Ghana Coalition Of NGO's In The Water & Sanitation Sector (CONIWAS)

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Ghana Coalition Of NGO's In The Water & Sanitation Sector (CONIWAS)
CONIWAS Secretariat Christ home avenue, Oil lane intersection, BLK 29 Hse.No.205 Kinsby roundabout-New Achimota. Accra-Ghana , Accra
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Establishment year 1998
Employees 1-5


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The Emergence and Influence of a Civil Society Network

Emergence of a CSO Platform:
In 1989, WaterAid, in collaboration with its local partners, organised a national conference in the Mole game reserve to bring together policy makers and practitioners in the water and sanitation sector. The objectives were to create a forum for debate on sector issues; and to build the capacity of partner organisations in assembling and articulating their experiences and ideas. The category of participants over the years included regional and national representatives of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies; Civil servants and political leaders at national and sub-national levels such as Ministers responsible for water and sanitation, district chief executives; donors, local and International NGOs; and more importantly community representatives. The first conference was a success and subsequent conferences have been held on an annual basis ever since. As the first and only forum for debate on sector in Ghana, it has run for 20 years, gained credibility, built new constituents locally and within the region, engaged in continental and global influencing work.

Strategic thinking and decisions were reached by the local NGOs/CSOs to transform the Mole series into a national forum with a functional secretariat owned by them, with the aim of strengthening the ability of NGOs to effectively engage with a wider audience in support of pro-poor initiatives. This resulted in a proposal for the formation of an NGO coalition being made by NGO participants at Mole XII. Essentially, it was noted that the absence of a common front for NGOs in the sector was “a major set back to their ability to positively influence policy and advocate for changes to tenets that impact negatively on hygiene, water and sanitation for rural people”.

Autonomy and CSO Voice:
In May 2003 the coalition was formally constituted hence the theme for the next Mole Conference was “Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation – Consolidating our Partnership. At the conference, NGOs agreed the structure, vision and mandate for the forum, and the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) was formally launched.

In 2004, CONIWAS formed an interim administration, with an interim voluntary Executive Secretary and a Chairman who was elected for two years. Key staff are in place – Executive Secretary, Zonal Coordinators to ensure good links with all regions. The Executive Secretary and Executive Committee together make up a very strong team that should be able generate critical information for use by public and private sector actors. The Coalition has since been strengthening and supported to establish its offices with consistent technical advice from different organizations. A strategic planning process spearheaded by CONIWAS members culminated in a five-year strategic plan with an abridged version of the plan purposely targeting ‘busy’ donors who have responded significantly.

Governance structures
The Coalition holds it self to account by putting in place good governance structures such as a code of ethics, holding regular Executive Council meetings and reporting to all members at regular Annual General Meetings (AGM). Its membership has grown over the years from a humble 24 in 2003 to 60 in 2012 cutting across all 10 regions of Ghana with representation from community based organisations in poor and marginalized communities.

Key partners who have been instrumental to the Coalition’s present status, as well as supporting its high performance over the years include but not limited to: WaterAid, DANIDA, EU, Unicef, CIDA, and USAID/ARD, the World Bank, among others.

Our Value-added Role:
The WASH sector - nationally and regionally has gone through some changes over the years and CONIWAS has played a critical role in the process. In Ghana particularly, when the sector was becoming more crystalised with formation of a Water Directorate whose way of working required non-state actors. CONIWAS brought a civil society perspective to the thinking in the Directorate through its members operating at different levels and in all the regions.

By far, one of its resounding support is around profiling sanitation first through series of Mole conferences dedicated to sanitation, and further emphasized in regional sanitation dialogues. The outcomes include policy documents developed at national level and influencing work at Continental for a like Africasan+ Conference in Durban.

CONIWAS’ support to the sector at various levels has culminated in it present visibility and credibility to the extent that its members are serving at the most strategic levels to improve sector governance: for instance serving on Boards of Community Water and Sanitation Agency, Water Resources Commission; African Civil Society Network on Water (ANEW), member of National Task Force on Sanitation, National Advisory Committee on Urban Water Reforms, a lead organisation in the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Assessment Processes. The Coalition is central to all decision making on the sector on the basis of its provision of platforms consistently for over 20 years for CSOs to use their voices. This is the foundation for its legitimacy and participation in sector governance. This status has enhanced its role at the regional level with ANEW by influencing African Union, African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) and others.

The Coalition is considering a number of future initiatives which is including constituency building, and strengthening skills of members and to bridge information gaps. Another unique creation planned for the coming years is the formation of thematic groups with a mix of skills and expertise to respond rapidly to issues related to thematic areas in order to maximize human and material resources. The sustainability of CONIWAS working at different levels and with different actors to keep its mission of influencing policies and removing barriers in order to promote access to water and sanitation for poor and vulnerable communities.

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