The Creation of Sanitation and Water for All: A global platform for achieving universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene
Achieving water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH is both an international and a national goal.
Universal access to WASH is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG6) of the United Nations. It is also the foundation for the achievement of all SDGs (Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), n.d.), without it would be near impossible to achieve any of the other SDGs.
Universal access to WASH is also a key priority of the Maldivian Government (Sanitation and Water for All, 2020).
Achieving this goal, however, would be impossible without coordinated, collaborative action amongst the various stakeholders. These include stakeholders both within and outside the WASH sector. Additionally, such action is necessary at all levels; international, national and sub-national (SWA, n.d.). Hence, achieving universal access to WASH requires a joint effort.
Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) was created in 2010 as a global platform to foster this collaborative action. The global partnership provides various platforms for multi-stakeholder dialogue, accountability, and engagement between partners.
The Maldives joined SWA in 2010. Local focal points include a representative of the Ministry of Environment (Government Focal Point), and the Chairperson of Watercare (Civil Society Focal Point) (SWA, 2021a).
To assure the effectiveness of these collaborations, the SWA Framework was developed by the partnership (SWA, n.d.).
What is the SWA Framework?
This framework was developed as a tool for analysing bottlenecks and challenges to the achievement of SDGs and to identify solutions to ensure progress towards them. It is also the basis of the SWA Mutual Accountability Mechanism (SWA, n.d.).
The features of the framework are highlighted in the image below, which was taken from the SWA document entitled ‘About the SWA Mutual Accountability Mechanism’ (SWA, n.d.), highlights the features of this Framework.
The SWA Framework includes three elements.
The seven Guiding Principles reflect the shared values of all SWA Partners. Despite potential changes to goals, strategies, type of work or leadership, these values remain unchanged and continue to be the basis of all activities and initiatives under the SWA Partnership (SWA, n.d.).
The four Collaborative Behaviours ensure that countries and their partners work together to ensure long-term sector performance improvement, and subsequently strengthen the country’s capacity to deliver and sustain WASH services for all (SWA, n.d.; SWA, 2021b).
Countries have specific indicators for each of these Behaviours, which can be found in their respective Collaborative Behaviours Country Profiles. The most recent Maldives Country Profile (SWA, 2020) can be found here.
These Country Profiles have been written based on available data and provide an overview of how the Collaborative Behaviours are being applied by the government and development partners. They enable partners to not only track performance, but also keep each other accountable to ensure improved outcomes (SWA, 2021b).
Finally, the five Building Blocks comprise the key elements that must be in place within the sector to ensure the sustainability of services delivered. Simultaneously, these can also address and progressively eliminate any existing inequalities in accessing these services (SWA, n.d.).
Mutual Accountability Mechanisms in the SWA Framework
Accountability is one of the basic foundations of the SWA global partnership and is reflected in all three elements of the SWA Framework. Mutual Accountability Mechanisms are therefore used as a tool for holding SWA partners accountable for progress on achieving what is entailed as per the SWA Framework.
All SWA Partners are expected to collaborate in making commitments for the Mutual Accountability Mechanism. For instance, the Maldivian government commitment is as follows: “[t]he government’s pledge towards water and sewerage is to provide clean drinking water and adequate sewerage facilities in the island by the end of the five-year term [by 2023], these services will be provided to all inhabited islands on an equal basis irrespective of the size of population.” (SWA, 2021a).
As the Maldives CSO focal point for SWA, Watercare has also made commitments as follows:
- Widely disseminate information among sectoral and non-sectoral stakeholders on achieving SDG6 by 2030.
- Obtain commitment of 10 CSOs and support of Development Partners for accountability on SDG6 implementation & progress.
- Develop awareness program to advocate for stronger monitoring of SDG6 and the involvement of CSOs in GLAAS and JMP report.
- Work towards Establishment of a help desk on improving access to water and sanitation in the Maldives. Work to establish Citizens Report Card on water and sanitation access, water safety, water security.
- In 2019, collaborate with other CSOs to adopt the CSO SDG6 Strategy developed in 2018 led by WATERCARE.
Both the Government and the CSO commitments, and the progress made towards them, can be found on the dedicated webpage on SWA’s website.
Integrating Mutual Accountability Mechanisms into national processes
SWA encourages a government-led multi-stakeholder National Planning and Review Process, which includes the following phases (SWA, n.d.):
- Assessment and analysis, that is multi-stakeholder and participatory
- Planning and setting targets, through prioritisation of activities using the SWA framework, reflecting WASH-related targets of SDGs and defining national commitments
- Defining roles and responsibilities, as identified by governments
- Government-led implementation of plans and goals from previous phases to achieve the identified targets, with each stakeholder making their specific contributions
- Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of progress towards achieving plans, that is multi-stakeholder in nature
- Assessment and analysis to identify improvements for the next iteration of this cycle
Multi-stakeholder approach to engaging with the Mutual Accountability Mechanism
All stakeholders, sectoral or non-sectoral, have a role to play within the partnership, and ultimately achieving SDGs, and can therefore become partners. These include (SWA, n.d.):
- Research and learning institutes, who can provide research and monitoring support
- International partners who can also make commitments that are aligned with the country commitments
- Private sector, who can complement and compete provision of services in areas that may be underserved by public infrastructure
- External support agencies, who can also make commitments that align with national plans of action
- Country partners, who take lead in the national planning process
- Civil society organisations, who can be fully involved in national multi-stakeholder planning and review processes, and support country-level commitments and the country’s capacity to deliver and sustain services
The SWA partnership also organises a cycle of meetings, which provides opportunities for representatives from various countries to meet, share ideas and collaborate. These include Sector Ministers’ meetings (SMM) that take place every 18 months and Finance Ministers Meetings (FMM) that are held every 3 years (SWA, n.d.). The last FMM was held virtually due to the ongoing Pandemic, during November/December 2020 across three virtual regional meetings.
The SMMs provide an opportunity for enhanced mutual accountability. During these meetings, SWA partners present and report on their commitments (SWA, n.d.). During the last meeting held in 2019, Watercare had also filed their CSO commitments.
Additionally, every three years the SWA secretariat produces a global report on Mutual Accountability Mechanisms. This report reviews achievements made by partners towards their commitments and analyses these in addition to challenges faced. Additionally, SWA partners can regularly upload their commitments and progress made towards them on the SWA webpage (SWA, n.d.).
SWA’s Mutual Accountability Mechanism support UN processes
The SWA platform supports the achievement of the SDGs, which have been agreed upon internationally. Partner countries can use the Mutual Accountability Mechanism as a tool to track their WASH-related targets of the SDGs and help them prepare for the Voluntary National Reviews for the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, where they report on their progress towards SDGs (SWA, n.d.).
Sanitation and Water for All – SWA (n.d.). About the SWA mutual accountability mechanism. Retrieved from https://programme.worldwaterweek.org/Content/ProposalResources/PDF/2019/pdf-2019-8498-1-MAM%20brochure_8_pages.pdf
Sanitation and Water for All – SWA (2020). Maldives: Collaborative behaviour profile (2020). Retrieved from https://www.sanitationandwaterforall.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/CB_Profile_Maldives.pdf
Sanitation and Water for All. (2020, December 17). SWA 2020 Asia and the Pacific Finance Ministers’ Meeting [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0RMPVmZ7nw
Sanitation and Water for All – SWA (2021a). Maldives. Sanitation and Water for All. https://www.sanitationandwaterforall.org/partners/countries-map/maldives
Sanitation and Water for All – SWA (2021b). The collaborative behaviours. Sanitation and Water for All. https://www.sanitationandwaterforall.org/about/our-work/priority-areas/collaborative-behaviours