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Published on: 21/08/2018

While most people in the political centre in the Netherlands, The Hague, were on their summer leave, some policy officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must have felt a pressing deadline. In two months, on 15 October 2018, the Ministry has to finish their Multi-Annual Country Strategies (MACS) for 38 countries where the Netherlands has a representation. These MACS provide a multi-year framework for expected developments in a given country, as well as the Netherlands' objectives, commitments and envisaged impact. It also provides insight into risks that could jeopardize the achievement of these objectives.

With this, an important contribution is given to the Development Agenda of the Ministry: outlining objectives and results, with relevance to the broader foreign policy objectives and providing input to the accountability process. Embassies and the relevant regional, policy theme and multilateral departments will work together with local stakeholders to draw up this strategy.

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag - 28 May 2018

Therefore, two months prior to the announced deadline, it is a good momentum to look into the process of the MACS and give – from a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) perspective – some recommendations.

The main reference for providing such recommendations is the WASH strategy 2016-2030. That articulates clear targets to contribute to water, sanitation and hygiene. The document also describes the main challenges for the WASH sector to deliver sustainable services. This year, in May, the WASH strategy was again acknowledged, as the Foreign Policy note of minister Kaag 'Investing in Global Prospects' referred to the targets of reaching 30 million people with access to better water sources, 50 million people with access to improved sanitation, and information on hygienic living conditions by 2030 (also referred to as the 50/30 commitment). 

We would therefore expect that in a number of the 38 MACS, concrete proposals, programmes and initiatives are formulated that together would add up to make a significant contribution to the 50/30 commitment. Moreover, we hope that the MACS describe how these targets can be met in partner countries, following the strategic choices articulated in the WASH strategy 2016-2030.

More specifically, I would like to see in the MACS for each of the partner countries, a mapping how they are faring towards SDG 6, and how the aid effort of their donors, including the Netherlands, are contributing to that. From that specific new programmes and initiatives can be defined that are in line with the strategy.

But in addition, I expect the Ministry to analyse whether all the MACS add up. That would require for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to map how all the MACS together will add up to a meaningful contribution to the SDGs, and to strengthening WASH systems.

Only with a coordinated and combined effort, we, as the Netherlands, might have a chance by supporting those 38 countries in reaching the SDGs by 2030 in a sustainable manner.


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