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Reflections on AfricaSan: Influencing decision makers to prioritise sanitation in Africa

Published on: 09/06/2015

Read the reflections and highlights on the session "Influencing decision makers - Finance, equity, institutional leadership" convened by IRC and partners.

Influencing decision-makers to increase sanitation prioritisation, put institutional leadership in place, effectively finance and ensure equitable service delivery is critical at the dawn of the SDGs as most countries, especially in Africa have missed the MDG target for sanitation. Session 4 of the 4th Africa Sanitation Conference held in Dakar, Senegal from May 25-27, 2015, shared and reflected on a range of advocacy approaches and it impact on decision makers.

Convened by IRC and partners under the theme, Influencing decision makers - Finance, equity, institutional leadership, session 4 highlighted initiatives from influencers and advocates; and engaged advocacy targets and civil society in an interactive panel and round table discussions.

The stakeholders agreed that the current advocacy approaches and messages are relevant but need to be further sharpened, strategically targeted across the decision chain, and geared towards building strategic alliances and partnerships with critical role for CSOs.  The key messages that came out of the session included the following:

  1. that advocacy approaches and messages need to be objective-driven, consistent, properly targeted, sufficiently resourced, and evidence-based, strengthen and address political will, and include indicators to monitor their efficacy and uptake;
  2. that the information or data used to advocate, voices conveying advocacy messages and the champions of the messages need to be credible, and engage data users and local advocates as well as advocacy target groups in verifying data;
  3. that civil society organisations (CSO’s) role is crucial and CSO networks have particularly clear value rather than individual messaging from competing CSOs/ NGOs – the need to speak with one voice and with a combination of complementary approaches from local and international; and
  4. that while advocacy approaches may be initiated as projects or by users themselves, social accountability mechanisms ultimately need to be institutionalized to be effective in strengthening service delivery and enabling accountability between authorities, providers and users.

Members of the panel contended that no one single advocacy approach is preferable but a combination of integrated approaches from both local and international fronts. They called on advocates to create alliances, design and harmonise approaches to complement and build on existing approaches and tools.

They also posited that advocacy tools should be accessible, simple, clear and visual and available in local languages. They further suggested that advocates should support citizen’s voices to hold government decision makers accountable to their constituents; and that social accountability is a critical accountability and advocacy mechanism.

The round table discussions emphasized on inclusive targeting of messages; building the capacity of CSOs as anchors of the massages; and linking up target groups with agencies that are able to support the implementation of these decisions.

Impact from evidence-based advocacy on WASHCost

More than 100 organisations and governments are using elements of the life-cycle costing and still counting as a result of a successful evidence-based advocacy.  Sharing on WASHCost evidence based advocacy, Dr. Catarina Fonseca of IRC outlined the five key factors that were responsible for influencing stakeholders to act on the costing of sustainable service delivery in Ghana, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and India (Andhra Pradesh).

These factors included:

  1. "You do not tell your brother that he is ugly. You hold up a mirror" - The WASHCost project started with the financial data on the entire non-functional infrastructure and engaged with stakeholders in face-to-face meetings, conferences, publications, website and later in a more strategic identification of organisations and individuals to target;
  2. “shared financial data with a purpose” – facilitated learning alliances to better identify gaps in planning, better dissagregated lifecycle unit costs, data used in planning and implementation.
  3. The question is not who we are communicating to, but who we are communicating with. It’s about creating relationships” - As WASHCost methodology and results began to emerge, target audiences were defined and involved in the research as it was their data and in their interest to have financial information;
  4. kept consistent overall message that all team members could use and adapt locally; and
  5. managed the associated tension and created a memorable picture in the minds of stakeholders -  in the words of Dr. Fonseca, “What most people remember is not the cost benchmarks or the technical papers: it’s the drawings”.

She announced that more information on the WASHCost approach is available in the free book “Priceless”; and that a free e-learning course keeps running four times a year.

Other tools and approaches were distilled with critical examination of the issues to determine what could be done better and differently to improve the current level of advocacy influence for increased prioritisation and impact.

Alana Potter of IRC, the session chair earlier on gave an overview of the three-fold session. Tim Brewer of WaterAid set the scene with live demonstration of the WASH Watch scores on sanitation prioritisation, institutional leadership and finance; Amanda Marlin of WSSCC presented on the key ingredients of success in SWA global advocacy for finance – targeting high level decision maker; and Sophie Hickling of WSP presented on the key ingredients for successful impact from evidence-based advocacy on ESI.

The session, convened by IRC, Gates Foundation, WSSCC and WSUP had the objective of distilling the key lessons and ingredients of success from different approaches to influencing decision-makers to increase sanitation prioritisation, put institutional leadership in place, effectively finance and ensure equitable services delivery.

About the 4th Africa Sanitation Conference

The 4th Africa Sanitation Conference (AfricaSan 4) under the theme, “Making Sanitation for All a Reality in Africa” was held in Dakar, Senegal from May 25 - 27 2015.  The overall objective was to assist African countries achieve universal access to improved sanitation and adoption of good hygiene behaviours, to improve service management across the whole value chain, eliminate open defecation and help all Africans up the sanitation ladder.

“AfricaSan4 did achieve its objective to a larger extent – it successfully launched the new pan-African, ministerial endorsed commitments; provided country peer support; tracked progress; promoted a stronger evidence-base and learning exchanges; and also advocated for improved sanitation and hygiene in Africa” - Kwabena Gyasi-Duku (MWRWH, Ghana/AMCOW)

Convened by the Government of Senegal with technical support from AMCOW and the AfricaSan International Task Force, the conference attracted  a host of Africa Sanitation Ministers and over 1000 (1147) participants from government agencies, civil society, donors and development banks, multilaterals, research organizations and the private sector.

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