How is the GLAAS useful to countries?

As WASH practitioners, we’ve all heard of the GLAAS and used it in our work. We know it as a great source of information on WASH sector status, but now we are supporting the implementation of the survey in francophone African countries, and wondering in what ways this process can actually be useful to countries.

The GLAAS is a survey coordinated by UN-Water and implemented by the World Health Organisation, which seeks to monitor sector inputs (governance, monitoring, human resources and finance). It relies on national data and complements other sector processes; particularly the JMP. As Fiona Gore (WHO) nicely put it ”the JMP is the temperature outside and the GLAAS is the meteorological and geographical explanations behind it”.

For this 2018/2019 cycle, 100+ countries have embarked on the process and committed to completing the survey before mid-December. An impressive increase since the last cycle in 2016/2017. This time, WHO organised a series of training workshops in each region to make sure each focal point was briefed on her/his role and the survey itself.

During the last workshop for francophone countries (which took place in Tunisia in September), focal points raised concerns about the limited ownership of the process by national decision-makers and the need for greater understanding of GLAAS as a useful national exercise, not just a reporting to WHO.

So how is GLAAS really useful to decision makers and how can we communicate better about it with decision-makers?

GLAAS is designed as a national survey and is based on national data, which can be useful to national decision makers in many respects:

  • It catalyses discussions: completing the survey questionnaire requires inputs from a wide range of sector stakeholders. In that respect, the survey should be seen as a pretext for dialogue and an opportunity for stakeholders to build a common understanding on sector status.
  • It highlights areas of weaknesses: by asking detailed questions on sector governance, monitoring, human resources and finance, the survey highlights areas of weaknesses (i.e. setting national targets aligned to the SDGs or lack of an adequate policy framework or inability to report on sector finances), which Government can then take up in other platforms or deepen its understanding of through other processes (e.g. TrackFin).
  • It supports advocacy: at national level by providing concrete evidence of neglected areas but also at global level, in the high-level meeting of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) where results are shared with ministers of finance and donors.
  • It provides the basis for reporting against SDG indicators 6a et 6b: which WHO is directly responsible for and uses the results of the GLAAS to do so.

Of course, the usefulness of the process and its national buy-in hinges on good communication from the outset; a task that GLAAS focal points will need to ensure at the highest possible level. This means explaining the purpose of the GLAAS well ahead of time, convening all key stakeholders at critical moments (not just to extract information but also to present findings) and very importantly, making sure the results are packaged in a useable manner and available at the right time, to feed into critical sector events, such as JSRs and broader sector planning processes.

In the context of the SDGs, the GLAAS will support a good understanding of where the sector stands and what aspect of the enabling environment should be strengthened in coming years on to achieve the ambitious targets.

Aguaconsult (Julia Boulenouar and Goufrane Mansour) have been contracted by WHO to support the implementation of the 2018/2019 GLAAS survey in francophone African countries. Country surveys will be submitted by December, 15th 2018 and the global report available in the course of 2019.

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