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Water & Sanitation

Water for the World Act Signed into Law

Flickr: UNAMID

WaterAid America, WASH Advocates, Millennium Water Alliance, InterAction, World Vision and Global Poverty Project celebrate passage of the Water for the World Act

WHAT'S THE ISSUE?

Back in 2013, Global Poverty Project came across a problem they wanted to solve: the Global Sanitation crisis. Sanitation affects many of GPP’s core areas of advocacy. It was clear a solution was needed to improve access to clean water and toilets around the world. Luckily, there was a bill already in process in the US Congress that fit their goals: the Water for the World Act. This idea, simple in its formation and concept, would consume 18 months of hard work, amazing events and incredible support from their legion of global citizens around the world, their partners and US Congressional leaders. When Global Poverty Project came on board with the Water for the World Act, they joined an amazing group of organizations who had been working for as long as six years on this issue. This included: WaterAid America, WASH Advocates, Millennium Water Alliance, InterAction, and World Vision.

HOW DID GLOBAL CITIZENS RESPOND?

In the lead up to the Global Citizen Festival, Global Poverty Project circulated a petition calling on US Leaders to support the Water for the World Act. All in all, global citizens took 53,000 actions supporting access to water and sanitation worldwide. This collective yell for attention helped empower the organizations working to support the Water for the World Act and ensure Congressional leaders paid attention.

During the World Water Day Advocacy Day, Global Poverty Project joined its partners to hit the halls of Capitol Hill as they attended advocacy meetings on Water for the World Act for the first time. It was incredible to see the broad range of partners who were involved. Global citizens signed petitions, emailed their Congresspeople, and contacted key leaders like Speaker John Boehner to ask for their support on the Water for the World Act.

In the meetings, they handed over the petition from global citizens and showed Members of Congress all the people from their district who supported the Water for the World Act. The Congressional offices were always impressed by the thousands of supporters who are passionate about the issue. These meetings provided opportunities to answer questions that staffers had about the bill and to clarify things that they had heard in the media. For example, some Members of Congress were under the impression that the Water for the World Act would cost billions of dollars; when I explained that the bill would have a negligible cost it was much easier to get their support.

Next, GPP needed to rally support for the bill within House leadership. Global citizens sent thousands of emails to Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise to ask them to add the bill to the suspension calendar for a vote after the bill was marked up. Our outstanding interns compiled all 14,000 emails into a binder and I took handed the binders over to each office. The meetings went really well and each leader explained that, as long as the bill was marked up, they would do what they could to bring the bill to a vote.

The bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on December 8. Then, we had to immediately pivot to the Senate so that we could get the bill passed before the end of the session. On September 10, Senator Tom Coburn placed a hold on the bill. The bill couldn’t pass until the hold was removed, and we didn’t have much time.

Global citizens sent over 800 tweets asking for Senator Tom Coburn to support the Water for the World Act. The stakes were high; if the Senator’s hold wasn’t removed millions would be left without access to water. It literally came down to just one man. In the eleventh hour, Senator Tom Coburn stepped aside and allowed the Water for the World Act to pass unanimously. We got the amazing news from Congressman Aaron Schock’s team and got to let the entire sector know that the bill had passed! The tremendous work of Global Poverty Project's partners and global citizen's had finally paid off.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The passage of the Water for the World Act will help the United States Government to more efficiently increase access to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The bill codifies two existing positions, one at the State Department and one at USAID, to make sure water issues are coordinated in the agencies among bureaus and missions.

It sets more criteria for the way USAID prioritizes, and reports on, programming around water and sanitation in countries, assuring that most assistance goes to communities and countries in greatest need, not just a small number of politically important countries; this prioritization policy is critical, and strongly supported by co-sponsors of both parties.

It sets deadlines for written comprehensive water strategies for both USAID and State. After 8 years, USAID produced a comprehensive water strategy last year but the State Department has not published a report. The bill outlines their coordination on this.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Global Poverty Project will continue to campaign to increase access to water and sanitation. Now that the Water for the World Act has passed, GPP will be focusing on advocacy in the United States on ensuring that water and sanitation programs are properly funded. We have some ambitious targets for 2015 and we hope to have your support!