2019 Sector Ministers' Meeting Blog Series
by Bubala Muyovwe, Coordinator, WASH Forum Zambia
In May 2018, Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) organized a meeting with sector partners in Zambia, to present the SWA Framework and to look at concrete ways to strengthen collaborative dialogues at country level. The main purpose of the sector partners’ meeting was to help the Zambian Government and other stakeholders understand the key bottlenecks in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector and assess progress on some of the sector building blocks such as planning, monitoring, and accountability towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
It was understood, through deliberations, that despite the multiple sectoral reforms in Zambia such as setting up of the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection and the launch of the Seventh National Development plan (7NDP), WASH actors were unable to engage effectively with the Government. The 7NDP departed from the sectoral based planning to an integrated multisectoral approach, which should have led to better coordination between government line ministries and provinces. However, with the clustering of the water sector with Health and Education, WASH actors often took a back seat in the Cluster Advisory Groups (CAGs), an official platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue at the national level.
In this context, the SWA sector partners’ meeting was instrumental for Civil Society representatives, other development partners and the government to voice their concerns and identify key governance bottlenecks such as long overdue Joint Water Sector Review, the lack of planning and reporting platforms and the absence of Boards in many Commercial Utility companies. Following the 2018 SWA meeting, the NGO WASH Forum has been able to make good strides with the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection.
The SWA meeting triggered the need for dialogue among key sector stakeholders. It emphasized the importance to relaunch the Technical Working Groups, and to push for the joint sector planning meeting to be organized.
For the first time since 2014, the Joint Water Sanitation and Environmental Sector Review was organized by Zambian Government in September 2018. The NGO WASH Forum took the lead in coordinating the NGO participation in JWSESR process which took stock of the sector’s progress, achievements and bottlenecks since the last 2014 Joint Sector Review. During the 2017/2018 JWSESR process, the CSOs found lack of evidence to demonstrate that the agreed follow up actions of the 2014 process had been institutionalized within the Ministry. To strengthen JWSESR process, the NGO WASH Forum, with the support of the SWA CSO advisor and SWA partner End Water Poverty, organized a meeting to link the orientations of the SWA High-level Meeting 2017 to build the following recommendations for the JWSESR:
- Develop a national database, owned and resourced by the government, to identify policy gaps and build evidence-based decision making
- Build a sustainable financing mechanism for capital intensive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector
- Finalize the Open Defecation Free (ODF) Strategy
These proposed recommendations from the Forum were shared during the JWSESR Meeting in Lusaka on 19th – 20th September 2018.
Prior to the launch of JWSESR, the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection took the lead in setting up the Technical Working Groups (TWGs) which provide advisory support to the ministry. TWG works with the ministry to monitor sector’s performance against the goals, objectives and targets included in sector strategies, policies and the National Development Plan to coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders and donors. The sector also held its first-ever Joint Planning meeting, wherein, NGO WASH Forum lauded the efforts made by the Zambian government in taking lead for coordinating, planning, financing, monitoring, and reporting on the status of WASH for 2019.
On World Toilet Day in November 2018, the Zambian Government took an unprecedented step to organize its first-ever National Sanitation Summit, where the Government launched the National Strategy against Open Defecation. The launch of the national ODF strategy has been a big win for the advocacy efforts by the Civil Society Organizations in Zambia and also the Government’s resolve to prioritize the WASH sector. During the Sanitation Summit, the Coordinator of the NGO WASH Forum, shared a presentation on the Mutual Accountability Mechanism (MAM) which Zambia is pioneering with support from the SWA partnership. Some of the achievements celebrated during the summit as a result of the SWA Partnership and subsequent commitments by the Government were the launch of the ODF Strategy, the Capacity building and Urban Sanitation Strategy.
The next steps for the Zambia WASH Forum will be to work with the Zambian government on the elaboration of commitments, resulting from the Joint Sector Review and Sanitation Summit, that can be shared at the Sector Ministers’ Meeting of SWA, in April 2019. These commitments will help hold accountable sector partners in country for progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.