Nepal WASH Blog Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Development in Nepal

December 20, 2010

No MDGs without toilets

Filed under: Ashu's WASH Mondays,MDG,Sanitation — Tags: , , — Ashutosh Tiwari @ 3:45 pm

Since my previous job was in the private sector, I am often asked about the differences between the private sector and the development sector. In the former, goals are narrower and sharper: meet the quarterly sales targets, beat the competition, show profits for growth, and the like.

For a firm, the metrics and the consequences have to move in the same direction. Else, if you do not sell enough, you will not be able to pay your employees; and, if you cannot pay your employees, your production halts, and that means you cannot make sales, etc.

In the development sector, however, goals are loftier, more vague and sometimes come with an overtone of moral superiority (which is not a bad thing!). The goals are also diffused: reduce poverty, make poor people’s health better, raise employment levels, and so on. In development, the metrics and the consequences can move in opposite directions: for instance, if poverty is not reduced, then, more money is lobbed at the problem.

Indeed, there has been much criticism of the development sector for not having agreed-upon sharper, clearer and measurable goals to reduce poverty, and only throwing money after money at a particular problem.

Happily, much of that vagueness was in the past. Thanks to better monitoring tools and methods, and to donors’ insistence, things are clearer than they used to be, though development debates are still going on as to what to measure and how.

In 2000, after several years of discussions, world leaders adopted what has been called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are “eight time-bound global and local targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, and environmental degradation”.

The targets are set to be achieved by developing countries, including Nepal, by 2015. To that end, for the last 10 years, most development institutions in Nepal, including WaterAid, have recast their work as contributions to meeting the national MDGs.

Now that the third leg of the 15-year stretch has started, how close is Nepal to meeting its MDGs?

Happily, it’s on track, according to a recent report published by the Nepal Planning Commission and UNDP. But – and it’s a big but – in three things: in achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, achieving universal access to reproductive health, and, (goal number 7) in halving proportion of population without access to improved sanitation such as safe water and toilets.

Obviously, we consider the lack of progress on meeting the sanitation goal to be especially important in that it is basic hygiene that serves as visible-to-all indicators for progress.

Now that it’s on record that Nepal’s MDG progress can be slowed down due to its not meeting the sanitation goals, much work remains to be done on sanitation. In my other postings, I will share the data and thoughts with regard to what can be done to do more.

Written by Ashutosh Tiwari, Country Representative, WaterAid in Nepal.

This blog was created by WaterAid under the creative commons licence