Day 1 - Looking back on an inspiring WASH Futures Conference 2016

Day 1 - Looking back on an inspiring WASH Futures Conference 2016

From 16 to 20 May, SNV attended the international WASH Futures Conference 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. The conference focused on pathways to universal and sustained water, sanitation & hygiene. Read our advisors blogs below to get an idea of all that was discussed and concluded during the Futures conference.

Blog day 1

There were over 400 delegates from every corner of the globe talking about water, sanitation and hygiene “pathways” towards achieving universal access and the SDGs. The opening plenary was memorable and Don Blackmore's message set the scene as it drew on the scale of the examples of the Nile, the Ganges and the Murray Darling being that “we all live in a catchment, we all have to manage risk”.

With six parallel themes this year – Services Levels and Sustainability (WASH Management; Financing and Ensuring WASH reaches all), Moving WASH Beyond the Household, Integrating Hygiene to ensure Health Outcomes and WASH and Water Security, the participants then joined two series of 6 parallel sessions. Tough choices had to be made.

As a co-facilitator for the Hygiene stream it was encouraging to see the full room for the first thematic session on “changing hygiene behaviours through designs”. Key points from the presentations included:

  • The increasing evidence for the move from health messaging alone to include different drivers and motivators.  For example, social norms, habit forming and community pride.

  • Involvement of government and importance of this for scalability, being an area for greater attention.

  • How much formative research is needed?

  • If there different drivers for each behaviour then do we need different target interventions for all of these behaviours?  In the case of Nepal consistency across different messengers was important

  • Use of qualitative research can be used to assess outcomes/effectiveness of BCC interventions, when quantitative data (e.g. reduction of diarrhea) is not available or patchy/not good.

In the afternoon session, the strengthening enabling environments stream in relation to sanitation included research presented by Henry Northover, Wateraid. This drew on the experiences of the Asian tiger economies and included for example Singapore and South Korea to ask what can be learnt from their rapid progress and clear leadership. Virak Chan, WSP shared examples of evidence based learnings and innovations from BCC from Asia again, including Vietnam, Cambodia and the “unlimited” campaign in the Philippines.  I presented on behalf of Petra Rautavuoma and the teams in Nepal and Bhutan in terms of the practical experiences of area wide sanitation government led programming as part of Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A), including the need to look beyond ODF towards a vision for universal coverage. Finally Kumi, ISF and Fany Wedahuditama (BAPPENAS) shared experiences from Indonesia using examples of sanitation planning and the need t think along ether whole service chain.

At the same time in the adjacent room the session focused on “to subsidise or not to subsidise” included research on the effects of OBA subsidies and sanitation marketing in Cambodia, which generated lots of discussion, online and over coffee. The closing plenary featured “The Big Debate: Is the water SDG an opportunity or an unachievable task?”. The debaters included Duncan Mara (University of Leeds), Ian Ross (OPM), Louise Whiting (WaterAid) and Stuart Bunn (Griffith University). The opposing team set the stage with Duncan questioning the reality of the numbers, "If the MDGs required 200,000 people a day to gain access to improved sanitation and the SDGs requires 600,000 people a day to gain access to safely managed sanitation are they not lofty and admirable? Further, if you now have 169 targets then you may as well not have any at all." The audience joined in for the “for” team and challenged the very need for the question including Catarina de Alburquerques’ perhaps most tweeted and passionate response against nostalgia for the MDGs limited amount of targets “the MDGs were a paracetemol for the pain, the SDGs are the reality check”, "We shouldn’t be asking IF the SDGs are achievable, we need to roll up our sleeves and do it”.

Recordings of all the presentations and the key notes from the conference will be made available online at http://watercentre.org/services/events/wash2016.