Refreshing WASH: Reinvigorating the WaterAid Global Strategy with the UN Global Goals

Editors Note: With the SDGs providing the new goals and targets in international development for the next 15 years, NGOs such as WaterAid have undertaken the task of realigning their global strategies to engage with these new objectives. But how will these new words translate into greater water security, sanitation coverage and hygiene education? In this post, Joseph Benson, Strategic Planning and Performance Intern at WaterAid International, discusses how the NGO’s new 2015-2020 Global Strategy indicates multiple shifts for the organisation moving forward into the Global Goal time frame. 

With the recently created UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) providing the new goals and targets in international development for the next 15 years, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as WaterAid have undertaken the task of realigning its global strategies to engage with these new objectives.

WaterAid this year released its 2015-2020 Global Strategy, based around four new aims, giving an interesting insight into how the wishes of the international community trickle down into the multi-scalar work of development organisations.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has been greatly promoted over recent years within international governance. The later years of the Millennium Development Goals and the preparation for the post-2015 era witnessed a very intense consultation and discussion process by governments, the UN, NGOs and other stakeholders involved in the WASH sector. WASH is now seen as an integral part of international development discourse. Thanks to this intense consultation and the tireless campaigning of WASH advocates, Goal 6 of the Global Goals states:

Photo Credit: UN-DESA

Photo Credit: UN-DESA

But what now? Within this improved environment for WASH promotion and application, how do the organisations involved realign themselves with these new goals and targets? How will these new words translate into greater water security, sanitation coverage and hygiene education?

WaterAid and innovating strategy

A leading campaigner for WASH rights at country, continental and global levels, WaterAid represents an innovative NGO seeking to help those lacking water, sanitation and hygiene. In view of the approaching commitments of the Global Goals, WaterAid created a new Global Strategy in order to parallel their ambitious commitments.

Photo Credit: WaterAid

Photo Credit: WaterAid

WaterAid will use the 2015-2020 Global Strategy to set out what it wants to achieve in contributing to the ending of WASH poverty, while allowing flexibility for countries to develop their own context-specific strategies. The Global Strategy is being set in the broader context of the Global Goals, which aim to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

The image below shows the four new global aims of WaterAid’s new Global Strategy 2009-2015. This second Global Strategy is theorised as a five-year building block strategy with the longer-term goal of 2030 in mind. Released in the same year as the Global Goals, it is a first component of a strategy that will continue in overlapping five-year building blocks as WaterAid’s work continues to evolve.

The Strategy focuses on helping to drive the significant changes necessary to achieve universal access. It marks a shift in emphasis from meeting the needs of individuals to addressing the root causes that prevent access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. WaterAid will therefore work towards the 2030 goal by tackling barriers to the right to safe water and sanitation through service delivery, influencing governments and empowering communities. To ensure that long-term permanent change occurs, the organisation must focus on the poorest and most marginalised, and work with partners. WASH must be made a priority for everyone.

Dissecting the four aims

The four new aims of the 2015-2020 Global Strategy come with a unique set of challenges and opportunities for WaterAid.

The first aim states how inequalities in access and distribution must be reduced – women, people from lower castes and people with disabilities are most likely to be unable to access water. To reduce inequalities in access, WaterAid will need to provide evidence of their underlying causes and provide solutions. This is especially important since SDG 10 seeks to reduce inequality within and among countries and SDG 5 advocates gender equality. WaterAid must therefore work with organisations to promote the rights of marginalised groups, demonstrating gender sensitivity and inclusive designs and approaches.

The second aim seeks to support governments and service providers to strengthen the systems and capabilities required to deliver sustainable WASH services. This sector strengthening has crucial overlaps with SDG 17 which seeks to strengthen the means of WASH service implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. WaterAid will do this by working with partners to develop robust systems to reach out to those who may otherwise miss out.

WaterAid made a concerted effort to use the 2015-2020 Global Strategy to shed light on the often-forgotten element of WASH – hygiene. The new Strategy will improve hygiene behaviour to maximise the benefits of, and drive demand for, better access to water and sanitation. This will be done by working with a range of partners to support and deliver effective behaviour change.

The final aim seeks to integrate WASH within poverty eradication work and water resource and waste management. WaterAid will continue to champion the role of universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene and its integration within other sector plans. The mutual benefits this will provide for WaterAid and partners are seen as vital in the creation of strong institutions and the fostering of innovation shown in Goals 9 and 16.

Combining these four aims, the WaterAid 2015-2020 Global Strategy indicates multiple shifts moving forward into the Global Goal timeframe:

  • A new 2030 goal will drive all that is done.
  • Advocacy and influencing will be positioned as the focus of all work.
  • A programmatic approach will integrate service delivery work at district/city/town level, with the human rights based approach to create a strong system of supply and demand.
  • Focus will be on sector strengthening to bring about long-term, sustainable change.
  • Sustainability of WaterAid’s work, and of the WASH sector generally, will be embedded in programme design as is central to the realisation of water and sanitation services that last forever.

Moving forward

WaterAid will look for opportunities to extend its work and presence where it believes it can have the most impact towards achieving its mission. A key aspect in implementing this new Global Strategy will be assessing performance. With a new Performance Assessment Framework currently under construction, WaterAid is electing not to rely on numbers-based performance assessment indicators. Instead, a range of qualitative and quantitative indicators will be assembled to assess impact on marginalised communities and how well development partners have delivered sustainable services at different scales.

WaterAid’s 2015-2020 Global Strategy embodies a range of key shifts, molded by both the redefined UN development goals and the reflexive thinking of the organisation.

The four new aims involve tackling the underlying causes of lack of access to WASH. They include tackling inequalities, with a shift from addressing needs in 2009, to today acknowledging rights exist but aren’t being fulfilled, as well as integrating WASH priorities into other sectors of international development for a cohesive and mutually beneficial approach to poverty eradication.

Encouraging hygiene behaviour change as a key lever for change on top of this, WaterAid’s approach demonstrates how the Global Goals can reinvigorate the strategies of organisations involved in international development. Catering for country flexibility, the 2015-2020 Global Strategy represents the first five-year building block working towards securing access to and and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.