Cover Image
close this bookAddressing the Water Crisis - Healthier and more Productive Lives for Poor People (DFID, 2001, 58 p.)
close this folder4. Meeting the challenge
View the document4.1 Introduction
View the document4.2 How people and communities can respond
View the document4.3 How civil society can respond
View the document4.4 How governments can respond
View the document4.5 How the private sector can respond
View the document4.6 How the international development community can respond

4.3 How civil society can respond

4.3.1 Earlier sections of this paper have emphasised the important role of civil society organisations in helping poor people to express their demands and in advocacy on their behalf. This work extends to monitoring the responses of the government and of the private sector to those demands and that advocacy. This is the most familiar role for civil society in many countries. In future it could be extended still further to include involvement in regulation of water sector organisations and contracts.

4.3.2 In many countries, civil society groups (especially NGOs) are themselves also valuable service providers, enabling poor and excluded people to determine their livelihoods, improve sustainable water resources, and gain access to essential and appropriate services. When social development activities are coupled with service provision (as in Box 8 above) the impact on poverty is enhanced. Under the Dublin and Rio principles, civil society will be encouraged to expand its work as a service provider with government regulation and support. In some countries, civil society and the commercial private sector work together, or in competition, as service providers.

4.3.3 If communities continue to expect the government to provide water services freely, it will be very difficult to achieve change. Civil society organisations can, therefore, form a communication channel from the government to the people about choices of service level and the roles of the different players, including the private sector and the government itself. Indeed, civil society groups have a key role to play in disseminating information and knowledge about new approaches within communities.

4.3.4 Civil society groups can also channel information back to the government, for example about practical difficulties arising from particular policies. Hence, they need good relationships with both the central and the lower tiers of government and their administrations, such as rural councils and local offices of line ministries. Civil society groups must emphasise the need for open, accessible and accountable government. This is an example of civil society's role in ensuring healthy democratic systems.23

23 Governance issues are further dealt with in DFID Strategy Paper “Making Government Work for Poor People.”