develop the recommendations, and Africans determine the priorities, but the final Africa Statement will have been agreed after discussions involving ESAs as equal partners, and in close liaison with all stakeholders. The initiative is welcomed by the external community, as a neutral forum for setting regional priorities.
Quite a number of initiatives have been launched in recent years to address the issues of poverty and suffering in Africa. Some are listed in the accompanying press release. WASAI has the backing of each of these initiatives, because it enables the Africans themselves to coordinate activities related to each of the initiatives, and to do so in a neutral forum where all voices are equal.