WaterLex has completed a two-day workshop in Cotonou, Benin, 11-12 November, aimed at fostering dialogue that will result in a strategy of decentralised cooperation among the country’s municipalities for water and sanitation services. Such a strategy will serve the interest of vulnerable and marginalised people with respect to the human right to water and sanitation, adopted by the United Nations in 2010.

The workshop dialogues, along with the presentation of a paper based on the findings of a result field study, were the latest steps in the one-year project, established in February 2014.

“Taking into account the obligation of states to mobilise all available resources for the realisation of the human right to water and sanitation, there is an incentive for them to develop the mechanisms that will help create new partnerships, with a special focus on those municipalities that still do not benefit of the support of a decentralised cooperation partner,” said Jean Willemin, a field officer and Benin project coordinator for WaterLex.

Based on the principle of international cooperation among local actors, such as municipalities, enterprises and NGOs, the practise of decentralised cooperation is experiencing a rapid evolution in the field of water and sanitation. This has resulted from the creation of the Global Water Solidarity platform, a UN Development Programme initiative that fosters technical exchanges and financial support among the international community of people and organisations involved in water and sanitation.

Funded by the city of Geneva, Switzerland, the WaterLex project is intended to support the authorities of the country in the design of a national strategy on decentralised cooperation.

In order to assess the situation in Benin at a local level, a field study was conducted from May to June 2014. WaterLex visited local authorities and key local actors of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in eight municipalities. Interviews were also conducted with representatives of communities facing great difficulties in their access to drinking water and sanitation, including discriminatory practices that impact their access to basic water and sanitation services.

On the basis of the study’s findings, WaterLex has produced a report together with its partners LARES, Lambassa ICA and the Beninese Chapter of the Global Water Partnership, and presented it at the workshop (to be posted soon).

“The development of intermunicipal structures is intimately related to decentralised cooperation. Our research in Benin has highlighted the fact that these structures are playing an important role in the harmonisation of the development of WASH facilities in Benin, which helps the state to respect the principle of nondiscrimination,” Willemin said. “It’s important to support the multiplication and functionality of these structures to achieve progress in the decentralisation process, and the realisation of the human right to water and sanitation in the coming years.”

Workshop Discussion Points

Day 1: Strengthening the capacities of local authorities, sectoral ministries and members of civil society involved in water and sanitation, regarding:

• The content of the human right to water and sanitation;

• The current state of implementation of the right to water and sanitation in Benin;

• The potential of decentralized cooperation to help realise the right to water and sanitation;

Day 2: Presentation of issues and exchanges about the draft of a decentralized cooperation strategy, including:

• The presentation of the principles and challenges for the drafting of a strategy;

• Collection of contributions from local authorities, the national government, PTFs, intercommunal structures, and members of civil society to the strategy;

• Participatory formulation of initiatives to be undertaken for the design and implementation of the strategy.