Sacosan VI set to tackle sanitation in Asia

The latest Sacosan conference will bring together ministers and sector experts to accelerate continental progress on sanitation, hygiene and equity

The sixth South Asia Conference on Sanitation (Sacosan-VI) – the region’s leading water and sanitation hygiene (WASH) forum – is taking place in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka from 11-13 January, 2016.

Supported by the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and held on a rotational basis in each member state, Sacosan is a biennial gathering that provides a critical platform for governments and key stakeholders in South Asia to develop a regional agenda and action plans on sanitation. Under the banner ‘Better Sanitation, Better Life’ the three-day conference aims to accelerate progress on sanitation and hygiene promotion in South Asia, and thus enhance the quality of people’s lives.

“While the proportion of people using improved sanitation in South Asia has increased significantly over the past decade, over a billion people in the region still lack access to adequate sanitation,” says Chris Williams, WSSCC’s Executive Director.

“Sacosan-VI is thus a key forum for discussing the region’s water and sanitation hygiene (WASH) sector accomplishments, sharing experiences and exchanging ideas. But it is also a great opportunity to examine the challenges South Asia face as it journeys into the Sustainable Development Goals era, particularly the challenges wrought by climate change, socio-economic development and increasing inequality.”

Launched in Bangladesh in 2003, subsequent Sacosan conferences have been held in Pakistan (2006), India (2008), Sri Lanka (2011) and Nepal (2013), all of which have helped to generate an increasing political will towards better sanitation in South Asia.

More than 500 delegates and participants from the Saarc countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are due to attend Sacosan-VI.

Attendees will include ministers, parliamentarians, senior government officials, donors and representatives of civil society organisations, as well as unilateral and bilateral organisations, local and international NGOs, research institutions, academics, media, private sector and community members actively engaged in the promotion of sanitation and hygiene services in their respective countries.

The conference aims to develop increased knowledge, in-depth learning and practical solutions that address common Wash challenges in South Asia, especially on universal access to, and use of, sanitation and hygiene. The emphasis will be on behaviour change across whole communities, particularly people in the hard-to-reach areas, institutions and public places. The main objectives of Sacosan-VI are:

  • Achieve an ODF South Asia by 2023 through improvement of policy frameworks, increase financing, strengthening implementation and monitoring strategies for sanitation and hygiene, with a special focus on marginalized groups.
  • Contribute to increased knowledge, deepened learning and practical solutions to address the common challenges in South Asia, especially on universal access to, and use of, sanitation and hygiene, emphasising behaviour change across whole communities, especially among the hardest to reach (in their homes, institutions and public places).
  • Develop the strategic direction for future Sacosans by reviewing the achievements and learning of past Sacosans.
  • Conduct deliberations in the context of national, regional and global priorities in relation to the post-2015 environment.

Sacosan-VI will include a variety of plenary sessions and side events, an exhibition area and visits to local cultural sites, including the Bangabandhu Museum, which commemorates the founding leader of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. By the end of the conference a declaration on its commitments – the ‘Dhaka Declaration’ – will be drafted by the participating South Asian countries. The conference will then be followed by two days of field visits to successful initiatives run by the Bangladeshi government and its development partners.

The conference will also feature a review of the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) achievements and identify the challenges facing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The aim is to use a critique of the MDGs and SDGs to develop a ‘Smart’ regional plan for formulating policy and strategy, which includes ideas on technology for hard to reach areas, school sanitation, hygiene promotion for poor communities, urban sanitation, collaboration and alliances at national, regional and international level, and monitoring mechanisms for hygiene and sanitation at national and regional level.

This article was originally published on the WSSCC Guardian development blog.

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