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September: System Strengthening Month!

06 Sep 2019


Are taps and toilets enough? Or, do we need to strengthen the system. System Strengthening means increased collaboration with sector partners to rebuild the national and local systems, such as governing institutions, infrastructure and resources, needed for quality, universality and sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. A system-wide approach is crucial to tackle the key bottlenecks and achieve the ambitious WASH targets of Sustainable Development Goals.

The SWA global partnership has 5 Building Blocks, capturing the key elements that the sector needs to have in place to deliver sustainable services and progressively eliminate inequalities. The building blocks focus on key WASH sector governance functions, such as Sector Policy/ Strategy, Institutional arrangements, Sector Financing, Planning monitoring and review, and Capacity development. The building blocks are accompanied by four ways of working or ‘Collaborative Behaviours to which SWA partners, including country governments and development partners, have committed (1) enhancing government leadership of sector planning processes; 2) strengthening and using country systems; 3) using one information and mutual accountability platform; and 4) building sustainable water and sanitation financing strategies.

SWA's raison d'être is to increase political (and thus, financial) priority to the WASH sector, moreover, the SWA Framework of Building Blocks and Collaborative Behaviours, along with 7 Guiding Principles (values partners have in common) helps strengthen the sector systems. This framework is anchored in the SWA Mutual Accountability Mechanism. As part of the Mutual Accountability Mechanism, many SWA partner countries and other stakeholders submitted commitments (see, the table below) in the recently concluded 2019 SWA Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM). Overall, 41 of all country commitments (26%) were on outputs, for example, increasing access to water and sanitation, or elimination of open defecation, and 118 were related to sector strengthening (74%), such as strengthening strategies and collaboration and creating new financing mechanisms. SWA partners have committed to drafting, revising, adopting, implementing or making roadmaps for sector policies, strategies and action plans (including strategies on specific topics like financing, management of providers, or community-led total sanitation, CLTS). This is a response to the significant gaps when it comes to strategic and policy frameworks in countries.


5 Common themes from commitments

A total of 42 Country Briefs were prepared ahead of the 2019 SMM. Of which, 60% of all countries are planning to draft, revise, adopt, implement or make roadmaps for sector policies, strategies and action plans which include a significant focus on tackling inequalities. 43% of all countries plan to strengthen their laws, policies and strategies to ensure a strong national legal framework for addressing inequalities. This clearly shows sector planning and strengthening is an important discussion point within SWA partnership and a key issue our partners are committed to.