This years’ conference focused on the sustainability of WASH services post-2015, something that is on the mind of all SWIFT partners at the moment. It was interesting to hear from Andrew Cotton (ex-director of WEDC) that operation and maintenance was on the agenda of the very first WEDC UK conferences that he attended many years ago, and it still presents major challenges today.
WEDC is a great place to share learning openly and hear about practical options that you can try out in your programmes. Topics I enjoyed included scaling up rural sanitation, the use of ICT (information and communications technology) for water-sector monitoring, and the role of NGOs in supporting permanent institutions.
The evening session hosted by SWIFT and the other WASH Results Programme consortia on Payment by Results (PbR) caused a stir at the conference. It was the first time this topic had been aired at WEDC and it caused some lively debate. It was a shame that a timetable clash meant Robert Chambers couldn’t attend our session, as he is known for his outspoken views on PbR. I did catch him in a coffee break later though, and he seemed open to hearing about some of the pluses of the programme.
It was also great to see one of our partners, BBC Media Action, leading a capacity-development workshop on the use of media in WASH behaviour change.
The challenge for the WASH sector now is in thinking beyond the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be officially adopted next month. Peter Harvey from UNICEF suggested that tackling SDG 6 on WASH (‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’) will help achieve the other 16 SDGs. Another presenter added that the MDGs allowed us to pick the low-hanging fruit, but the SDGs are an opportunity to provide access for all. There’s a challenge for all of us.
The 39th WEDC International Conference will be held in Ghana, 11 – 15 July, 2016.
Read a presentation on future proofing rural water systems
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