Why should CSOs and Local Government work together for WASH? Synthesis Report now available

A mother from a village in the Mhondoro-Ngezi district in Zimbabwe helps her child use their tippy-tap for handwashing.

This was the guiding question for the Southern Africa learning event of the DFAT-funded Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund held earlier this year. Lessons and experiences have been summarised in a Synthesis Report now available. Participants agreed that collaboration between civil society organisations (CSOs, also known as non-government organisations) and local government is essential to provide WASH services that are sustained beyond donor-funded project timeframes.

Several clear conclusions emerged regarding the relationship between CSOs and Local Government and the relative strength of CSOs in aid delivery, as well as some of the limitations. Firstly, there are still immediate and severe needs within communities that cannot be met by governments and the overall view was that CSOs can, and must, step in to provide direct service delivery. It was also agreed that CSOs add value by provided software interventions, supporting monitoring and evaluation and providing a linkage for accountability. Overall there was consensus that CSOs need to recognize the limits of their own capacity and that modalities for collaboration and coordination between CSOs and Local Government need some improvement.

People with disabilities were well-represented at the event, and gave clear voice to their concerns around WASH access.

“There are gaps in the inclusion of people with disabilities in WASH. At a village committee level there needs to be a representative with a disability so that they can highlight those issues. We have policies in place at a national level for WASH [in Zimbabwe], but disability is not mentioned. My request to decision makers is to please include people with disabilities from the water point, to the village, to the district and right through to the national level. No-one is representing the aspirations of people with disabilities and WASH must cater for everyone.” - Ishmael Zhou, Federation of Disabled People of Zimbabwe.

Several common themes and cross-cutting concerns for CSO collaboration with Government were identified throughout the week. These topics include the importance of the political dimension and its influence on decision-making, the need for improvements in transparency and accountability and the significant impact of economic conditions and resource constraints. Ensuring adequate financing for water and sanitation services through taxes, tariffs and transfers was discussed, with particular emphasis on building culture of tariff payment and collection in Southern Africa.

“We cannot afford to ignore the current community mindset which does not acknowledge the need to pay for WASH services. Without addressing this, we will not be in a position to retrieve adequate funding for improved levels of service delivery.” - Ben Henson, WASH Consultant, Zimbabwe.

Over 80 attendees, from civil society organisations (CSOs), local governments, ministries and aid donors, gathered in Harare in May 2015 to discuss cooperation between Civil Society Organisations and Government in providing sustainable WASH services. The event focused on participatory learning, facilitating the sharing of ideas, lessons and experiences. Thematic areas and critical issues for CSOs working with local government were covered over the four days with discussion groups, presentations, panel discussions and field trips.

It is hoped that that the lessons and dialogue from this event will contribute to the further strengthening of the CSO-Government relationships given their importance to both achieving and sustaining WASH interventions.

Click here for the full report including summaries of the key sessions, outcomes, lessons learned and case studies.