South Asian Ministers to Meet in Islamabad at SA Conference on Sanitation

The Ministry of Climate Change of Pakistan has made arrangements to host the 7th South Asian Conference on Sanitation and it will be attended by governments of the SAARC regions along with donor community ,development partners civil society, private sector community based organizations, researchers, professionals schools children and grassroots activists.

SACOSAN (South Asian Conference on Sanitation) is a government led biennial Convention held on a rotational basis in each SAARC country which provides a platform for interaction on sanitation.  SACOSANs are intended to develop a Regional Agenda on Sanitation, enabling learning from the past experiences and setting actions for the future. The SACOSAN process is instrumental in generating the political will for better sanitation in the Region.

Sanitation has become the most challenging social service priority in the South Asian Region. 1 in 3 people worldwide lack adequate sanitation facilities. The total population practicing open defection in Asia exceeds 700 million.   In 2003 South Asian countries met in Dhaka Bangladesh for the first ever major conference on sanitation. Realization that the South Asian Conference on Sanitation is a great opportunity to inspire grass root level activists and to mobilize political will in narrowing the sanitation gap in the region. SACOSAN influenced has spread to the other regions in the world and as a results 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 know brand name in the region to promote the importance sanitation through mobilizing commitment of stakeholders including government, political, civil society private sector and donors.

The process of South Asian Conference on Sanitation SACOSAN is the Collaboration amongst 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 South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) held in 2003 in Bangladesh declared that SACOSAN 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 large number of un-served people living in South Asia SACOSAN used as the plat form for resolving regional sanitation issues. This is a biennial government led process and attended by relevant ministries of the governments of South Asia. First conference was organized in Bangladesh in 2003, second in Islamabad Pakistan in 2006 and third in 2008 in Delhi, India. 4th in Sri Lanka, 5th in Nepal and SACOSAN has returned to Bangladesh in 2016 to host the 6th conference. The conference has 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.

The SACOSANs have been a great platform for the 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 objective of such conferences is to accelerate the progress in sanitation and hygiene promotion in South Asia and to enhance the quality of people's lives. In order to evaluate the progress in SACOSAN, the Inter Country Working Group (ICWG) has been established in the Region, to maintain a dialogue and thrust on fulfilling thecommitments made at every conference .

The Minister of City Planning and Water Supply Hon Rauff Hakeem will lead a delegation of 35 Sri Lankans representing key stakeholders engaged in improving sanitation in Sri Lanka including government , civil society, donors national experts and community organizations, to participate in the SACOSAN VII in Pakistan. The conference will be held from 10th to 14th April 2018 and Sri Lankan professional will engaged in conducting technical session on Financing Sanitation. The session will be chaired by Hon Rauff Hakeem and 4 research papers on financing sanitation will be presented for discussion. New challenges have emerged in the financing of sanitation with the commitment to achieve universal access to safely managed sanitation under the Sustainable Development Goals.   Investment decisions on sanitation has to depend on many factors as there is no clear picture on the existing situation unlike water supply

On the 13th of April a ministerial summit with the participation of sector ministers of the SAARC region will be held to sign the Islamabad declaration on agreed commitments based on the outcomes of the conference deliberation over the past 3 days. The South Asian countries take every efforts to implement the commitments made at the conference in the next few years until the next SACOSAN conference at which progress on implementation will be reviewed by all stakeholders including political authority.