Sustainable change


Women using a small rope pump-driven well.

One of the key lessons from past decades is that many attempts to make WASH programmes more sustainable have not been successful. Actions to address this issue have varied over time, but most attempts had in common that they were input-based, donor driven and mono-sectoral, focussing on just one aspect of sustainability.

The WASH Alliance wants to have a sustainable impact. Water, sanitation and health services should endure on the long term and be maintained and operated at local level. Sustainable WASH services have at least five dimensions: a Financial, Institutional, Environmental, Technical and Social dimension, together forming the acronym FIETS.

Financial sustainability refers to providing innovative financial concepts which minimize dependency on external subsidies. Business approaches and private sector involvement are used in a optimal way, strengthening the “in-country” structural finance for WASH services.

To reach institutional sustainability, WASH services should be integrated in national policies, with NGOs and local stakeholders working in close collaboration as capacity builders, facilitators and watchdogs. NGO’s represent the voice of marginalized people and complement governmental efforts, working from a rights based approach.

Environmental sustainability requires the sound management of water resources and waste resources for current and future generations in response to water scarcity, environmental pollution, and depletion of scarce resources such as phosphorus. We need to build climate resilient solutions and adopt Integrated Water Resource Management and ecosystem approach principles.

Technical sustainability means using WASH technologies that respond to demands, capabilities, opportunities and ideas from consumers and investors and that are context-specific and can be operated and maintained locally. Whenever possible and appropriate also the WASH technologies should be produced locally.

Social sustainability refers to realizing and maintaining social conditions or prerequisites that are essential to realize the right to water and sanitation both from the perspective of the rights holders and the duty bearers. It takes local demand and local cultural incentives as a starting point and focuses on the role of women as change agents.

The FIETS principles aim to ensure that at the end of the programme, local stakeholders can continue to build upon the benefits of the Alliance‚Äôs efforts, without further recourse to external inputs. It won’t be easy to integrate all these principles all of the time, but we will work hard to start including more and more in the work we do.