By Abubakari M. S. Wumbei (Senior Communications Officer, IRC Ghana).
08 August 2016.
During the launch of Watershed – empowering citizens in Ghana partners and interested parties confirmed their commitment to ensure sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all.
The Watershed Ghana work package, a component of a 5-year multi-country strategic partnership between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IRC (lead), Simavi, Wetlands International and Akvo, to deliver WASH services through Civil Society Organisation (CSO) advocacy and lobby was launched in Accra on 30 June, 2016.
In his key note address to launch the project Ben Ampomah, the Executive Secretary of Water Resources Commission of Ghana, stated that the National Water Policy is a good document that focuses on water resource management and recognises various cross-sectoral linkages. He noted however, that in practice few linkages between water and the sub-sectors are made and there were no comprehensive strategies to address the sector as a whole.
Mr. Ampomah stated that “A strategic long-term approach is important, since part of the solution is changing behaviour, funds and institutional development. We need to improve management of water resources and water supply and decrease pollution”. Asserting his support for the project, the Executive Secretary urged all to be actively involved as a stronger and collective voice to raise awareness among stakeholders on the importance of WASH and Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM); and to gather evidence to influence water resources management for the better.
In her welcome address, Vida Duti, IRC Country Director expressed her appreciation to the project partners for making it to Ghana; adding that there could not have been a better time to formally launch the project. Mrs Duti stated that “As a country we have to take responsibility to finance our own WASH sector. Advocating for additional resources is a challenge, because of competition with other sectors. When citizens are empowered they can demand accountability of the public authorities responsible for sustainable services. The responsibility of citizens is to pay for these services. Watershed is to look at these interrelations and analyse how water resources are managed. Another advice is to reflect on how to contextualise this programme to make it relevant for our sector and local CSOs”. She appealed that beyond the launch and initial inception activities, working together as a partnership to achieve sustainable WASH services was critical. The respective project partners took turns to affirm their commitment and support for the process.
Group photo of the Watershed launch in Ghana
Elsie Appau of the Royal Netherlands Embassy gave a brief statement on behalf of the Embassy, touching on the embassy’s working relations with partners in Ghana over decades and the change in the partnership dynamics from 2012. According to her the policy since 2012 is to engage with the private sector to achieve sustainable WASH; and also with CSOs and governments to address some identified gaps. Ms Appau stated that “The Watershed programme offers the opportunity to find an innovative way to bridge the gaps by using dissent and dialogue to engage with CSOs and media, and to build partnerships to support the people who need it the most. The Dutch government meets the needs of people through institutions like IRC, Wetlands International, Simavi, and Akvo”. She concluded that funding is important but the most essential was the desire to achieve sustainable services for all.
Presenting on the programme overview, William Frimpong-Bonsu of IRC Ghana stated that sustainability of WASH services is a critical Watershed goal, and over the next five years, the partnership will deliver improvements in the governance and management of water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as of the water resources on which they draw. He announced that as part of the inception activities, the Ghana Watershed team did a context analysis to identify partners, geographical areas and policy issues to build capacities of CSOs for lobby and advocacy among others. “We hope that through a series of interventions, change in policy and practice will be achieved by evidence-based lobbying and advocacy by Watershed partner CSOs in Ghana”, he added.
The project seeks to strengthen the capacity of national civil society to lobby and advocate towards government and other WASH duty-bearers towards measurable improvements in the quality and sustainability of WASH services in Ghana. The project states that good WASH governance requires the active and meaningful involvement of users, service providers and polluters; and that a strong civil society is essential to ensure that the voices of users are heard by service providers and government.