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Published on: 09/06/2023

IRC WASH Ethiopia in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Energy conducted a workshop to reflect on the All Systems Connect Symposium and the UN-2023 Water Conference on June 02, 2023. Participants consisted of representatives of the Ministries of Health, Water and Energy, Finance and other governmental and non-governmental organisations working on WASH. The main takeaways from the two international conferences were presented and discussed.

UN-2023 Water Conference

The 2023 UN Water Conference is a global WASH event that took place in New York City from March 22-24, 2023. The Conference brought together thousands of participants from around the globe.

Prior to the 2023 UN Water Conference, a preparatory consultative meeting was conducted with the wider stakeholders in Ethiopia. Based on the consultative meeting, a national statement was prepared on the effects of climate change and prolonged drought, multi-sectoral coordination platforms including the One WASH National Programme, the flagship green legacy initiative and its impact on decarbonisation, and regional cooperation and integration for mutual benefits in transboundary water resource management.

Abera Endeshaw, the Senior Advisor of the Minister of the Ministry of Water and Energy presented the main learnings from the 2023 UN Water Conference. He mentioned that Ethiopia was represented by a team comprising five delegates. Participation in the Conference created an opportunity for optimising partnerships with stakeholders, challenging developed nations to deliver their commitments including climate finance, and sharing learnings that are important to visibility and diplomacy, according to Abera.

The team from Ethiopia together with delegates from neighbouring countries developed a proposal to start the implementation of cross-border partnerships in water supply projects and submitted it to the African Development Bank. If it gets approved, it will be implemented within the borders of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Abera suggested identifying key annual global and regional events, timely planning, alignment of national commitments and priorities and coordination with all country delegates for better results during future events.

Most of the participants in the two international conferences took part in the reflection workshop. Photo by Tsegaye Yeshiwas

All Systems Connect Symposium

The All Systems Connect Symposium 2023 took place from May 2-4 in The Hague. Government officials from different countries, representatives from the UN and other international organisations, civil society, and academia took part and from Ethiopia, around 30 delegates participated in the symposium.

Lemessa Mekonta, Country Director of IRC WASH Ethiopia, presented the key takeaways consolidated from the Ethiopian delegates. The team has been sharing learnings from the symposium using a WhatsApp Group created for this purpose.

From left to right: HE Ambassador Asfaw Dingamo State Minister of the Ministry of Water and Energy, HE Semereta Sewasew State Minister of the Ministry of Finance, and HE Dr. Dereje Duguma State Minister of the Ministry of Health participating at the All Systems Connect Symposium. Photo credit: Robert Tjalondo (Rockin'Pictures) for IRC.  

Breaking the Silos

According to Lemessa, one of the main takeaways from the symposium was the importance of breaking down silos in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Breaking down silos helps to connect people, ideas, and institutions to improve coordination, collaboration, and communication for collective action. This again helps to accelerate achieving universal access to safe water and sanitation. It is possible to address the broader challenges that affect access to safe water and sanitation by connecting with other sectors, such as health, education, agriculture, environment, finance, and planning.


Improving finance through domestic resource mobilisation is the most important lesson that Ethiopia could learn from the All Systems Connect Symposium. Climate finance is another potential source to be considered as WASH is not benefiting from climate finance to the level it should be, mainly due to a lack of focused advocacy. Lemessa mentioned that the WASH sector is not only underfinanced but also inefficient in utilising existing resources, which needs attention. The symposium highlighted the need of considering the entire community instead of health care facilities alone while planning WASH interventions and showed that there is lack of prioritisation and budget line for WASH in health care facilities.


Water, sanitation and hygiene committee (WASHCO) legalisation and rural utilities are good initiatives in professionalising WASH service delivery in Ethiopia, however, it needs additional effort and coordination to enhance these initiatives. Professionalisation involves developing skills, knowledge, and competencies of WASH service providers, as well as establishing clear standards and guidelines for service delivery. This can lead to improved service quality, increased accountability, and better sustainability of WASH services.

Political commitment

Political commitment is critical to the success of the WASH sector. It provides the necessary leadership, resources, and support needed to improve access to safe water and sanitation for all. Political commitment helps to create an enabling environment for the development of WASH policies, programmes, and investments, and to mobilise other stakeholders to take action. Additionally, political commitment can help to ensure that WASH services are prioritised in national development plans and budgets and that they are sustained over the long term. The presence of three Ethiopian State Ministers at the All Systems Connect is a good manifestation of political commitment to the country’s water and sanitation sector.


By empowering households and communities to take ownership of their own WASH facilities, self-supply can improve access to safe water and sanitation and contribute to the sustainability of WASH services. Lemessa pointed out that self-supply is not only used to accelerate universal coverage but also to bridge water resources, food security, and climate change effects. To improve self-supply, communities need to be informed about the benefits of self-supply and the different options available to them. They also should be trained on how to maintain and operate their water and sanitation systems and they may also need technical assistance on design, installation, and maintenance.

The community should be involved in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of its water and sanitation systems. This will help to ensure that the systems are sustainable, and that the community takes ownership of them.

Reflections from participants

The participants mentioned that this post-conference reflection workshop is the first of its kind and suggested continuing in future global and regional events. They also suggested that there should be a mechanism in place to implement the learnings that we bring from other countries.

Participants mentioned sanitation and post-construction are areas where Ethiopia is lagging behind. Stakeholders should strengthen collaboration for better implementation of the One WASH National Programme. They also suggested to stop implementing programmes outside of the One WASH National Programme.

The participants also suggested considering sponsoring university students to participate in international conferences. This would help them to conduct research and understand the gaps in the sector.

Finally, the participants suggested that there should be an organised knowledge management system to reduce duplication of effort, time, and resources.

Way forward

The participants agreed on the following next steps:

  • Strengthen the One WASH National Programme and integration of WASH actors.
  • Present key learnings from the two conferences at the upcoming Multi-Stakeholder Forum as key messages and actions.
  • Develop a presidential compact, which will create an opportunity to strengthen the One WASH National Programme and knowledge sharing.
  • Focus on post-construction care by improving maintenance and rehabilitation.
  • Strengthen the Water and Energy sector working group secretariat to improve the coordination of WASH, Energy, and Water Resource Management and break down the silos.
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