SACOSAN II Helps Renew Regional Commitment to Improved Sanitation

South Asian leaders have called for inter-governmental cooperation to ensure hygiene and sanitation for all in the region at the Second South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN II) held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 20 and 21, 2006. Top sector leaders from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan adopted the Islamabad Declaration. The declaration reaffirmed their commitment and political will to achieve targets of basic sanitation and the Dhaka Declaration of 2003 to improve sanitation, and related health and environment conditions for millions of people in the region. Water and Sanitation Program- South Asia (WSP-SA) assisted with the design of the conference program, facilitation of a country paper from Cambodia, arranging technical side-sessions on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Moreover, it helped media professionals on sanitation issues, design and manage curtain-raiser and support a meeting of the Heads of Delegations to discuss the formulation, develop a terms-of-reference for an Inter-Country Working Group. The conference was supported by UNICEF, DFID, Water Aid, Mercy Corps, UNDP and WSP-SA among others.

Pakistan Adopts National Sanitation Policy:
Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan, who hosted SACOSAN II, took the opportunity to announce its National Sanitation Policy, and this was later approved by the Cabinet of the Government of Pakistan. The policy sets out broad sanitation standards well integrated with other environment sectors, and by the year 2025 is expected to benefit about 58 percent of the 155 million that at present have no access to sanitation facilities. WSP-SA supported the Ministry of Environment at all stages of conceptualizing, developing and finalizing the strategy.

An Engagement with Media:
As part of SACOSAN II, WSP-SA, along with the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and other partners, supported development of a platform for journalists. More than thirty media professionals from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan participated. The goal was to create a platform for journalists to learn more about the depth of sanitation and water issues and to further enlarge the network of journalists who write on development issues, especially sanitation. Field visits, organized to select sites in Pakistan, showcasing water and sanitation initiatives, helped broaden perspectives on sanitation challenges and needs. This helped bring forth focused media coverage on sanitation issues. Apart from the exposure gained to regional and global issues facing the sector, the initiative provided networking opportunities for journalists to share story ideas and critique each other’s work. A major expected outcome of the journalists meeting is the revival of the dormant Pakistan Forum for Environmental Journalists (PFEJ),- a loose network of environmental journalists in Pakistan. WSP-SA in its role of a facilitator will organize discussions and contribute towards creating platforms in its efforts towards re-invigorating PFEJ.

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