From Christian Lawrence, Campaign for Good Governance, Sierra Leone:
I departed Freetown, Sierra Leone to Johannesburg, South Africa with great excitement to participate in the Africa Water Network (AWN) Annual General Meeting scheduled for the 14th – 18th November 2007. My expectations of the meeting were certainly great. Having to meet and share knowledge, experiences and lessons on water struggles and also to develop joint strategies to achieve our set aims and objectives with comrades and supporters from not only in Africa but in other continents was fantastic.
All the sessions were very interactive. Starting off by reporting on water audit (updates on the status of water management, civil society/union mobilization and actions etc. in some African countries) set the pace for extensive productive deliberations in the days that follow. In just three days of meeting, the network incredibly and effectively dealt with the following issues: ramifications of pre-paid water meters, public companies and management contracts, overviews on PUPs zeroing on their successes and challenges, future opportunities and promotion of PUPs, GWOPs-understanding the issues and players, state repression of water actions and a review of the governance structure of the network. What made the sessions more enriching was the usage of audio visual materials (documentaries on water management in specific communities in some countries around the globe). These vivid images on water management were irrestible and gave comrades a true picture of situations on the ground. Solidarity in our struggles was one of the key themes throughout the meeting, as was exemplified in the street match in Johannesburg on Saturday, 17th November to support our South African comrades in their water struggles.
As a way forward, the network assembled a gamut of strategies and actions to address water management and privatization issues in the African continent. Funding for the effective running of the network was critically discussed. Inputs were made to shape the governance structure and the Steering Committee was given the responsibility to draft a strategic plan, budget and constitution and plan of action for the network. Plans were also discussed to incorporate other African countries into the network.
The plan of action that the Steering Committee is expected to develop would include among things specific actions to be undertaken in specific African countries to support the water struggles.
I plan to debrief colleagues in the Public Enterprise Reform Monitoring Group –PERMG (the civil society water group in Sierra Leone that I am representing in the AWN) on the key issues discussed and outcomes. Part of my plan is to ensure that PERMG utilize the opportunities that the AWN would provide to support our water struggle.
I really appreciate the support of the World Development Movement (WDM) UK for making it possible for me to attend the AWN AGM.