Water, sanitation and hygiene budget advocacy: lessons from South Asia

WaterAid/ Ranita Roy

Water and sanitation are human rights, and countries have committed to a global goal of providing access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to everyone, everywhere by 2030. This requires countries to invest in WASH to progressively realise those rights, for everyone equally. 

Governments in India, Bangladesh and Nepal have implemented programmes and made substantial investments to meet this global goal. And civil society organisations (CSOs) and think tanks have worked together in these countries to hold governments to account and ensure they allocate budgets in an equitable and transparent manner – both at national and sub-national levels

This new report includes five case studies from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, highlighting the challenges, successes and lessons of budget advocacy. It provides practical recommendations to strengthen budget advocacy for water, sanitation and hygiene in the following areas:

  • Tracking and influencing: Efforts and investments in budget tracking must be linked to a wider influencing strategy. Analysis and evidence are not end points, so the desired impact must be kept front and centre, and as the main measure of success. Partnerships between think tanks, research organisations and CSOs may be needed to bring the right mix of skills.
  • Longer term perspective: Budget advocacy cannot be a short-term, one-off intervention to produce results. Efforts need to go beyond the ways of working and time frames typically used for individual projects.
  • Strengthening national and sub-national data systems: Building on the insights and experiences from their budget advocacy work, the organisations involved are well positioned to contribute to strengthening national and sub-national data systems, which will make future budget advocacy efforts easier.
  • Supporting communities and citizens: For budget advocacy efforts to succeed, it is critical that communities are supported to demand their rights to WASH services from elected representatives and service providers. It is also important to ensure that women, older people, people with disabilities and marginalised groups are supported to participate, so that all members of society are represented.

Top image: Susmita Mandal Jana, 22, washes utensils in a pond in the Madhab Nagar area of Pathar Pratima, West Bengal, India. February 2021.