For me, attending the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership meeting in the Hague could not have come at a more opportune time, both as a member of the African Civil Society Network for Water and Sanitation (ANEW) and the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET). The meeting provided important insights on how to better support the roles I have been endowed with, but also a good reflection on how my current practice at National level can leverage instruction and learning to an array of partners globally.
One of the more interesting components of the partnership meeting was a session on Collaborative behaviors. Civil society in attendance had an opportunity for reflection on the behaviors and they seemed to easily define their roles in ensuring that the collaborative behaviors are achieved.
An important aspect of the call for collaborative behavior document is the demand for recognition that partners work within shared space towards common goals. This is important, since it then demands for constant self-reflection with regards to how much space each partner is occupying, whether it is the appropriate space with regard to mandate, and whether such occupancy recognizes that there is always a need for collaborative mix of actions from different partners to achieve optimum output for sustainable water and sanitation for all.
Accountability is emphasized as a key behavior for uptake. For Civil Societies in many parts of the world, this may sound like music to our ears, until when the finger is switched to point inwards. Civil Society organizations have for a long time invested much time and resources towards ensuring other actors are accountable against targets and commitments. The collaborative behaviours call for continued focus on this, but also sets the radar on Civil Society as a collaborative partner, to also account for the level of investment in the sector. This is particularly important where Civil Societies directly engage in service provision within the sector through project based actions. Civil societies are called upon to always recognize the role of the Government as the duty bearer in country, faithfully share information on their contribution, and work towards ensuring that their work contributes to good quality and sustainability of output.
In my reflection of this session, I was glad to be able to look back on the work being done by KEWASNET to support exactly the same stream of thinking and action by Civil Societies in Kenya. The asks from the four collaborative behaviours relates to the aspirations of the Integrity and Quality Management (IQC) toolbox developed by KEWASNET for Civil Society, to promote best practice of civil society organizations working in the sector.
Civil society organizations occupy a unique space in the realization of these collaborative behaviors, since they primarily have a unique observer and catalyst role, but more importantly because they are predominantly identified with the rights- based side of representation of the communities whose voices need to be heard more. This provides a ripe opportunity for Civil Society to be the voice and agitator for these collaborative voices, both at global and local levels. Taking such space, for Civil society would call for organized action at these levels. It then follows that Civil Society organizations would need to be facilitated to have the capacity effectively take up such role. This, then, is an ideal opportunity for the SWA partnership to better recognize the role of Civil Society, professionalize their role, and strategically and adequately support such role, through provision of direct financing mechanisms.
By Samson Shivaji