UN 2023 Water Conference: African Heads of State lead from front; announce ‘presidential compacts’ on water, sanitation

Ethiopia makes commitment to revise the loan policy and directives to accommodate loan access for water, sanitation  

By Zumbish
Published: Friday 24 March 2023
UN 2023 Water Conference: African Heads of State lead from the front; announce ‘presidential compacts’ on water, sanitation
African Heads of State with the King of the Netherlands, Wilhelm Alexander. Photo: @CatarinadeAlbuq / Twitter African Heads of State with the King of the Netherlands, Wilhelm Alexander. Photo: @CatarinadeAlbuq / Twitter

African Heads of State committed to five new Presidential Compacts or commitments at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York City on March 23, 2023.

The pledges were one of several potentially game-changing commitments on the penultimate day of the conference that could equip countries with data on the state of their water resources.

The vision behind the move — that took place in the global event’s second session — is to accelerate access to water and sanitation services, which includes increasing budget allocations, reducing open defecation and delivering climate-resilient services.

The announcement took place at a meeting hosted by the Netherlands, a co-host of the UN Water Conference. UNICEF, the UN-hosted Sanitation and Water for All global partnership (SWA), and think-tank IRC WASH were other conveners of the meeting.

Presidents Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana, George Manneh Weah of Liberia, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda and Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe together committed to the five Presidential Compacts.

‘Enlightened leadership’

Ethiopia, in east Africa committed to revise its loan policy and directives to accommodate loan access for water and sanitation for businesses and consumers.

It will also strengthen accountability among water and sanitation stakeholders (policymakers, service providers and the community) and development partners by establishing a strong accountability framework which aligns with the ONEWASH National Programme.

Ghana in west Africa pledged to establish a National Sanitation Authority, reduce inequalities in water and sanitation services, particularly in poor and rural communities, and make Ghana’s cities some of the cleanest in Africa.

Liberia, also in the west of the continent, will increase access to basic sanitation by ending open defecation, as well as create a unifying monitoring mechanism at all governance levels (national, county, district, and community) to improve institutional coordination.

Uganda, in the Great Lakes region, committed to increase public financing for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Zimbabwe, in the south of the continent, will create a State of Emergency on Water and Sanitation which will trigger budget and coordination prioritisation.

These commitments will also find support from the former four entities.

Catarina de Albuquerque, CEO of SWA said: “We are so pleased and encouraged to see these government leaders stepping up, committing, prioritising water and sanitation at the highest levels and taking action and accountability for the human rights to water and sanitation.”

She added that “the only way to make sustainable change is through the political prioritisation at the highest level that we see here today. SWA commits to mobilise our more than 350 partners to support and learn from these Presidential Compacts.”

Albuquerque said her organisation also hoped that these announcements will inspire other countries around the world.

Patrick Moriarty, chief executive of IRC WASH, saw the move as an inspiring example of political leadership.

“As an organisation, we have long championed the transformation of national systems to deliver the human right to safe water and sanitation for everyone, everywhere, and forever. Yet we also know that a truly transformative agenda for national systems strengthening can only follow visionary national leadership – from the highest political level,” he said.

Moriarty added that “what we have seen today in this room is an inspiring example of such visionary political leadership and we commit to follow and support it in whatever ways we can.” 

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