Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

About us

File 1895Freshwater Action Network (FAN) is a global network of people implementing and influencing water and sanitation policy and practice around the world. FAN works to improve water management by strengthening civil society to influence decision-making.


Whether it’s providing an indigenous leader from Guatamala with the opportunity to influence the official UN climate change negotiations or training a small civil society organization in Burundi on how to influence their government to improve services, FAN’s impact resonates globally at all levels.

From small beginnings in 2000, the network quickly took root and by 2002 FAN had organized a huge exhibition showcasing the work of NGOs from all over the world at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Never before had civil society had such a strong and joined up presence.

Five independent regional networks

In just 10 years, FAN has evolved into a consortium of five regional networks, reaching over 1,000 members in 69 countries – from Burkina Faso to Mexico City and Egypt to Nepal – each working on their own regional strategies as well as collaborating globally through the global network.

  • Tracking African government commitments

The regional networks are now independently coordinating NGO messaging in influential policy forums with confidence. In 2010, the Africa network ANEW helped coordinate demands at the Africa Water Week and the Africa Union Summit. ANEW and partners also organized the second Eastern Africa Sanitation conference which saw delegates from nine East African countries commit to tracking progress on their water and sanitation commitments.

  • South Asian governments recognize water and sanitation as rights

In 2008, South Asian governments recognized water and sanitation as rights at the South Asian Conference on Sanitation after FAN, WaterAid and WSSCC coordinated an advocacy strategy which lobbied national governments in advance of the event and created a joint statement demanding that water and sanitation be recognized as rights. The network has now taken on the role of tracking these commitments to ensure they are met.

  • Changing laws in Latin America 

In 2011, advocacy work in Latin American came to a head with a law approved that would give community managed water supplies legal status and allow them to apply for funding and make them eligible for technical training programs.

A network to represent the marginalized and the voiceless

We have secured funding from the UK, Mexico and Dutch governments as well as the EU, who have all been convinced of the value of a coordinated civil society to represent the marginalized and the voiceless - from the poor to the environment - to counterbalance the interests of big business and lack of accountability in poorly governed states.

A single point of contact for water and sanitation civil society

Testimony to our reputation as a coordinated voice for civil society, FAN is regularly consulted by influential institutions. In Africa, AMCOW, African Ministers' Council on Water, has a special agreement with ANEW to carry out ongoing consultation with the network as part of its workflow. The global network is in ongoing discussions with the World Bank through which it has already made significant changes to way it carries out consultation with civil society. Through our regional networks, we have developed important relationships with other key players including the Africa Development Bank, the SACOSAN intercountry working group and various Central American Government officials.

Linking the local to the global

The network coordinates local inputs into a diverse range of high level fora – from the High Level Meeting on Water to the World Water Forum and Stockholm Water Week. Participation itself serves to improve the balance of views but also fits into our wider strategy of monitoring key processes - which includes tracking progress on the MDGs, the UN climate change negotiations and the rights to water and sanitation.

To ensure that our members make the most of these opportunities, the network develops its members' understanding of high level policy fora and processes through training and information sharing. This is where our communication channels play a vital role. Key channels include our website, newsletters, eBulletins and listserves as well as face-to-face meetings and workshops.

Some of the key advocacy resources we have produced include a sector mapping document in FAN Mex, a manual on governance and transparency, a World bank handbook and a handbook on the rights based approach to advocating in water and sanitation.


Language can be a huge barrier to influence and FAN often translates important documents into local languages. The South Asian network has translated the Dehli Declaration, in which governments of the region commit to recognising water and sanitation as rights, into many local languages. It has become a key advocacy tool. Other key documents including the network's newsletter and advocacy training manuals have also been translated into multiple languages. 

Capacity building

FAN builds the capacity of members to create a strong and vibrant civil society that can hold governments and other powerful institutions to account and works with them to transform the way in which water is managed, accessed and respected. 

An example of this is the training of trainers workshop on advocacy that took place in Africa which will be cascaded further down the network to 17 countries covered by the project's funding. We have carried out further training throughout all the regions on topics including advocacy, communications, grant management, leadership, climate change and improving governance. We've produced many guidelines explaining high level meetings and fora in a simple and accessible way including guidelines on the World Water Forum.

Creating platforms for influence

FAN actively identifies opportunities for members to access policy makers at the national, regional and global levels. In many spaces where we used to have to fight for invitations and space, now we are invited as a matter of course, including the World Water Forum, SACOSAN and Africa Water Week. We've coordinated diverse and marginalized groups to amplify their demands in international policy arenas, which would have previously unheard or even non existant.  We've amplified diverse voices by collaborating in campaigns including the World's Longest Toilet Queue and the Sanitation and Water for all campaign - ensuring global pressure in global campaigns.


Find out more on all of these activities in what we do and our regional pages.

Freshwater Action Network (FAN)
is a global network of people implementing and influencing water and sanitation policy and practice around the world. FAN works to improve water management by strengthening civil society to influence decision-making.

Freshwater Action Network (FAN) is a global network of people implementing and influencing water and sanitation policy and practice around the world. FAN works to improve water management by strengthening civil society to influence decision-making.


A world where water is respected and protected as an essential resource for all forms of life and universal access to water and sanitation is achieved responsibly and inclusively.


FAN works to improve water governance by strengthening the role of civil society in decision-making, linking the environmental and developmental agenda, for the realisation of the right to water and sanitation for present and future generations.


We underpin our vision with a set of principles that inspire our work and mission.

  • FAN upholds the principles of non-hierarchical and democratic networking.
  • FAN is facilitative and innovative and is open to change and learning.
  • FAN works towards the progressive realization of the human right to water and sanitation.
  • FAN promotes the voices of marginalized and excluded communities in policies and programmes.
  • FAN promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in its activities.
  • FAN members respect each other’s unique skill, experience and perspective and take ownership of the network in a spirit of cooperation and sharing.
  • FAN considers sustainable water resource management and water supply to be integrally linked.

Some of our key activities include:

  • Influencing at global level
  • Grassroots mobilization
  • Developing members' capacity to influence
  • Exchanging skills
Find out more in  What we do and Current projects