SACOSAN 10th Inter-Country Working Group meeting

Sanitation has become the most challenging social service priority in the South Asian Region. Globally, one in three household lack proper sanitation as reported in the final assessment of MDG Goal 7 target 7.8 evaluation.

In 2003, South Asian countries met in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for the first ever major conference on sanitation. The South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) is viewed as a great opportunity to inspire grass root level activists and to mobilize political will in narrowing the sanitation gap in the region.

SACOSAN’s influence has spread to the other regions in the world and as a result, similar movements have been established such as EASAN for East Asia, AFRICASAN for Africa and LATINOSAN for the South America.

In addition, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh conduct their own national conferences for sanitation namely PAKOSAN, INDOSAN and BANGLASAN, so SAN is a well-known brand name in the region to promote the importance of sanitation through mobilizing commitment of stakeholders including the government, political, civil society private sectors and donors.

SACOSAN collaborates with SAARC countries to accelerate progress in ensuring access to adequate sanitation in the region. SACOSAN started in 2003 with the realization that a large number of un-served people lacking proper sanitation are living in South Asia.

At the first SACOSAN held in 2003 in Bangladesh, SACOSAN was declared to be introduced to SAARC countries in the South Asian region as a process in order to review progress achieved in the sanitation sector in each country.

With the realization that there was a large number of un-served people living in South Asia, SACOSAN used as the platform for resolving regional sanitation issues. This is a biennial, government-led process and is attended by relevant ministries of the governments of South Asia.

The conferences have been able to mobilize political will, donor support and commitment of all stakeholders in mobilizing resources to address one of the pressing issues of South Asia.

SACOSANs have been a great platform for governments, regional partners, support agencies, practitioners and professional agencies to engage in constructive dialogue and in agreeing commitments and collective effort to foster regional collaboration in pursuit of meeting the sanitation challenge in the region.

The outcomes of much significance from these conferences have been recommendations emerging from the deliberations which were then embodied in Ministerial Declarations to add the weight required for political commitment and action for moving ahead.

The overall goal of the SACOSAN process is to accelerate the progress of sanitation and hygiene work in South Asia so as to enhance its peoples’ quality of life in fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals and the commitments made in the World Summit on Sustainable Development Objectives.

SACOSAN’S objectives are to review the progress made in implementation of the Delhi Declaration of the 3rd South Asian Conference on Sanitation (held in 2008 in India), to reiterate political commitment in each country of the region for furthering the sanitation agenda, to facilitate development of country-specific as well as regional frameworks for sanitation, to share experiences and lessons learnt in sanitation and hygiene promotion and to increase the outreach of sanitation agenda in the region.

After the 4th SACOAN held in in Colombo, Sri Lanka has been able to give a new impetus to the SACOSAN process by adopting a Terms of Reference for the Inter-Country Working Group (ICWG) represented by Country Focal Points of the eight countries of the region.

Sri Lanka received further recognition at the 5th SACOSAN hosted by Nepal in 2013 as heads of country delegation who signed the Kathmandu Declaration said they welcomed the offer of Sri Lanka to host the SACOSAN Secretariat and act as a resource, knowledge and learning centre on sanitation and hygiene facilitating coordination and capacity development in South Asia.

Establishment of the South Asia Regional Center for Sanitation was reaffirmed by the the ministerial declaration at the 6th SACOSAN held in Bangladesh in 2016 and a commitment was made to promote continual learning and sharing of experiences and innovations between and within countries by various mechanisms including a functional and dynamic SACOSAN Secretariat in Sri Lanka by 2018 and an ICWG with an expanded role to enhance knowledge exchange and learning between meetings, relevant research and development, appropriate use of information technology and traditional and new forms of media.

This center will provide the platform for Sri Lankan professionals to engage with their regional partners to improve sanitation and thereby enhance the quality of life of the people in the region as a whole and share across other regions.

As a result, the Cabinet of ministers approved the proposal by the Ministry of City Planning and Water Supply to establish ‘The South Asia Regional Centre for Sanitation under the SACOSAN banner to extend regional cooperation amongst SAARC countries and to honour the trust placed upon the Ministry of CP and WS by the regional partners.

Key functions to be performed by the centre are to act as the secretariat for the ICWG, knowledge management and networking across all SANs, Secretariat to support the framework of sanitation for SAARC. In addition, a more ambitious long-term vision is to develop a faculty of excellence in promoting safely managed sanitation across the region to meet sustainable development goals. 

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