MEK-WATSAN initiative is a collaborative effort between United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the Governments of the Mekong region, which seek to work with other development partners in the region, one of the most significant being the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The whole philosophy of MEK- WATSAN is to support participating Governments attain their water and sanitation related Millennium Development Goal (MDG) agreed in 2000, to halve the proportion of people without access to improved water supply and sanitation services by 2015.
Improving the water and sanitation situation is also a critical factor for meeting most of the other MDGs, which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and women's empowerment; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating major diseases; and improving environmental sustainability.
“Fast-Track” initiatives in a number of towns have demonstrated how using participatory and community based approaches access to water and sanitation can be improved in a short time and with relatively small investments. In a “roll-out” phase the programme is being replicated in more towns. The programme includes infrastructure improvements based on participatory and demand led approaches; capacity building for affordable and sustainable service provision. The programme also supports the process of ongoing sector reforms in the countries and stresses participatory monitoring of outcomes. The programme is being expanded in a modular fashion, depending on the availability of resources and growing demand from the participating countries.
Pro-poor urban water governance,
Urban Water Conservation and Demand Management,
Integrated Urban Environmental Sanitation, and
Income Generation for the Urban Poor through Community-based Water and Sanitation Services.
To support the participating Governments in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) attain their water and sanitation related MDG, UN-HABITAT initiated the development of the Mekong Region Water and Sanitation Initiative (MEK-WATSAN) for secondary towns. Specifically it will:
Expedite Pro-poor Water and Sanitation Investments in Secondary Towns;
Enhance Institutional and Human Resource Capacities at Local and Regional levels to sustain water and sanitation services;
Operationalise upstream sector reforms at the local level;
Enhance capacities of local private sector entities in service delivery;
Reduce the adverse environmental impacts of urbanisation on local river catchments;
Support economic development in secondary towns through improved water and sanitation, and related income generating activities, and
Support cooperation between the countries of the Mekong region, and thus economic development.
Collaboration and Cooperation
In addition to partnering with ADB, a dialogue for cooperation is to be opened with the European Union, World Bank, a number of bilateral agencies and non-profit organizations. Specifically UN-HABITAT is to also explore areas of cooperation with entities such as the Mekong River Commission, the Water Supply Partnership, the Southeast Asian Water Utilities Network, the Greater Mekong Subregion Academic and Research Network and the Phnom Penh Plan for Development Management. Under MEK-WATSAN, UN-HABITAT will also seek to build partnerships with Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to implement projects in support of the economic corridor(s).
National and Regional Perspectives
Although there will be a national focus for the programme in each country, MEK-WATSAN is a regional programme. The benefits this approach brings include facilitation of benchmarking, increased opportunities for informal networking, peer-to-peer capacity building, regional training and the enhanced potential for implementation reforms.