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Posted for: Sumita Ganguly, Ex-national coordinator Sanitation & Hygiene, WES Section, UNICEF India
The role of NGOs and external funding agencies is paramount. On the one hand resource requirement by way of hard funds is a big issue; Funding from external funding agencies are usually matched with funding from local governments under mutually agreed but rigorous conditions for definite periods. Once the external fund flow ceases the activities slacken (often less staff, inadequate supervision, weak monitoring) and the inevitable decline starts. Country experiences show that a variety of collaborations between governments and either NGOs (both national and local) or external funding agencies, or private sector generates a pool of not only funds but also creates a whole bank of advanced skills, tried and tested methods, innovations and good ideas towards sustainable solutions. This type of resource bank is invaluable for taking projects to scale and institutionalizing the key processes in the larger implementation framework.
One report from Peter van Maanen (UNICEF) states that globally the annual new coverage capital costs for sanitation is estimated to be around $14 billion. The previous WHO estimate was 9.5 billion (Hutton and Haller 2004). This highlights the need for local governments to not just generate and use resources judiciously but to also take steps that are strategic in nature e.g. forge partnerships with other sectors such as education and health so that the WASH in schools targets are selectively owned by these sectors. One should not only limit to these two sectors. Other government departments such as Environment ministry, Science and Technology, Cottage and Small Industries, Culture, Communication have roles to play in evolving appropriate technologies, teaching-learning materials, local child-friendly designs and fabrication and communication techniques that are popular among communities and are appropriate to the local culture.
Local governments look for handholding and interpretation of policies for implementation. This means training and skill building of a workforce spanning a layered implementation hierarchy from management to hands on functions such as quality toilet installations, inter-personal communication etc.; in addition there are other tasks such as development of manuals, handbooks, setting up or strengthening monitoring systems, creating provisions for independent reviews and evaluations and documentations. Few countries would have the capacity to do all of these in an efficient and effective manner all by themselves. Governments look for flashy gains that reflect well their ‘achievement’; Policies that take long to fructify and that too in terms of gain in children’s school days, lesser absenteeism, improvement in girls’ attendance, improved learning curve, reduction in diarrhea, better privacy, security etc. lie in the category of ‘hard to measure’ and therefore hard to tom-tom. “Only 5% of students are washing hands with soap, even when facilities are available,” said Murat Sahin citing UNICEF statistics. Consequently the inclination is to shy away and resort to tokenism. Policy obligations remain a distant goal.
Posted for: V. Kurian Baby, SPO, IRC
Please do not judge before the hearing is over………….
The next and most important question is whether an empowered local government mandated with responsibilities on the principle of subsidiarity would be able to generate adequate internal resources to meet its policy obligations?
The answer is obvious: Yes.
Let me be permitted to use the word ‘mobilize instead of generate’ because governments at all levels including in developed countries are mobilizing and not generating to discharge their obligations - through a combination of taxes, revenue, borrowing or deficit financing.
I would also prefer to substitute local government to Local Self Government (LSG) meaning constitutionally mandated democratically elected governments with powers of self-determination on the subjects devolved. In a well- balanced fiscal governance structure integrated with a normative financial devolution process, the local governments would be able to mobilize the needed resources through taxes, cost recovery and financial devolution – fiscal transfers not as a doll but as part of a legitimate fiscal federalism.
To cite a live example, there are 3500 LSGI centric community managed rural water supply and sanitation schemes in Kerala State of India function for more than a decade. About a third of the budget resources in the State are devolved to the LSGs through a normative process determined by independent State Finance Commission with a significant un-tied component. LSGs are spending a 10-12% of their annual budget on an average of wash service delivery.
There are similar examples globally. Any argument against the capacity of local governments is like passing a judgement before the hearing is over. Let us take the process of decentralization further through a deepening process to achieve a better democratic and just world.
Posted for: Sumita Ganguly, Ex-national coordinator Sanitation & Hygiene, WES Section, UNICEF India
More than half of the 2.5 billion people without improved sanitation live in China and India. The MDG for sanitation is clearly not on track and it looks ominous when one looks at the numbers of people who are either compelled to or choose open defecation as a daily practice e.g. India 626 million, Indonesia 63 million, China 14 million (Global sanitation trends 1990-2010, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation – 2012 Update, UNICEF, WHO)
WASH in schools is the best way to reach children directly with the services of safe drinking water, clean toilets and demonstrations of good hygiene practices. One can argue that access to these is a child’s right and the state has an obligation to fulfill this right either by providing the facilities or by encouraging, facilitating local communities, local governments to include this in their long list of planned development tasks, or/and partnering with external agencies for resources and funding.
Reports suggest that globally school based drinking water coverage has increased to around 70 percent and school sanitation to 67 percent (UNICEF, 2010). But the unsettling fact is that most national governments are counting mere numbers (drinking water points and toilet units) that are reported by their own machinery which do not have the ability to report progress in terms of good O&M;of facilities and their actual usage; nor is there any reliable mechanism of capturing the knowledge gained and hygiene practiced by the children and promoted by the teachers.
Local governments are invariably struggling with infrastructure development priorities like construction of roads, bridges, culverts, and making provisions for drinking water and drainage, housing, employment etc. Resources are distributed to these areas which are seen as “immediate” and are also amply visible so that they catch the attention of people and help them to carry on with their lives and livelihood and in the process gain political mileage. Education especially running of primary schools and health centres are relatively less important and get pushed to the background. Quite often seen as the responsibility of national governments, local governments shy away from making demands and wait their turn to get the funds rather than proactively seek funds for improving school infrastructure with emphasis on water and sanitation.
In a resource competitive environment, whatever resources are available to national and local governments for schools, are used for construction of classrooms and salary of teachers. The issue of water and sanitation is neglected. Even if resources are to be available through private donations, in the absence of any “pressure” from higher authorities on the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene, and the fact that children are not vote banks, there is little incentive to analyze the benefits of this common-sense subject that has such a profound impact on lives of children, especially girls, influencing the overall public health arena. Rarely there is a funding provision for operation and maintenance and for minor repairs. It is as if once the facilities are constructed / installed they will carry on automatically forever. The effect of this combined apathy results in poor quality of structures and facilities, poor inappropriate designs, indifferent maintenance and finally children’s reluctance to use dirty and smelly toilets, or wash hands.
When used strategically, external financing can strengthen national and local commitment, rather than undermine it.
First, external donors should ensure they are “minor stakeholders” when it comes to financing direct delivery of WASH in schools projects. Securing the bulk of finance (>50%) must remain the responsibility of (local) government and school authorities. This way they remain accountable and cannot pass on responsibility to donors when projects don’t deliver.
Secondly, donors should focus more on building the capacities of local stakeholders to live up to their commitments.
Finally, donors and local stakeholders should sign up to some form of (financial and institutional) sustainability clause. This would include an agreement to implement a transparent system to monitor the commitments of all stakeholders.
I fully agree that the WASH and the Education Sector must collaborate on defining WASH in Schools indicators. However, moving (all of) the targets to the Education Sector may not be practical. First, the actual provision of water and sanitation services is a responsibility of the service provider, who generally provides these services to domestic, institutional and business customers. Secondly, the human right to water and sanitation also extends to schools. Schools can be made responsible for the plumbing side of things (toilets, washstand installation and maintenance) but water supply and waste removal lie with service providers.
Dear Nripendra, your argument does not focus on the topic of this debate: are the specific indicators on WASH in Schools, as formulated by the JMP Working Groups, a step in the right direction. You can find a list of the proposed WASH in Schools indicators at http://www.washinschools.info/page/2034
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