Providing people with access to essential services such as water and sanitation demands a combination of solutions in the face of a wide range of problems. These include the need to rehabilitate obsolete infrastructure and grow existing networks, the more or less unplanned nature of urban development, population growth, climatic variations, water-borne disasters, the price of water, lack of specific sectoral policies, maintenance challenges, and so on. As well as purely technical solutions, NGOs today increasingly view the governance of water and sanitation as a fundamental condition for establishing lasting access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the people their projects are designed to benefit.
For the UNDP, ‘governance comprises the complex mechanism, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their institutions, mediate their differences, and exercise their legal rights and obligations.’ The actors involved are not only local authorities, but include members of civil society and the private sector.
Action contre la Faim is an important actor in the combat for access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the developing countries where it works. Since 2006, ACF has been examining the issue of water governance and the right to water through a range of measures that include research, advocacy and communication. Several research projects have been carried out, leading to a master’s thesis on the right to water in Mali in 20072, a publication and accompanying training DVD on the right to water in emergencies in 2009, a PhD thesis on the right to water as a weapon for civil society in South Africa in 2012, a further paper on the same topic published by AFD, also in 2012, and a master’s thesis on water governance in the Philippines in 2013.