Interview with Alana Potter, co-drafter of the Africa Sanitation Policy Guidelines.
Stream of water pouring into children's hands in southern Burkina Faso. Photo: Jadwiga Figula / Getty Images
"Good policy with political ownership and leadership is the lynchpin and the lodestar of governance; of an enabling environment", says Alana Potter, a former IRC staff member and associate, now working as a Senior Policy Analyst at WaterAid.
The Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene defines clear, achievable commitments intended to deliver dignity and equity in sanitation and hygiene in Africa by 2030. The 2015 Ngor Declaration is a successor to the eThekwini Declaration (2008), and an assessment of the progress in honouring the commitments of both declarations over the last decade, it reveals a strong predication of an enabling environment as the lynchpin for progress. Good policy with political ownership and leadership were affirmed as key to creating an enabling environment necessary to meet sanitation and hygiene commitments.
The African Sanitation Policy Guidelines (ASPG) is an initiative of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), based on research on Africa’s sanitation and hygiene policies and legislation in 2019. The study reveals gaps in laws and policies, which negatively impact sanitation service delivery, foster inequalities in sanitation service delivery and complicate financial resource allocation. The ASPG provides African governments guidance on the policy development process, vision, objectives and principles and addresses the hygiene and sanitation behaviour change; institutional arrangements; regulation; capacity development; funding, and monitoring, evaluation, and reviews elements of a clear and comprehensive sanitation policy to guide national sanitation and hygiene improvements. The Guidelines provide advice on the process and suggested contents of a sanitation policy for policy makers in national and subnational governments and other stakeholders involved in supporting policy reform initiatives and developing implementation strategies.
Implementing the ASPG guidelines offers African governments the opportunity to develop a policy and an implementation plan that aligns efforts and to mobilise the required resources and investments. It provides a tool to galvanise and communicate in order to generate political support and increase prioritisation of sanitation and hygiene in the public and private sector.
Evidence affirms that for every 1 dollar spent on sanitation, countries can save up to 5 dollars in healthcare and lost income from tourism. By developing and implementing sanitation policies, governments will therefore build their economies and strengthen public and environmental health.
The ASPG guidelines can help governments build the institutional strength and public trust required to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, by developing policies, plans and budgets, leading multi-stakeholder processes, and prioritising and allocating the resources needed to meet their human rights and public health obligations. Policy clarity now will build the resilience needed to tackle future global health and climate crises.
WASH sector practitioners, partners and governments should popularise these guidelines far and wide, use them, adapt them, pilot them, and suggest improvements. In addition, IRC could create WASH academy learning modules from them.
After the country consultations, the drafting team engaged twice face-to-face before lockdown and conceptualised the ASPG. The structure of the different sections and of the overall document went through many iterations, as this kind of work does. From there they worked on different sections and commented on each other’s work. The ASPG went through 5 or 6 rounds of detailed comment and review with different stakeholder groups because the drafters felt that the more sector stakeholders at all levels engaged with the material, the more ownership they would have, and the better the product would be. All five drafters discussed each comment in the entire document, online, together, in each of these reviews. The drafter leading a particular section got to make the call on how to address the comment and feedback and everyone kept track in an Excel document. Dr Amaka Godfrey, as the Lead Consultant, managed an extremely thorough and rigorous process. We had excellent editorial assistance from IRC board member Clarissa Brocklehurst. Finally, each drafter reviewed the entire Guideline. It took years, a lot of updated project plans, and at least one budget revision!
Additional information is available in the useful links and resources below.
Interview by Vera van der Grift and review by Cor Dietvorst and Tettje van Daalen