Agenda For Change initiative

Posted on 18/01/2016 by Harold Lockwood

What is the Agenda For Change, or A4C?

The period spanning the Millennium Development Goals that ended in 2015 brought important momentum and focus on the sector and, at least superficially, impressive progress in water supply; for example since 1990, the number of countries with less than 50% coverage of improved drinking water has decreased from 23 to 3. However, when we dig deeper the picture looks much less positive and many countries still face a major struggle to deliver continuous, even basic levels of services to everyone all the time.

As well as this failure in sustaining water services, one in ten people globally still lack even first time access to improved drinking water sources; that is around 663 million of us. The sanitation challenge is far worse, with one in three (2.4 billion) people still lacking improved sanitation facilities and one in eight people (around 946 million) practicing open defecation. It is shocking and indeed shameful that in 2015, at the end of the MDGs, 47 countries have less than 50% coverage of improved sanitation.

Simply put, despite a joint set of goals to work towards, decades of investment and the efforts and good will of many thousands of organisations and individuals, we have in many respects failed to meet the goals for water and sanitation. We are on the cusp of a new set of development goals - and goal 6 in particular – which are far-reaching and rightfully ambitious. However, the hard lessons of the last two decades now call for a radical re-assessment of how we can achieve them and in turn how we understand the complex environments in which we work.

A4C is therefore a collaborative response of WaterAid, IRC, Water For People, Aguaconsult and Osprey Foundation (and others) to the challenge of the SDGs. It is a response to the persistent failure of existing approaches to aid – and national investments - in the WASH sector.  A4C is an approach, in common with other efforts such as the SWA partnership’s, to working in the WASH sector and to framing the delivery of aid; it aims to:

• Progressively achieve universal access of sustained services – for everyone, everywhere, forever – at the fastest pace consistent with effective and fully sustainable service delivery;
• Take a systems approach to WASH, going beyond the provision of infrastructure only, and supporting national systems and the enabling environment at all levels;
• Support national  government at all levels to be the leader and driver of this vision;.

A4C is not a  new organization, and is not intended to supplant SWA or existing national platforms or coordination groups.  Rather, it is a mechanism for helping to demonstrate in practice and model the collaborative behaviours of the SWA.

A4C will build up from district and country experience. We believe that driving from the district up, is one key way to build a strong foundation for success.  Importantly, this differentiates A4C from other initiatives that have taken a top-down, sign-the-pledge, type of approach.

A4C is a network not a legal entity; rather A4C is an approach to working in the sector and acts as a network of like-minded groups. Its aim is to build and share collective understanding, not to usurp existing brands and signs up to a common set of principles.

A4C will not look the same in each country, but it will share some common characterizes. National collaborations will look different, especially in relation to the role played by the government and the existing WASH coordination and network bodies. In some countries governance is so weak and fragmented that it is difficult to see collaboration, as described, being able to work effectively, so it is recognized that this is not a solution that is currently applicable in for every context .

At the international level, A4C will seek to create a ‘virtual hub’, to provide a repository of learning and technical support, and to help advocate as a group.