Sunday, June 20, 2010

Public Participation in water and health related issues

Having access to clean water is still one of the long lasting dreams in many countries. On 15-16 June, 2010 around 70 representatives from European governmental institutions and non-governmental organisations met in Bucharest, Romania to exchange experiences on information and public participation in water and health related issues. Most representatives were coming from Eastern European countries and organisations who run water and health related projects in Eastern Europe. Simon Koolwijk assisted the organizing committee to facilitate this workshop.
Main organizers of the international workshop were the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - Water and Health protocol ) and WECF (Women in Europe for a Common Future). The overall goal of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of public authorities and non-governmental actors to cooperate in the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health.

The workshop allowed participants to:
1. Review obligations and opportunities under the Protocol;
2. Exchange practical experiences and lessons learned
3. Overview existing tools and mechanisms to promote access to information and public participation;
4. Discuss ways and means to raise awareness – in general on the linkage between human health and water management
5. Discuss future needs in these areas and possible actions under the protocol.

One of the key discussion items was to discuss the access to information and public participation in the fields of health and water under the principles of the Aarhus convention.

There is still a lot of space for improvement commented the participants. They expressed: The implementation of the component of public participation in having water and health quality improved is still complicated. There is a lack of trust with authorities and the public to be involved in making improvements. And in many of our contries we miss a communication culture. However, some NGO's successfully succeed in building bridges and reach results. Now the dialogue is much better than 10-15 years ago, and local people are willing to make investments in clean toilets & water systems and are more aware of the dangers for health of dirty and contaminated water. However, the condition is that it should be affordable and not too expensive. If people know that water is touching their personal life, they want to be involved. There is a role to play for NGO's to build bridges with local governments. There are already some examples where public authorities and NGO's are working together. Also NGO's have a role to play in data gathering, monitoring and using these data for policy making.
The conference was very useful, commented one of the participants. The fact that we had an opportunity to discuss in small groups about the issues and that we could meet people with similar questions and issues was very helpful and stimulating!
More about Women for Europe and a Common Future can be found at youtube. WECFEU

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Promotion of rural entrepreneurship in Rwanda

Promotion of rural entrepreneurship in Rwanda is the main focus of the IPER program, which is led and coordinated by AgriProFocus. Wageningen International, The Royal Tropical Institute, SNV, Larenstein, Agriterra, Oxfam-Novib and ICCO are major partners in this project. On the 11th June 2010 the partners met in Arnhem to discuss about the action plan led by the Advisor of promotion of rural entrepreneurship in Rwanda.
The program is focused at strengthening local market development by building capacities of value chains on rice, casave, maize and other agricultural products. Farmers, producers, service providers and research institutions are involved in this program. Finally farmers and individual families would like to improve their lifes, have fair prices for their products which will lead to better welfare. The meeting was facilitated by Simon Koolwijk. "We all of us produced something on which we have ownership, consensus and it is workable", commented the participants at the end of the meeting.

As preperation of this meeting, the capacity development advisor for the IPER program (financed by ICCO) was trained and equiped with skills in capacity development on the 10th June 2010. Parts of the training covered theoretical principles, how to build capacities through human resource, organisational and institutional development. 'Capacity development is not the purpose in itself, but it should finally lead to better service delivery of organisations and institutions'. Building capacities, linking (producers, farmers, service institutions) and learning are the most important tasks of the CB advisor in the program.

Lots of inspiration in limited time!

"We strengthened our team through joint analysis and practicals with new methods", "The teambuilding was a successfull instrument in coming to concrete results", "We learned a lot of diverse methods on how to support structured group processes", "The training was dynamic", "We gained a lot of inspiration in limited time!"
Staff members from Impulsis and the communication department from ICCO followed the training on facilitation methods. Since Impulsis is regular organising meetings with their project partners, who have partnerships with small scale projects in Africa, Asia and Latin-America on education, peace building or community development, the lessons learned were very applicable for the own worksituation.

Participants got acquainted with the theories of facilitation, the Technology of Participation methods (developed and tested by the Institute of Cultural Affairs - USA) and creative methods from COCD (literature: Creativity Today!) . The focus during the second day was on practicals. Starting from early in the morning up to mid afternoon all participants facilitated a session and received feedback. "Our experience has been strengthened through structure and methods" commented one of the participants. "We already know a lot, but the training provides an additional dimension in preparing and facilitating a group meeting".
Simon Koolwijk, the trainer, is member of the International Association of Facilitators. This association promotes the profession of facilitators around the globe. In 2008 Simon became a International Certified Professional Facilitator.