WSSCC’s 2017-2020 strategy consultation in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 28 July, culminated an important series of meetings in the country during the week, all of which will help guide WSSCC as it develops its new global strategy and increases engagement in the South Asian country of over 200 million people.
Held at the Serena Hotel, the consultation was arranged by National Coordinator Tanya Khan and included many of the same participants who had attended a WSSCC learning and sharing workshop on the 26th and the 27th, and a national consultation on SDG 6 on the 25th. Officials from federal, provincial, and local governments, together with civil society organizations and key agencies such as UNICEF, WaterAid and Plan Pakistan, including WSSCC members participated in all of the meetings.
On the 25th, Mr. Tanveer Aslam Malik, Minister Housing Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Department, the Government of Punjab, Pakistan, set the tone for discussions that resonated through the week. With over 100 million people, Punjab is the largest of Pakistan’s provinces. He referred to the country’s sanitation and hygiene needs in other provinces and regions, including Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“We have reached a tipping point, and toilet use is fast becoming social norm,” said Mr. Tanveer Aslam. “As we move towards universal coverage and reducing the last 13% of open defecators, ensuring equity is a major challenge. The last few are always hardest to reach. On drinking water: we have good access and less disparities but ensuring access with good quality of drinking water would be a challenge.”
Pakistan is committed to meeting the SDG targets, he said, noting that all partners will need to act in new and different ways, and considerable increases in resources, including financial, will be needed. “Regarding reducing open defecation, our government has taken substantial steps to make Punjab Open Defecation Free by 2018,” he added.
According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation figures published in 2015, 91% of the population of the country had access to an improved water source, and 64% had improved sanitation.
During the WSSCC strategy consultation on July 28th, there was general agreement on the relevance of the six propositions proposed for WSSCC’s future work. It was noted that the propositions linked quite solidly to most of the country’s sanitation and hygiene needs identified during the course of the day and during the week. These include greater coordination, capacity building and knowledge sharing, especially at the provincial, district and local levels, grassroots community mobilisation and engagement; advocacy and more.
A focus on community led approaches is vital, said Najib Aslam, Director of Local Government in the Government of Punjab. “When talking about sustainability, and raising awareness of what we are trying to do under the Sustainable Development Goals, we must involve communities,” he said. “Historically, they have been neglected in decision-making around the development process. They do not know why a project is being implemented, the cost, the durability, the purpose, or whether it is useful or not. So, community empowerment is the basic key for programmes and projects to be successful.”
Faheen Junejo, Project Director of the Saaf Suthro Sindh Programme, said that interdepartmental coordination and harmonization of data are two challenges in developing provincial action plans. “The effectiveness of planning is dependent on the availability of accurate data,” he said.
Ayub Qutub of the NGO PIEDAR participated in the event and is familiar with WSSCC as a former National Coordinator for Pakistan. He reminded other participants of WSSCC’s history as a people-centred organization the relevance of WSSCC’s ‘Vision 21’ and ‘Listening’ exercises from the early 2000s.
In reporting back on his working group’s advice on the propositions, he pointed out that Pakistan is experiencing rapid urbanisation and therefore has need for peri-urban interventions; there is also world-class expertise locally which can be mobilized and leveraged.
On the proposition to create sanitation movements, he said grassroots voices and passion are essential ingredients for achieving sanitation goals. He stressed for the need to develop and strengthen the regional learning hubs for effective knowledge creation as the prime work of WSSCC in the coming years.
There was general consensus amongst all the participants that the Global Sanitation Fund should expand within existing countries (including Pakistan, where a Country Programme Proposal has been prepared with a focus on helping achieve an ODF Punjab) rather than expanded to new countries. Participants also agreed that equality and non-discrimination should continue to be core to WSSCC’s work, cutting across all the propositions.
Of special note was the fact that most government representatives at the meeting ranked the proposition on strengthening WASH governance highly.
Ms. Khan said that she was pleased with the consultation, as well as the other events during the week. She noted that it was rare for the senior government officials and development partners from all of Pakistan’s provinces and territories working on WASH to meet under one roof for strategizing, learning, sharing and networking as was done during the week.
With the support of the Government of Punjab’s media department, both the events organized by WSSCC gained prominent media coverage in leading national and local newspapers such as the Express Tribune and the Pakistan Observer as well as many other Urdu outlets.
A panel of experts discussed equal access to sanitation and hygiene in public spaces.
The theme of the annual advocacy event was to make handwashing a habit.
The side event will draw attention to equal access to sanitation and hygiene in public spaces.