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Post-2015 WASH indicators and highlights of the Symposium

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The third and last day of the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium has also been very interesting. We listened to a couple of new presentations, among which the one about post-2015 indicators was the most appealing to me. In addition, we also had the opportunity to reflect on what we had learnt and the key questions we were taking with us.

Regarding post-2015, we had a glance at what WASH indicators might look like once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ‘expire’ in 2015. Guy Hutton from WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) shared the work they are doing in collaboration with different institutions in order to propose a set of targets that better serve the challenges of the post-MDG period. These are the suggested changes I believe to be very relevant:

  • Universal interim targets. Targets should affect ALL instead of just a share of the population, as happened with the MDGs. In order not to be too ambitious, the periods to achieve the targets will vary, with deadlines ranging from 2025 to 2040.
  • From coverage to usage. Indicators should focus on practice and usage instead of on access.
  • Hygiene. Apart from sanitation and water, indicators related to hygiene –handwashing, menstrual hygiene– should also be included.
  • Beyond the household. Apart from household level indicators, indicators relating to institutions should be incorporated, too.
  • Shared latrines. The definition of sanitation should be modified, accepting as improved sanitation when latrines are shared between five households or less.

Two examples of the proposed targets:

  1. No one practices open defecation by 2025 (first target).
  2. All schools and health care facilities provide all users with basic drinking water supply and adequate sanitation, handwashing facilities and menstrual hygiene facilities by 2030 (sub-target of the second target).

I consider that all the changes are very positive (let’s hope they are endorsed!), making a shift towards use and bringing on board largely neglected issues.  Also, the idea of universal access is more coherent with the human right to Water and Sanitation and can potentially increase equality, as it would not be possible anymore to focus only on those that are easier to reach. In order to further contribute to this, the JMP is also considering the option of increasing the disaggregation of the data, presenting the indicators by income levels and urban/rural, but maybe also by gender or ethnic group.

Moving to the final reflections, several highlights were presented by the rapporteur and by the different groups that were established. I mixed those I liked most in the following six points:

  • Monitoring should be country-led, with governments ‘in the driver’s seat’, but involving everybody. Are other actors supportive or rather inhibiting through parallel systems? We need cooperation and communication.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. We have to build on existing capacity and devise sustainable monitoring systems, looking what is feasible to measure into the long term with the available capacities.
  • Less is more... and more is less! Good monitoring systems is not the same as sophisticated and complex monitoring systems. In fact, they are many times the opposite!
  • Monitoring has to be relevant for decision making: don’t collect data you won’t use and make use of the data you collect.
  • Monitoring is politics: everybody has their own agendas and power, which influences everything, from choice of indicators to use of data. Transparency and involving all is therefore crucial.
  • Monitoring has to embrace equity. There is still a big gap, but the right to water and sanitation opens a great opportunity. We need to think about –as Eduardo Galeano calls them– ‘the nobodies’: those invisible, marginalised minorities and hard-to-reach people.

Please also read Jolly Ann Maulit's account of the third day of the symposium

Andrés Hueso González ahuesog@upvnet.upv.es


Date: 15 April 2013