On the 21st of August, at Stockholm Water Week, the governments of Malawi and South Sudan announced the launch of Presidential Compacts on Water and Sanitation. This builds on an initiative in 2022 by the Government of the Netherlands, together with IRC WASH, SWA and UNICEF, to directly engage heads of state in the drive to prioritise action on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). According to Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), Presidential Compacts on water and sanitation mark a significant step forward in improving public health, ending open defecation, and increasing climate resiliency. SWA is a broad, multi-stakeholder partnership of governments and their partners from civil society, the private sector, UN agencies, research and learning institutions and the philanthropic community which has worked for many years to coordinate international action around access to WASH.
In the context of the first UN Water Conference in 46 years, the compacts initiative served to call for attention for water issues at the highest political level, and Presidential Compacts represent achievement of this attention. The Compacts are also an accountability mechanism, as they build upon clear commitments that encompass increased budget allocations, innovative sources of financing, and comprehensive plans for the construction of vital water and sanitation infrastructure. SWA has announced that for those actors which make commitments at the international level , it is willing to provide the monitoring services to report to the international community about aggregate progress on these global goals.
In the case of the Malawi and South Sudan commitments, the following engagements have been made: in the case of Malawi, in support of the $145 million in funding received from the World Bank, the Compact will provide a blueprint for rebuilding water and sanitation infrastructure and enhancing climate resiliency following the devastation from Cyclone Freddy. In the case of South Sudan, the country has earmarked $56 million – equivalent to nearly 2% of the country’s GDP – to bolster their Compact strategies, which include empowering communities to end open defecation by 2030. Sudan has also promised to expedite the passing of Water Bill 2014 to ensure a safe water supply.
Additionally, Nigeria announced its intention to serve as a Compact mentor, providing its expertise in engaging Heads of State to ensure the prioritization of water and sanitation.
Speaking at the launch event, Catarina de Albuquerque, CEO of SWA said: “To achieve water and sanitation for all by 2030, we’ll need a roughly six-fold increase in current rates of progress worldwide. However, we won’t get there without ambition, action and accountability from Presidents and Prime Ministers. Clean water and sanitation are fundamental human rights and essential for achieving secure stable resilient futures for every country. These Compacts demonstrate a collective commitment to transforming the lives of millions.”
Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director, Programmes for UNICEF, stated: "Empowering children with access to safe water and sanitation is not just a commitment, but a testament to a brighter, healthier future. As governments unite in their pledge to increase access to these basic necessities, we provide not only access to safe water services and sanitation, but bridges to a world where children can thrive without the risk of waterborne disease or compromise their learning or safety while collecting water."