In 2012 the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) launched the ‘Commitment for Africa’ initiative (COMMIT) to strengthen civil society actors in Africa and to promote stronger commitment among civil society actors in Germany. The conference ‘Collective Action: Reducing shared water risk to support sustainable growth’, which will be convening by the Tanzanian Minitry of Water and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH from 28 – 30 May 2013 in Dar es Salaam, on is one of the pilot activities under this initiative. It seeks to strengthen the role of Civil Society in engaging and cooperating with the private sector by catalysing new engagements to overcome shared water risks.
In order to strengthen the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and Non-governmental Organisations (NGO) as such and in their important role and contributions towards the conference, groups of representatives of CSOs and NGOs from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia met for preparatory workshops in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (8th and 9th of April of 2013) and Kampala, Uganda (11th and 12th in April 2013).
The two stakeholder meetings were independently organised and facilitated by BORDA, financed via the GIZ conference budget.
The aim of the workshops was to prepare for the conference and to pre-discuss CSO/NGO roles and requirements in potential future collaborative action on water-related risk management in cooperation with the private and / or public sector.
Over 40 organisations were identified and invited to this stakeholder process. Invitations were coordinated with the three members of a small advisory committee, based in the represented countries. The two workshops were attended by 29 persons representing 27 organisations working on water resource management, WASH and environmental issues.
The overall group is very diverse and represents:
Community Based Organisations (CBOs) living in and thus representing themselves and their community to deal with common issues for their specific community. CBO’s not necessarily have a legal status and most of what they do is voluntary work.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) can be CBOs or for instance women’s, youth or indigenous peoples organisations – they are distinguished from others because of WHO they are. They are representing themselves and their major group, mandated through democratic or traditional processes to deal with common issues of their major group. They also not always have a legal status and most of their work is voluntary.
NGOs and public benefit organisations (PBO) are thematic, usually expertise-based organisations that facilitate advocacy, empowerment and expertise and knowledge-sharing in a specific area, disperse or use funding to create enabling environments and they may have a mandate to act on behalf of CSOs. They have a legal status and mainly consist of paid professionals.
During the preparatory workshops, participants lively discussed the following topics: a) who are we and what do we bring to the table? b) What is Water Stewardship? c) Water profiles of the countries, water scarcity and security issues. d) Projects examples from within the group that feature coordinated action from NGO/ CSOs, business and government. e) Good and bad results and lessons learned. f) Potential roles of CSOs and NGOs in the conference and in following engagement processes. g) CSOs’ amd NGOs’ requirements to fulfil these roles. h) Nominations for speakers and presenters during the conference.
Nine sample projects served as study cases of which five project examples were identified to be presented at the conference i.e. one regional project (Lake Victoria, Tanzania and Uganda) and projects from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. All of them involve the CSO, business and government sectors in different ways.
The concept of water stewardship met with enthusiasm and interest. CBOs, CSOs and NGOs see an added value and want to pursue the concept further in the very near future. Stewardship is about taking care of something that one does not own. Stewardship approaches that focus on the management of public goods like forests, fisheries or, in this case, freshwater resources, are based on the premise that we are all accountable for the sustainable management of those valuable resources. Stewardship thus is based on collective responses and actions, multi stakeholder engagement and collective decision-making on equal footing. Stewardship action needs to be based on informed choices, common understanding and respecting the role(s) that individuals, representatives and organizations have to and can play. Basic principles such as clear commitments, information exchange and – disclosure, balancing interests of stakeholder groups have to be on the basis of every engagement.
The different roles and responsibilities of NGOs and CSOs were identified: inter alia connecting people and organizations and building trust among them; getting to the “root” of the problem; facilitating decision-making; planning and implementation processes; making information accessible and understandable; facilitate informed choices (and prevent “myth” and “feels” to be leading); monitor and play the “watch dog”. Stakeholders have common but differentiated responsibilities and roles. But finally, “Water” is the business of all - of “duty bearer” and right-holder alike.
Findings, recommendations and projects from the preparatory process serve as inputs for the conference at large and in the different sessions.