Avina
Gobernabilidad Democrática del Agua

Context
Latin America is a region extremely rich in water resources. However, according to World Health Organization data, 50 million people live without access to clean drinking water. The United Nations affirms that the world water crisis is more a matter of administration than scarcity. Governments have the responsibility and obligation to recognize water as a public good and ensure that their citizens have access to water services.

 

In many countries, supply efforts are focused on providing water to the most privileged areas, leaving large populations in rural areas and the urban periphery deprived of such services. At the same time, it has been shown that models of community water management are effective in providing such services to millions of users in these areas and indeed have the potential to reach millions more.

 

Opportunity identified by AVINA
and its allies

To strengthen and disseminate democratic models of community water management in order to expand access to clean drinking water to an additional five million people in Latin America.

 

Shared strategy for action
The strategy focuses on promoting democratic models of water management by communities. To promote collaboration and shared agendas, it encourages effective alliances at local, regional or international levels with key participants from different sectors. It is estimated that more 77,000 local organizations manage water systems for their communities within Latin America, and these could multiply or expand their coverage. The hypothesis we share is that civilian organizations, in coordination with other sectors, can contribute effectively to resolve issues of access to water services in Latin America with responsibility, fairness, democracy and transparency.

 

International alliances
To date, AVINA has established relationships of trust with more than 150 allies from different sectors of society in thirteen countries in Latin America, Europe and the United States. These allies have collaborated in the process of building common strategies and implementation plans. We work with 32 associations of community organizations that manage water. These in turn represent thousands of community groups in the region. We also work with 90 civil society organizations that focus on water, ten private sector allies, sixteen local and national governments and six technical experts. Other links include five representatives of regional cooperation agencies.

 

Our primary international partners for this process are International Water and Youth Movement, Workshop on Policy Analysis at the University of Indiana, Articulação do Semi-árido Brasileiro (ASA), the Alliance for Water, Water for People, Water Advocates, among others. With CARE International and Ecology and Development (ECODES) from Spain, AVINA established the Agua Clara Consortium, a specialized agency in the promotion of Community Organizations for Water Services and their Associations.

One of the great paradoxes of Latin America is the stark contrast between its vast water resources and the fact that 50 million people on the continent still lack clean drinking water.

 

 

Some achievements of our allies in 2010

More than 5,000 community water management organizations are recognized as PyMEs in Nicaragua
Nicaragua's National Assembly approved the Special Law on Water and Sanitation Committees (Comités de Agua Potable y Saneamiento, or CAPS) on May 19, 2010. This law recognizes the legal standing of more than 5,200 committees, allowing them to become Small and Medium Enterprises (Pequeña y Mediana Empresa, or PyME), thereby giving them access to services and financing to strengthen water management and service capabilities benefitting more than a million Nicaraguans. AVINA supported the technical and political work that encouraged the approval of the Act in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization and the Enterprise and Employment program funded by USAID. AVINA also supported the involvement of the Club of Young Environmentalists as well as important groups from the National Assembly and CAPS representatives from western Nicaragua.

 

International seminar brings together more than 130 community water organizations in Samaipata, Bolivia

Convened by five cooperatives that manage water systems in Bolivia, and co-sponsored by AVINA and local NGOs specializing in water resource management, this international meeting sought to raise awareness among the leaders of more than 130 community organizations from twelve Latin America countries as well as international researchers. After extensive discussion, leaders laid the groundwork for a Latin American network designed to unify and strengthen similar organizations. Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate in economics, participated live via Internet. She gave a talk and answered questions related to models of community resource management such as community forests, a lobster banks, river water and glacier ice.

 

Paraguayan Federation of Sanitation Boards convenes National Congress

During the year-end meeting of the Paraguayan Federation of Associations of Sanitation Boards, which was attended by representatives of ten departmental associations, participants consolidated its democratic governance and its potential political impact. In past years the federation had no legal standing, status or representation. Since 2010, the thirteen departmental associations that are part of the Federation began to work collaboratively to put a strategic plan in place, with bylaws and legal standing. Furthermore, they agreed on the importance of ensuring that the Federation plays a more active political role, and it was decided to organize a National Congress of Boards in June 2011 to consolidate their role in the provision of drinking water to a high percentage of the population. AVINA has worked closely with the Federation, helping with funding, support, technical assistance, coordination, training, information, communication and partnerships.

 

More than 130 leaders representing Community Water Boards, municipalities and social organizations from around the continent gathered in Samaipata, Bolivia, with the objective of exchanging experiences and establishing alliances. Besides its financial support, AVINA also arranged for the participation of Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate in economics, whose theory of the democratic management of natural resources by community associations recognizes the importance of the work done by community water organizations.