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Before yesterday4. Cross-cutting

New strategy 2023-2033

The Water Integrity Network General Assembly just approved our next 10-year strategy for 2023-2033: Catalsying a culture of integrity. WIN will build on past successes and a strong tool and research portfolio while expanding and building capacity of its network of partners. The aim is to push forward a culture of integrity for the water and sanitation sectors, in support of the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation for all.

“The challenges facing the water sector are immense and no single actor can solve them alone. Only through concerted efforts by all stakeholders—including governments, public institutions, businesses, private organisations, and civil society—can these challenges be confronted.”

We thank all our partners for their support and contributions in making WIN what it is today and helping shape this ambitious strategy. We invite you all to join this integrity journey for water and sanitation.

 

Download full strategy:

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Declarations on gender equality won’t cut it

This is the second post in a series focusing on the need and practicalities of mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion in water and sanitation from an integrity perspective. The first post in the series dealt with women’s visibility on public platforms and in leadership positions To contribute to the discussion or to share some insight from your work, contact us at rsands[at]win-s.org. 

 

The negative consequences of a lack basic water and sanitation services are often felt most strongly by women and marginalised groups. Inadequate access to water severely affects women’s development and participation in society, impacting their nutrition, health and life expectancy. In 80% of households with water shortages, women and girls are responsible for water collection. This exposes them to a range of risks – particularly gender-based violence – including sextortion, a gendered form of corruption in which sex, rather than money, is the currency of the bribe. The time dedicated to ensuring household water supply also hinders women’s ability to engage productively in other parts of life, including attending school and earning an income.

Ultimately, fairness and impartiality are undermined, resulting in a failure of integrity. By not acknowledging or responding to the water and sanitation needs and priorities of half of the population, we will not reach SDG6 and remain far from SDG5.

So what can be done, and how can we better prioritise gender equality? Whether carrying out service delivery or shaping policy, institutions and sector organisations can do a lot from the inside out, building a culture of integrity through institutional commitment and capacity building for gender equality and social inclusion. This is a first step towards ensuring equitable access to water and sanitation for all.

 

Showing commitment at the top

Making sure that women have equal opportunities to access leadership positions can help to lay the groundwork for the right structural changes to occur. In Latin America, for example, several WIN partners can now count women amongst the top leadership positions in their organisations. In Pakistan, a woman is for the first time leading the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), the city utility in charge of delivering water and sanitation to over 16 million residents. As of early 2022, women held top jobs in a number of top private water sector companies, notably in the UK where all but one of the top jobs in the UK’s FTSE-listed water companies is held by women.

But empowered individuals at the top, whether they be women or men, does not necessarily mean that institutional transformation or gender-sensitive delivery will follow. Leadership, if pledging to remaining accountable to the populations they serve, must take specific steps to institutionalise gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) beyond their own positioning and into the fabric of their organisation and its delivery programme, with clear goals, both internal and external.

 “Setting gender equality as a corporate goal enables leadership to plan and commit the time and resources needed to change organizational culture and achieve gender equality and inclusion. Goal
setting also allows organizations to take a systematic approach, benchmark progress, and establish
longer-term plans for sustained impact.”
USAID Goal Setting Guide, p.1

 

Responsive staffing and programming: a worthwhile investment

To operationalise a commitment to GESI, supportive processes and systems are indispensable. Family-friendly policies, a cooperative workplace environment and work facilities which cater to the needs of women and marginalised groups can go a long way in attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce, as highlighted in the report Women in Water Utilities: Breaking Barriers. Water sector entities can also take a conscious decision to promote gender equality by, for example, supporting women-owned businesses through their supply chains and procurement practices, and through understanding and responding to the different water and sanitation needs of women and men.

It is beneficial: there is mounting evidence that gender equality is a boon to societies, economies and enterprises. Findings suggest that enterprises with equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures are around 60% more likely to have improved profits, productivity and to experience benefits such as enhanced reputation, greater ease in attracting and retaining talent, and greater creativity and innovation.

Likewise, the involvement of other marginalised groups ought not be forgotten. By becoming more diverse, businesses can better reflect their customer base and be more responsive to customer needs. Research by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile of ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability, whereas companies in the bottom quartile were 27% more likely to underperform the industry average.

In the water sector, the Global Water Partnership has demonstrated that inclusive water programmes and policies pay off, because they lead to greater economic, environmental and social sustainability. Involving women and marginalised groups in the design, operation, and maintenance of water supply systems can increase customer satisfaction through more user-friendly designs adjusted to specific needs. Studies suggest that water projects were six to seven times more effective when women were involved than when they were not.

 

Capacity and systems against discrimination and harassment

Effectively addressing and mitigating sexual harassment, both inside and outside the workplace, is also key. To do so is a commitment to upholding the dignity, safety, equality, and integrity of all employees and clients. Organisations need to have clear policies and procedures for staff expectations and how they respond to internal and external cases, act promptly when situations arise, treat all complaints seriously, provide adequate support and redress mechanisms for those who file complaints and train all relevant staff and those in leadership positions on sexual harassment.

In addition, organisations must pay specific attention and work to mitigate the risk of sextortion through public awareness campaigns, staff training, appropriate disciplinary procedures, and whistle-blowing mechanisms. As an issue that appears wherever those entrusted with power use such power over another’s body, sextortion can occur both within an organisation (e.g. a manager asking for a sexual bribe in exchange for giving someone a job), or externally (e.g. field staff demanding a sexual favour from a customer in exchange for water access, a favourable meter reading or a discount).

 

A checklist for getting started

With institutional commitment and clear objectives, key mechanisms such as a gender analysis, gender-inclusive stakeholder consultations, the development of gender-responsive policies and budgets or gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation can follow.

A few questions can guide the formulation of these processes:

  • Assess the status quo:
    • Does your organisation have a strategy that outlines leaders’ responsibility to deliver on gender equality? Having dedicated gender focal points is a good practice, but these do not replace the critical role of leaders in the organisation to advance the gender equality agenda.
    • Are women and marginalised groups adequately represented in your organisation, and in programme implementation? The ‘nothing about them without them’ approach can serve as a useful reminder about the need for meaningful participation throughout the project cycle. Inquire who is marginalised in a given context, and involve these groups in consultations and decision-making opportunities.
    • Are there dedicated resources available for GESI? Institutional capacity to carry out GESI may need to be strengthened through training, dedicated expertise, and outreach activities. Without a budget or the proper allocation of resources to gender mainstreaming, commitments can be side-tracked by other priorities.
    • How are current policies being implemented? Maybe your organisation already has gender equality and inclusion policies in place. Nevertheless, it is good practice to critically assess how these stated goals are being achieved and where there is room for improvement. Are there accountability mechanisms in place to ensure that commitments on paper are being upheld in practice?
  • Plan ahead:
    • Develop KPIs which include gender equality and inclusion expectations
    • Make a list of incentives and drivers that make the case for GESI to be integrated at the organisational level. Examples can include: Meeting CSR objectives; Better access to funding and donor relationships; Enhancing your organisation’s external reputation and strengthening community relationships; Reaching the most vulnerable households through service delivery
    • Assess how your company’s attraction, recruitment, retention and advancement procedures work for women and marginalised groups
    • Establish anti-harassment policies and reliable, confidential complaint processes
    • Ensure equitable pay independent of gender and other attributes
    • Increase training opportunities
    • Assess other integrity-related risks (e.g. conflicts of interest, internal misreporting, poor complaint mechanisms) and how they may exacerbate gender inequalities

 

Organisational commitment to mainstreaming gender equality and inclusion is a critical first step to ensure availability and the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. To do this with integrity means going beyond policies and symbolic gestures. It requires real commitment and putting in place tangible processes and capacities to translate promises into concrete measures. Involving women and marginalised groups cannot be neglected in this process.  

 

More useful resources:

A great many tools and other resources are at the disposal of utilities and water sector organisations to support their critical work on GESI, including these Best Practices Framework for Male-dominated Industries and USAID’s a guide to support organisational goal setting for gender equality and inclusion.  We’re keen to hear your suggestions for more resources, do share!

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Preparing the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2024: Water and Sanitation Finance

WIGO is a flagship publication of WIN and its network partners. Published every three years, it is a call for action for water integrity, bringing together the latest research and cases on specific themes.

The first WIGO, published in 2016, demonstrated a growing recognition of the need for measures to improve integrity and to eliminate corruption to enhance performance in the water and sanitation sectors.

WIGO 2021 focused on integrity for urban water and sanitation

WIGO 2024 will focus on the role of integrity in sustainable water and sanitation sector finance. It will examine integrity risks in water and sanitation sector finance and the way integrity can be strengthened at different levels, in public financial management, in the sector, and in individual projects.

We are currently defining the specific scope of this next WIGO and are keen to hear feedback and ideas about partnerships and case studies that are important for the publication.

Interested in taking part or have a case study or idea to share? Please get in touch.

The post Preparing the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2024: Water and Sanitation Finance appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

WIN annual partner survey results

As a network organisation, WIN relies on the engagement of its partnerships to advance the water integrity agenda. Working with a range of civil society representatives, water sector stakeholders, funders, research institutes, IGOs, NGOs and other networks, WIN has shown that a great deal can be achieved through collaboration at all levels and practical action to reduce integrity risks.

In order to remain effective in our mission and responsive to partners’ needs, the annual Partner Survey is an opportunity to learn more about what we are doing right, what we can improve upon and how we can better function as a network. In addition, it allows WIN to take stock of our partner’s needs, find ways to improve our support and define our activities. Similar to the 2021 survey, we asked partners a range of questions related to WIN’s tools, trainings, research and publications, network activities and overall support, as well as how integrity features in their activities and work plans for the coming year.

What we has seen time and again is that improving integrity requires collective action. Through WIN’s strong network of partners that continue to drive the principles of Transparency, Accountability, Participation and preventive Anti-Corruption measures, we are ensuring that integrity remains on the map to help realise the human rights to water and sanitation for all.

Explore the results of the WIN partner survey 2021 here or below.

Home Page

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Water integrity is missing from the climate debate: here’s why that has to change

Billions of dollars of new, urgent, often poorly traced climate adaptation funding are flowing through relatively untested channels into the water sector, a sector which is vulnerable to corruption because of its fragmentation, technical complexity, and the essential, irreplaceable nature of the services it provides 

Close to 80% of climate adaptation funds are directed to the water sector and related sectors – wastewater, disaster risk management, and natural resources management. This is already an inordinately small share of total climate finance: only 6.3% of climate finance goes to adaptation and not mitigation. It’s all the more important to make sure it is not wasted.

 

Corruption and poor integrity pose significant risks for climate adaptation

The IPCC scientific committee stated in 2021 with high confidence that floods and droughts are going to become more intense, water availability will be affected for human consumption, agriculture, industrial and economic activities, leading to food crisis and biodiversity loss. In its latest report of April 2022, it stresses the need for “accelerated and equitable climate action” and shows that the next few years are critical to avert disaster. Water is the primary vessel for climate adaptation work.

Effective “accelerated and equitable climate action” is threatened by insufficient funding and by corruption and poor integrity. These waste resources and talent, divert much-needed funding away from those who need it most, and drive inappropriate adaptation choices.

 

What happens when climate finance in the water sector is misused

Corruption does not just result in financial losses. In the water and sanitation sectors, it impacts directly on people’s lives, health, and livelihoods, on socio-economic development and on environmental sustainability. And it hits hardest in the most vulnerable communities, poor coastal and rural populations in developing countries, those affected by conflict and political instability, marginalised communities, those with limited choices of where to live and how to earn a living, women-headed households, the old and the very young, and people with disabilities.

In some cases, poor integrity can increase the risk of maladaptation, where the outcomes of climate adaptation programmes are subverted: climate-related risks increase instead of decrease or new additional risks and vulnerabilities are created.

In practice, there are already many troubling cases of corruption and poor integrity in climate projects, from funds gone missing, to dysfunctional flood protection systems that are not built according to specifications, from capture by elites, to cyclone shelters built for private purposes on private land inaccessible to the targeted community. We are only aware of the tip of the iceberg.

 

Anti-corruption initiatives in climate adaptation are improving

A number of climate finance actors, including major multilateral funds, have already put in place anti-corruption measures and evaluation mechanisms to ensure the efficacy of their programmes. These efforts are important and valuable even if there is room for improvement.

Transparency International’s new report of April 2022 recommends specific improvements in terms of accountability and transparency. It also highlights the need for policies on sexual harassment, related to gender policies focused on promoting equal participation and equitable outcomes for women. This is especially relevant for the water and sanitation sectors where women play a major role in managing household water and hygiene but have little representation at the sector level.

 

Wanted: Integrity initiatives built for and with the water sector

We see both a need and an opportunity for a broader approach that addresses the specific risks of the water sector. This has three major implications:

1.
Focusing on the corporate governance and anti-corruption policies of funders themselves is an important first step. However much more can be achieved by also investing in the capacity for integrity of water and sanitation sector actors, and not only the direct recipients of funding. This means supporting their ability to take advantage of accountability mechanisms and their capacity to assess and preventively act on their specific sector, and water-energy-food nexus, integrity risks.

2.
The water and sanitation sectors have a crucial responsibility: to provide an essential service – and human right – for all. There must a be focus in climate adaptation work on centering the voices, and water and sanitation needs, of the most vulnerable, those bearing the brunt of climate change, the left behind and those who run the risk of being left behind, including climate refugees. Only 2% of climate funds reach vulnerable communities and local communities seldom participate in decision-making on fund allocation and planning. This can and must change.

3.

The water and sanitation sectors are not just about pumps and pipes. Existing financing mechanisms are already skewed towards major infrastructure developments even when these are not in line with people’s needs or with the capacity available to maintain or operate them. Climate adaptation funding has similar biases. Not enough funding is spent on improving the governance systems, with the result that governance failures, including corruption, may lead to significant risk of maladaptation. One way to address this is to assess and address corruption risks during procurement processes but also early on, in budget allocation, planning and design phases. This requires more long-term investment in building governance capacity and in corruption risk assessments.

 

We urgently need to prioritise and invest more in water and sanitation through climate work. We also need to make sure we use available funds to their utmost potential and to the benefit of those who need them most. For this, we need to invest in partnerships with water and sanitation sector stakeholders, and invest in governance and integrity.

 

 

See more resources on the nexus of water integrity and climate finance

 

The post Water integrity is missing from the climate debate: here’s why that has to change appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

What is sextortion and what does it have to do with water and sanitation?

Back to basics: here’s a factsheet to better understand ‘sextortion’, a gendered form of corruption where sex is the currency of the bribe.

“When a person is hungry, thirsty, or short on cash, she gets desperate and will do anything to survive. In this position, they don’t have much to do. This is exploited by powerful people.”

Key Informant Interview, Korail-Dhaka (2021), forthcoming WIN research study on sextortion in Bangladesh

Many women, particularly poor women in vulnerable communities where infrastructure is inadequate, face sextortion on a regular basis when fetching water or accessing sanitation facilities. It’s an abhorrent act that needs to be better recognised and addressed in the water and sanitation sectors, with more awareness, training, support for survivors, and safe reporting mechanisms.

 

Also available in FR: Qu'est-ce que la sextorsion ? and in ES: ¿ Qué es la sextorsión ?

 

Find out:

  • What is sextortion?
  • What does sextortion have to do with water and sanitation?
  • How does sextortion impact women and their human rights to water and sanitation?
  • How can water integrity help combat sextortion?

 

 

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Discussion – where to for utilities working on integrity management?

“Integrity is an aspirational goal where the public interest, honesty and fairness override the personal desire for gain. It has substantial social and economic benefits for cities and their residents.”
Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021: Urban Water and Sanitation

Integrity also has substantial benefits for water and sanitation organisations, in terms of performance and service, as well as reputation. When water and sanitation sector utilities proactively implement measures to support integrity and reduce losses from corruption and malpractice, they engage in integrity management. They may do this as part of a specific integrity strategy, or through change management processes, compliance, or Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) programmmes.

Where are these efforts leading? How can we benchmark current status and what does it take to progress? These are questions that still have vague answers although new data from integrity assessments are pointing to patterns in how integrity practices are implemented and their relationship with organisational development.

Proposing a 5-level integrity maturity model for water and sanitation utilities

Our new discussion paper proposes a five-level integrity maturity model for water and sanitation utilities based on recent data from integrity assessments using integrity indicators. The proposed model provides an evidence-based simplified vision and guide for utilities working to improve integrity in their work processes.

It suggests utilities at level 1 would have integrity practices in place that are easy to implement and primarily aiming to comply with basic legal requirements. Utilities at level 5 would have stronger mechanisms for control and sanctions in place and proactively communicate on integrity-related topics.

More data and discussion are welcome and needed to strengthen the model and support the ambitions of integrity champions. We are keen to hear more about the needs of utilities and their partners and we look forward to exchanging ideas on a model.

 

 

For comments or more information about the methodologies and tools behind this model, write to: UAllakulov(at)win-s(dot)org or join the research discussion on the Sanitation and Water Integrity Research Lab SWIRL) on Linkedin.

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Integrity Talk 2 – on Informal Settlements

16 December 2021 at 22:18

Integrity Talks are discussions around transparency, accountability and participation as ways to advance integrity and reduce corruption in the water and sanitation sectors in different parts of the world. This is an edited summary of our second edition. To take part in future Integrity Talks, contact us here.

 

How can we assess and address issues of exclusion and marginalisation in informal settlements from a water integrity perspective? How can different stakeholders use integrity and support the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation in informal settlements? What has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Water Integrity Network (WIN) advocates for safely managed water and sanitation services in informal settlements by working with regulators, utility companies and small water supply system operators in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We see the exclusion of people living in informal settlements from access to decent water and sanitation services as a failure of integrity. This Integrity Talk highlights the experiences of utility companies, community-led initiatives, and international organisations in addressing this failure.

With: Alana Potter (End Water Poverty), Sudha Shrestha (UN Habitat), Marcelo Rogora (Aguas y Saneamientos Argentinos, AySA) and Nils Thorup (Grundfos Foundation). Featuring a clip of the film Into Dust, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel.

 

Key messages

  • Recognition:  Residents of informal settlements deserve recognition as active members of the urban fabric with the same rights as other urban dwellers. Such recognition is fundamental if utilities and the sate are to engage effectively with these communities in the provision of decent water and sanitation services.
  • Affordability: Water and sanitation services must be delivered at an affordable price. Many residents of informal settlements actually pay more than wealthier neighbours for water of dubious quality. This  needs to be urgently addressed with policies that recognise the specific needs of people living in informal settlements. Free basic water allocations or sustainable lifeline tariffs are good examples of how to materialise the principle of affordability of the rights to water and sanitation for those living in poverty.
  • Responsibility: There is a close link between land tenure and water provision: many people living in settlements around the world are excluded from formal water and sanitation supply because their land tenure status is not recognised. However, there is still a responsibility to deliver services. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that even in times of crisis, utility companies can undertake immediate actions regardless of land ownership to expand service provision.
  • Pro-poor anti-corruption: the failure to provide decent water and sanitation services in informal settlements leaves the door open for corrupt, discriminatory, and discretionary service, which can put health and lives at risk. Residents may be forced into informal arrangements with water mafias, which in a number of cases are given free rein by authorities. Such arrangements leave no room for accountability and are likely to leave behind the most vulnerable.

 

Water Integrity for Informal Settlements during COVID-19

What are the main conditions that hinder the provision of water and sanitation services in informal settlements? 

Alana Potter (End Water Poverty): More than one billion people worldwide live in informal settlements and they are usually not recognised as legitimate citizens, participants and rights-holders. Informality is commonalty associated with lawlessness and criminality. However, many informal settlements do not exist by accident; they are historically rooted and can be traced back even to colonial times. They provide land for accommodation, and affordable housing near transportation and economic centres of activity. They persist because of state and market failures to provide poor residents with affordable accommodation in well-located areas.

Stigma, discrimination, poor integrity are beneath the reluctance to provide decent services in informal settlements. The results is that residents generally pay more for  water and sanitation of uncertain or inadequate quality and do not enjoy the human rights to water and sanitation even when these are constitutionally recognised. During the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of informal settlements have been severely affected because of higher population densities, stagnant water, narrow pathways that reduced mobility and emergency response access.

When residents find ways to claim their rights, these are often criminalised or rejected by authorities. It is critical that we change the mindset and recognise residents of informal settlements as actors and counterparts to engage with.

“People are the ones who claim their rights. Having the right to water and  sanitation in the law is nothing until people claim it.”

In some settlements in South Africa, for example, residents organise their own residential and economic land uses, provision of water, sanitation, electricity and solid waste collection services. They defend themselves against evictions and organise local representation and leadership, engaging actively with the state through informal participation processes, in protests, and in the courts.

 

What measures did UN-Habitat put in place to support the provision of WASH services in informal settlements in the COVID-19 crisis?

Sudha Shrestha (UN Habitat): In Nepal, in the first stage, UN-Habitat mobilised local partners to distribute masks, hand sanitiser and coverall suits due to the shortage in the market. We also launched a community close-watch using mobile phones to collect information on COVID-19 related issues, health, handwashing and sanitation, hygiene and cleanliness, and water. This information filled a database to assist municipalities in the formulation of policies and strategies.

We also used social media to spread news related to COVID-19 measures and created a WASH cluster in the border region between India and Nepal to facilitate migration in and out of the country. We also provided temporary handwashing facilities in healthcare facilities, schools, quarantine centres, public spaces (e.g., markets), and informal settlements while supporting food distribution in vulnerable areas.

 

What efforts were undertaken by the water utility of Buenos Aires (AySA) to ensure water access in informal settlements during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Marcelo Rogora (Aguas y Saneamientos Argentinos, AySA): AySA provides water and sanitation services to 14.5 million inhabitants in the city of Buenos Aires.  We have developed concrete actions to strengthen participatory actions and accountability. In 2021, for example, we incorporated a digital platform called aysa.DATA into our website. This platform provides communication channels and open data to inform the public about concessions while also giving the opportunity to file complaints.

“When we talk about integrity we focus not only on measures to prevent corruption but also inclusion, participation, gender equality and respect for human rights such as universal access to potable water and sanitation.”

In informal settlements, AySA implemented two programmes: “Agua más Trabajo” (Water more work) and “Cloaca más Trabajo” (Sewer more work). Both programmes aim at expanding networked services in vulnerable areas though close cooperation with municipalities and local cooperatives. The benefits of these programs are numerous: first, they supported employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, our workers are 50 percent women who are engaged in management tasks as well as technical work. This is important to us, as AySA supports gender equity. AySA covers the costs of both programmes and provides training to local cooperatives. Municipalities also play a key role in managing the financial resources provided by AySA and in hiring local residents. For us, these actions are associated with not only anti-corruption but also with integrity.

 

What kind of legal mechanisms are available for residents in informal settlements to hold governments and service providers accountable? 

Alana Potter: When people are delegitimised as formal participants they often turn to inventive forms of participation. I think multiple strategies are needed on multiple fronts. In South Africa, for example, the use of the Housing Act and the Expropriation Act have strengthened service delivery. In the housing sector, the Anti-Eviction Law, in particular, has helped people to secure land tenure so that they are in a position where the settlement can be upgraded and they can receive services. In some cases, the use of the law and litigation is more strategic than direct. In the Marikana informal settlement, it was impossible to relocate 60 000 residents, so the court ordered the city of Cape Town to purchase the land where the settlement was located.

“Even if you do not have the direct right to water and sanitation in the legislation, there are creative ways to use other rights.”

 

What advice would you have for other utilities that are struggling to navigate legal challenges to secure water and sanitation services in informal settlements? And has the COVID-19 crisis made these challenges easier or more difficult to overcome, and why?

Marcelo Rogora: What is important is the cooperation and coordination between different actors involved in water supply provision such as the government, utility companies, the community, as well as regulators. Otherwise, I see it as very difficult to achieve positive results, particularly when there are legal obstacles against extending the network into informal areas. In Buenos Aires, we have all been working together to make laws and regulation more flexible and to adjust technical guidelines to secure universal access to water and sanitation in marginalised areas.

AySA has faced serious challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, like in many other countries. But we acted quickly to respond to water demands. In a period of one month, we launched an emergency plan to intervene in vulnerable areas, despite complete isolation in Argentina. We equipped local cooperatives with basic instruments to guarantee safe working conditions (e.g., masks, disinfectant). We also focused our efforts on providing support to workers that were on the front lines during the crisis. When somebody got infected and could not work, their economic situation was severely affected. We created a plan to assist workers facing financial difficulties to protect their health and the health of the community.

 

Why did the Grundfos Foundation decide to support the creation of the “Into Dust” Film, which focuses on the work of Perween Rahman, mapping water mafias in Karachi?

Niels Thorup (Grundfos Foundation): At the Grundfos Foundation we primarily work in refugee camps and rural communities and we supply water pumps globally. We supported this film to raise awareness about water issues globally. As a foundation working with a close link to the private sector it is very important that we raise awareness about real issues such as corruption and that we address real problems. Water will be a huge issue in the future due to climate change and we need to address the problems directly instead of just talking about the good solutions that we see today.

 

 

There is the tendency to equate the human right to water with the idea that water should be provided for free. How does this discussion help us to understand possible ways to guarantee the right to water to poor residents without threatening the financial sustainability of providers?

Barbara Schreiner (Water Integrity Network, WIN): Currently, residents of informal settlements often pay much higher prices for poorer quality of water services than those in wealthier areas. This is a profound issue of integrity because the system is penalising the people that are living in poverty.

Obviously, when providing sustainable water services, funding has to come from somewhere. And we  need to ask where the money comes from. How much time and money should be put into collecting small amounts of money from poor people? When should tax-based schemes be mobilised to subsidise tariffs, or cross-subsidisation? There are a number of ways to cover financial costs from different sources rather than sqeezing revenue out of poor residents. In South Africa, a Free Basic Water policy was introduced to ensure that nobody was denied access to water because they could not afford to pay.

 

More resources

INTO DUST is a documentary that tells the story of Perween Rahman, an activist who decided to uncover the exploitative strategies of water cartels in Karachi informal settlements. She fought against water injustices and for accountability, exposing the perverse effects of water corruption in marginalised areas. (Director: Orlando von Einsiedel, Country: Pakistan, Year: 2021)

Human Rights and Water Integrity in Informal Settlements

Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021: Urban water and sanitation

Photos of integrity and urban water and sanitation

 

The post Integrity Talk 2 – on Informal Settlements appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Integrity Talk 1 – on Regulation

16 December 2021 at 22:17

Integrity Talks are discussions around transparency, accountability, and participation as ways to advance integrity and reduce corruption in the water and sanitation sectors in different parts of the world. This is an edited summary of our first edition. To take part in future Integrity Talks, contact us here.

 

What is the role of regulators in securing access to water and sanitation services? How can they promote transparency, accountability and participation, and which challenges do they face in doing this?

The Water Integrity Network (WIN) works in close cooperation with regulators in Latin America and Africa to promote integrity in the water and sanitation sectors. For this Integrity Talk, WIN partner organisations shared their experiences and reflected on their work on driving integrity, not only inside their own organisations, but also in relation to governments, water service providers, and consumers.

With: Pilar Avello (SIWI); Corinne Cathala (Inter-American Development Bank, IADB); Giovanni Espinal (Water and Sanitation Services Regulatory Entity ERSAPS, Honduras); Robert Gakubia (former head of the Water Services Regulatory Board WASREB, Kenya);  Chola Mbilima (Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association, ESAWAS).

 

Key messages

  • Integrity starts from within: it is important to implement integrity measures also within a regulatory institution and then with water and sanitation providers and consumers.
  • There are no fixed formulas for regulators to drive integrity in the water and sanitation sectors. Each regulator has its own individual mechanisms for approaching integrity according to the context where it is operating. Integrity assessment tools or indicators can help better target and adapt interventions.
  • No real change will take place at the regulatory level without the cooperation of governments and respective ministries, or without the engagement of stakeholders and users.
  • Working with vulnerable or marginalised communities and water supply committees in rural areas is an essential element of the integrity work of regulators.
  • Regulators can play an important role in promoting integrity by making budget allocations clear and by informing consumers about how resources are used to improve coverage and quality of water services

 

Regulators and their functions

Regulators are essential in the provision of adequate, affordable and reliable water and sanitation services. They set up rules and standards for utility companies, ensure adequate tariffs, monitor and report on quality of service, ensure effectiveness of investment and sustainability, and secure citizen involvement (WIN, 2021). They are crucial in balancing the interests of governments, consumers and utilities, while also limiting harmful behaviour (Twyman and Simbeye, 2017).

In contexts where corruption and integrity failures compromise the performance of water and sanitation service providers, appropriate regulatory frameworks can promote transparency, accountability and participation and support the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation. To build integrity in the water and sanitation sectors and boost service delivery, the Water Integrity Global Outlook WIGO (2021) recommends these actions for regulators:

  1. Regulate for equity, providing incentives or standards for pro-poor services.
  2. Regulate for integrity, setting standards and specifically monitoring procurement and corporate governance in utilities.
  3. Regulate with integrity, in a transparent and accountable manner, giving voice to residents.
  4. Regulate non-utility service provision.

 

Regulators and their role in promoting integrity

What kinds of tools are available to regulators to support their work in promoting integrity in the water and sanitation sectors?

Pilar Avello (SIWI): The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), WIN and cewas have developed tools to support regulators in promoting integrity. The Integrity Management Toolbox for Regulators addresses how regulators can be accountable to policy-makers, service providers and consumers. Following the WASHREG approach, we selected six regulatory areas (what regulators regulate): tariff setting, service quality regulations, competition regulation, consumer protection, environmental regulation and public health regulation, and key activities performed by regulators (how regulators regulate): enforcement, definition of rules and approval of licences as well as monitoring and information.

For these areas and activities, we identified a set of integrity risks that could occur and the tools that could be used to mitigate them. The ultimate goal is for regulators to develop roadmaps to improve integrity within their own organisation. In the long-term, we are planning to implement the Toolbox in Paraguay, Honduras and Ecuador between 2021 and 2023.

 

How can regulators put integrity into pracitce in the water and sanitation sectors?

Robert Gakubia (former head of the Water Services Regulatory Board WASREB, Kenya): We do not perceive regulators as anti-corruption fighters but as key players in identifying violations on integrity in order to ensure that people have access to sustainable water services. The role of regulators is to provide an environment that facilitates efficiency, effectiveness and equity in the provision of water and sanitation services, while addressing the sustainability of the service.

WASREB looks at the whole water service chain from governance all the way to the consumers. We look at the governance by addressing different aspects: how service providers organise their services in terms of provision, how they do their financial management and develop their human resources, how commercial aspects are connected to consumer services, how they engage and inform consumers, how they prioritise investments. All these issues are connected to integrity.

Giovanni Espinal (Water and Sanitation Services Regulatory Entity ERSAPS, Honduras): The benefits of integrity are connected to the principle of transparency. Regulators are obliged by law to enforce transparency by providing all information to service providers and consumers in terms of water quality and investment plans to improve coverage rates and achieve universal access.To secure accountability, we organise consumer assemblies, and team up with local supervision and control units (unidades de supervición y control local) to make information available. We also promote “consumer forums” to inform a wider public about their rights and responsibilities and the quality of water they receive.

Our work with integrity was initiated with the implementation of an Integrity Management Toolbox. The Toolbox has been very useful to identify new indicators that have helped us to promote integrity. In particular, it has helped us to guide water providers on how to use their own resources and manage bidding for tenders. These aspects are very important, because in Honduras resources are limited and if they are used in an inefficient or illegal way, water provision will be negatively impacted.

“One of the main challenges for regulators is to promote integrity within their own organisation before engaging with water providers and consumers. We are constantly facing complex questions such as: what is integrity for us, how do we manage our own resources, and how do we take decisions.”

As a regulator, I suggest looking at what integrity means, how it manifests itself. It is important to understand that we do not operate in isolation. Integrity can help us to make sustainable use of our resources in order to solve the problem of lack of water and sanitation.

 

How do you establish commonality about integrity issues across the region?

Chola Mbilima (Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association, ESAWAS): Currently our organisation has 10 members. We approach regulation from different perspectives. First, we provide a framework for the discussion of regulatory issues and by doing so, we promote good governance as a way to achieve integrity. It is very important to define clear responsibilities in order to promote accountability and transparency. Second, we develop instruments and tools that guide regulators in performing their functions. In particular, we have designed guidelines for regulators with implications for integrity.

I will give an example: we have developed a guideline for tariff setting for the entire region to assist regulators. This relates to a lot of issues of corruption, exclusion, and accountability. The guideline articulates how consumers can participate in tariff setting and raise their voice. We try to make information clear so consumers are aware about how tariffs are set up and what people can do to get a new connection. We try to help each other in the region.

“For regulators, information and data management are key aspects to fight  corruption and promote integrity. Most of the time we are hit with lack of data and  this becomes a problem because it is a recipe for corruption. If people do not have  information they won’t be able to know what road to take and that can bring issues  of corruption.”

As regulators, I have noticed that, in the region, corruption primarily emerges from lack of information and unclear rules. We try to establish clear regulations and share information as much as possible. We have also done regional benchmarking to share information. We agree to set standards as a region and we make information available to a wider public. By doing this, we try to promote transparency, however, member countries also have their own individual ways of approaching integrity.

 

From a financier’s perspective, what is your motivation to invest in promoting integrity within regulators and what do you see as the direct benefit to your financed projects?

Corinne Cathala (Inter-American Development Bank, IADB): The IADB has worked in close cooperation with WIN, cewas and SIWI to assist regulators in the management of their information management systems. This has brought transparency to the way they handle information and accountability to the consumers. We are currently working with 22 regulators in 14 countries. We also aim at strengthening frameworks among regulators as well as supporting partnership and creating a collaborative environment with governments and all water sector stakeholders.

The IADB also backs the AquaRating initiative, a performance rating system for water and sanitation utilities. In collaboration with WIN, we have developed a focus analysis targeting integrity and transparency and it has been applied in several water and sanitation utilities. Although this tool was originally designed for utilities, several regulators from Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia have approached to us to also use these indicators.

 

How do you provide opportunities to marginalised communities in Honduras to hold regulators and utility companies accountable?

Giovanni Espinal (ERSAPS): The majority of water providers in Honduras supply rural areas and they work on a voluntary basis. Integrity is part of their heritage as they operate through participatory schemes. They do not receive any economic benefit from tariffs and they represent a true example of what constitutes integrity in the provision of water services. However, they are rural communities and we have to make an effort to make their work visible and to support them to make wise use of the few resources they obtain, especially to reinvest in the improvement of the water service and resources. As regulators, we should avoid any distortion of the system of integrity and volunteer commitment, and recognise their contribution to collective forms of water service provision.

 

Workshop - Prioritising integrity management measures at ERSAPS (Honduras)
Prioritising integrity management measures at ERSAPS (Honduras)

Photo: ERSAPS, November 2021

 

While promoting integrity within the work of regulators, how does the IADB articulate the human right to water compared to issues of economic efficiency?

Corinne Cathala (IADB): This is tricky question. The UN resolution on the human right to water and sanitation is oriented to incorporate elements such as effective availability of water, minimum levels of consumption, quality and access to water. These are very important aspects that we are working on with regulators. But we also look at economic efficiency to foster rational use of water resources without undue political interference.

However, these aspects should be part of a long-term view that incorporates mechanisms of subsidies to help the most vulnerable population. Many countries, for example, have adopted a scheme of gradual adjustment of tariffs in order to subsidise families that have payment capacity problems. There is lots of work not only at the regulatory level but also at the public policy level with ministries.

 

How do you encourage a regulator to start to work with the concept of integrity?

Chola Mbilima (ESAWAS): A key strategy to motivate regulators is to invite them to visit places where things are working. We support regulators that supposedly are not doing so well to visit regulators that do things better. They have the opportunity to ask questions and they appreciate how the system works. We also encourage them to visit regulators, policy-makers and service providers to get ideas about how to make their own internal changes. In ESAWAS, we do not force people, but we expose them to institutions that work well. It’s a strategy to push regulators to implement integrity.

 

References

Twyman, B. And Simbeye, I. 2017. Regulating Lusaka’s Urban Sanitation Sector. The Importance of Promoting Integrity and Reducing Corruption. Berlin: Water Integrity Network (WIN) and Aguaconsult.

Water Integrity Network (WIN). 2021. Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021. Water Integrity in Urban Water and Sanitation. Berlin: Water Integrity Network.  

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Corruption threatens to derail climate action. A preventive integrity approach must be built in from project start

11 November 2021 at 09:40

“There is strengthened evidence that the global water cycle will continue to intensify as global temperatures rise, with precipitation and surface water flows projected to become more variable over most land regions within seasons”
IPCC 6th Assessment Report Climate Change 2021

The climate crisis is already significantly impacting the health, social and environmental dynamics of millions of people. The most vulnerable communities, and coastal and rural populations in developing countries as well as those affected by conflict, are unjustly bearing the harshest burden. Without significant investment in adaptation, the consequences will be dire. This means we must ensure new climate funds go where they are intended and most needed. In turn, this means integrity is essential.

The water and sanitation sectors are currently the primary beneficiaries of climate funds for adaptation. However , these sectors are already fragmented and complex in terms of governance. The influx of funds from new sources and stakeholders creates new opportunities for corruption and important integrity risks. Over 40 percent of all climate-related overseas development assistance is received by initiatives in countries among the riskiest places in the world for corruption (U4 Brief 2020:14).

An integrity approach is key to ensure adaptation processes stay on track. An integrity approach is also essential to limit maladaptation, an emerging concern largely driven by corruption and integrity failures in climate adaptation.

Maladaptation heightens expected climate-related risks instead of lowering them, or creates new sets of risks.

This new brief, developed with the Green Climate Fund – Independent Integrity Unit,

  • Examines how corruption and integrity failures may heighten the risk of maladaptation.
  • Highlights the importance of adopting preventive integrity measures to reduce the risks of maladaptation.
  • Encourages further research and discussion on the relationship between maladaptation and corruption.

Download and read here:

 

See more, including a video here on what maladaptation is and what the links are with integrity

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Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021: Urban Water and Sanitation

The new Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021: Urban Water and Sanitation (WIGO 2021) report shares paths to address massive, long-term impact in cities of corruption in water and sanitation.

 

The global urban population (today already 4,2 billion people) is increasing rapidly and with it the number of people living in informal settlements, often referred to as ‘slums’. All urban residents, including those in informal settlements need water for life and sanitation for dignity. However, access to essential services is not keeping up with needs.

Today already 1.5 billion people don’t even have access to adequate toilets. Rates of progress since 2015 to achieve SDG6 must increase at least 4 times to reach targets. Many people in poorer neighbourhoods pay 2 to 5 times more for water than richer neighbours and services to wealthier neighbourhoods are disproportionately subsidised and supported. Corruption and integrity failures are making matters worse, siphoning off needed resources and capacity, and impacting the lives of city residents and the sustainability of water and sanitation services. Horrifyingly, some recent studies suggest 1 in 5 women in several regions are forced to pay for essential services with sex, or know someone who has.

Recent 2021 floods across the globe, from the United States to China, have shown that cities are unprepared to deal with rising water sector threats linked to climate change, despite advanced warning and resources. Recent droughts, are stark reminders of the possibility of more ‘day zeroes’ for cities running out of water. And the COVID 19 pandemic response has brought to light more evidence of our vulnerability to corruption in emergency situations.

Cities need clean water and sanitation to build resilience. Clean water needs clean governance and safeguards from corruption. Integrity in urban water and sanitation is a means to address the compounding risk cities face in terms of water.

 

Integrity Champions around the world are strengthening water and sanitation systems

Water integrity is using vested powers and resources ethically and honestly to ensure people have access to equitable and sustainable water and sanitation services. It’s an aspiration, a way forward. And, there really is no other way: water and sanitation are too important to leave them unprotected from poor integrity, corruption, and malpractice.

The new WIGO 2021 report shares cases studies and examples of how everyone from mayors to residents, from utilities to civil society, and from WASH officials to funders and the media, can take steps towards integrity. It’s possible to put in place very practical measures for Transparency, Accountability, Participation, and Anti-Corruption. These are the building blocks of integrity.

The former mayor of La Paz, Bolivia, implemented a strong anti-corruption programme with zero tolerance policy for corruption and rewards for civil servants working with integrity. Utilities in Bangladesh, Peru, and Mexico, are using new integrity indicator frameworks to better understand and mitigate integrity risks, becoming more responsive to user feedback and streamlining accounting or procurement processes. In South Africa, organisations like the International Budget Partnership are working with residents of informal settlements to monitor sanitation service levels and contribute to filling the gap in data and statistics that leaves people behind and out of the system. ControlaTuGobierno in Mexico is holding water and sanitation sector officials to account by reviewing supreme audit report findings. Some WASH organisations are getting started by organising safe spaces to discuss corruption issues internally or engaging with local communities through survey tools to increase downward accountability.

In the coming months, WIN and its network partners will collaborate on initiatives to promote WIGO’s key recommendations and motivate new integrity champions for water and sanitation.

 

It’s Essential. Make a difference for your city, become an Integrity Champion!

 

See more from WIGO2021

Download summary:

Download full report:

 

View in browser

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WIN partner meeting 2021

The partner meeting was an opportunity for WIN partners to come together to look beyond 2021. Around 60 participants joined us. We shared the results of the WIN partner survey, a preview of the soon-to-be-launched Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021, and new ideas on the future funding landscape for integrity in the water and sanitation sectors within the context of COVID-19.

Here are the full notes:

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Strengthening Urban Sanitation Regulation to Expand and Sustain Services

A new research report examines urban sanitation in Lusaka, Zambia, with a focus on integrity, corruption risks and the capacity, strengths and weakness of the regulatory framework to deal with these risks. It bridges a critical gap in research on integrity in sanitation governance, highlighting new ways to strengthen the regulatory framework and ensure effectiveness of WASH systems.

 

Infrastructure construction alone will not solve the challenges of extending and sustaining water and sanitation services in cities with growing populations facing the threat of climate change. Strong WASH systems are critical to ensure the effective and sustained delivery of urban sanitation services. That is, the effective delivery of urban sanitation services depends on the proper functioning of various actors (i.e. ministries, city authorities, regulators, public and private service providers) and factors (i.e. monitoring, institutional arrangements, regulatory enforcement, public and private finance).

Strong regulators are a critical component of these WASH systems. They can help to expand safe sanitation services by creating and arbitrating the ‘rules of the game’ to balance the interests of the government, users and private sector while also limiting harmful behaviours. Effective regulation has wide-ranging benefits. These include ensuring compliance with public health guidelines and other statutory requirements, promoting efficiency gains and good performance by service providers, and limiting the opportunities for – and heightening the disincentives for – integrity failures.

Conversely, where a robust regulatory system is not in place, we see that corruption and integrity failures are often prevalent. These acts occur at all levels, from skewed policy formulation to mismanagement of organisational resources, down to bribes for essential services. This severely undermines services, delaying interventions, causing the inefficient use of resources, and contributing to challenges such as high non-revenue water rates and service disruptions. However, globally, insufficient attention has been given to formulating and implementing the practical measures required to strengthen regulatory actors for urban sanitation and the broader regulatory environment to combat these acts.

 

Lusaka – A city making considerable progress but one that remains emblematic of integrity challenges

Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, is illustrative of many of the broader challenges affecting urban sanitation service delivery and the need to strengthen regulation. Like many cities in low- and lower-middle-income countries, Lusaka is experiencing rapid population growth (5% per annum). Expanding access to safe sanitation is a challenge, especially in the densely populated peri-urban areas that house 70% of the city’s inhabitants and most new arrivals. Climate change is also already affecting sanitation service delivery.

Zambia has well-established institutional arrangements for regulating the urban sanitation sub-sector. Responsibilities are split between the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO), the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, and the Zambia Public Procurement Agency. However, all these institutions suffer capacity constraints.

Zambia also has an altogether impressive regulatory environment for urban sewered sanitation. Regulators have autonomy, there are systems in place for effective participation and incentives for transparency and accountability. NWASCO reports on performance and has oversight over the Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company (LWSC). Moreover, a 2018 strategic framework sets out how the non-sewered sanitation services used by 85% of Lusaka’s population are to be regulated moving forwards.

Eighteen percent of Zambians who had contact with a public service in 2018 paid a bribe – this is lower than the same figures for across Africa and globally, which are both 25%. Despite this somewhat positive picture and the progress made regulating Zambia’s urban sanitation sub-sector, new evidence shows that integrity failures and corruption remain pressing challenges.

Our report highlights several instances of corruption and poor integrity at different levels and involving a range of sector stakeholders. We focus on corruption in public financial management, corruption at the interface between institutions and individuals and other integrity failures. For example, there are cases where LWSC did not follow procurement protocols. Abuse of per diems is common and there are reported cases of bribery of public officials by the private sector, and bribery of public officials to obtain a service, reduce regular fees or speed-up administrative fees. These acts have delayed sanitation interventions, reduced the scope of large WASH programmes, caused scarce resources to be wasted on assets that were ultimately unused, and resulted in the inefficient delivery of services.

 

Moving forwards – further strengthening urban sanitation regulation

Corruption and integrity failures are undoubtedly common in the urban sanitation sub-sectors of many other countries, highlighting the global need to improve urban sanitation regulation. However, debates on these issues often centre on the broad need to strengthen governance. Insufficient attention is paid to developing and implementing the practical measures required to strengthen urban sanitation regulation and address these issues specifically.

The regulatory environment in Zambia is strong. Nevertheless, a comprehensive set of further improvements are required to address the entrenched factors causing corruption and integrity failures and to reap the wider benefits of effective regulation in sanitation in particular. One important means to this is to ensure the effective implementation of Zambia’s e-procurement system in the water supply and sanitation sector. The capacity of regulatory actors also needs to be enhanced – for example, by further expanding NWASCO’s pool of part-time inspectors to cover all of Zambia’s districts.

NWASCO could also expand the collection and reporting of data on petty corruption or corruption at the interface between institutions and individuals, including on indicators such as the percentage of the population that have paid a bribe and the rate of illegal connections and meter manipulations. Expediting the implementation of the 2018 strategic framework on regulating non-sewered sanitation is a further critical action point.

More broadly, the sanitation sector must develop a better understanding of underlying integrity risks and entrenched dynamics holding the sector back. We must move away from talking broadly about the need for good governance and start pushing national governments and development partners to increase funding for the substantive and long-term interventions required to strengthen urban sanitation regulation and improve integrity in the sector. It is only then that progress will be made in moving towards meeting universal coverage of safely managed sanitation services.

 

Download full report

 

Find out more about opportunities and ways to address integrity risks in urban water and sanitation – join WIN at Stockholm World Water

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Campaigning for payment of water bills by public institutions in Zambia

The #GovernmentsPayYourWaterBills campaign took off in 2020, backed by WIN, End Water Poverty, SWIM (Solutions for Water Integrity and Management), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). We investigated utilities in 18 countries and found that 95% of respondents reported cases of non-payment of water bills by public institutions, including for water services to public office buildings or military, and police facilities.

Overall, the collection rate for public customers is consistently lower than for private customers. And, in at least 10% of cases, the reason for non-payment is linked to abuse of power or undue interference.

These late or missing payments by public institutions have direct impact on the ability of utilities to provide service.

They hamper the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation and highlight a lack of accountability. There are ways to address the issue: these require determination and concerted action from stakeholders and public institutions.

With these findings in hand, SWIM teamed up with partners in five countries (Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Zambia) to investigate the situation in specific contexts and advocate for change.

In Zambia, a local campaign led by the NGO WASH Forum was launched in 2020 and was particularly successful. They organised radio discussions to raise public awareness on the issue and engaged with the Minister of Water Development to discuss sector financing, debt, and outstanding water bills of public institutions. In a positive move for accountability, the Zambian Parliament requested that NGO WASH Forum and partners submit a response to the National Auditor General’s report on commercial water utilities in November 2020.

The SWIM team caught up with Bubala Muyovwe, the National Coordinator of the Zambia NGO WASH Forum, for her take on the campaign and next steps.

 

Were you surprised that 95% of utility companies surveyed report non-payment of water bills by public institutions?

Bubala Muyovwe: I was not surprised that non-payment was reported. But I did not foresee the magnitude of the situation. I also had little idea about how payments are made or how the debt is managed. In a 2018 budget address, the Honourable Minister of Finance did mention that the ministry were unbundling debt. That’s when I first realised that the government had a history of non-payment.

 

What was the situation in Zambia at the time of your research in terms of government non-payment?

Bubala: When we started the research, an audit carried out by the Auditor General revealed that nearly 475 million kwacha (26 million USD) was outstanding in terms of unpaid bills. This was in line with figures we received from the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO). In 2020 the government reduced some of the debt, also by carrying out debt swaps with other entities, like the electricity company and the tax authority.

 

Was government non-payment previously a topic of discussion within the water sector and/or civil society?

Bubala: Honestly, no. I would like to think that a conversation took place between NWASCO, the regulator, and the utility companies. Perhaps they were trying to find strategies for dealing with the situation because it was hindering the operational capacity and efficiency of many utilities. As a civil society group, we didn’t have much experience with these problems. When the Auditor General’s report on the performance of the utility companies came out—just before we signed up for the campaign—it became clear that there were several issues related to the management of utilities, and we began to think about ways to discuss these.

 

Who would you say is most affected by government non-payment in Zambia?

Bubala: Ultimately, it is the small community user, the private user. Access is already a challenge, and the government has recently expanded the mandate of the commercial utilities. Previously, coverage by commercial utilities was restricted to urban and peri-urban areas. Their mandate has now increased to include rural areas, where much more of the population lives. To increase and improve access in rural areas and attain the Sustainable Development Goals requires considerable investment.

 

What was your approach for the campaign?

Bubala: We first focused on getting information from the key actors. NWASCO was instrumental in helping us understand sector power dynamics. Initially, we also tried to reach out to the commercial utilities. A few were able to provide some information, but overall this approach didn’t yield many positive results and we changed our strategy.

We then focused on awareness-raising. We ran some social media campaigns and designed several messages for national television. We wanted to sensitise everybody to the issues, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Water Development directed commercial utilities not to disconnect water during the pandemic. This added to existing debt, but also created a new dynamic by showing that some users had not been consistently paying their water bills. We therefore came up with a holistic message emphasising everybody’s responsibility to pay for their water use, including government departments, private users, and so on.

During the campaign, we were able to meet with the Honourable Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Dr Jonas Chanda, and his technical staff in late 2020. We discussed debt and took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of assisting the commercial utilities by addressing various governance issues. Non-payment of the utilities is turning into a big problem. To have any chance of attaining our national targets, this is something that cannot keep happening.

 

What aspects of the campaign would you say were key to its success?

Bubala: Dr Jonas Chanda has since become the Minister of Health, but the meeting with him in late 2020 remains a key success for the campaign as it opened possible paths for collaboration with the health ministry. We’re hoping to follow up to ensure utilities get as much support as possible when debt is dismantled and to find strategies to ensure bills are paid promptly.

In late 2020, the NGO WASH Forum also made a joint submission with WaterAid Zambia to the Committee on Parastatals of the National Assembly to discuss the Auditor General’s report on the water companies. The submission highlights how commercial utilities play a critical role in the realisation of the human right to water and sanitation, gives insight on their performance, and provides recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of their operations to ensure value for money. One recommendation is for government to link funding to operational efficiency of utilities, while looking at ways to address financial leakages and enhancing oversight.

As a Forum, we also discussed with various members of parliament the operational side and impact on utilities of different political decisions, highlighting the need to ensure utilities have the resources to sustain operational costs over the long term.

 

Did you involve any other stakeholders in the campaign?

Bubala: We are a network of national, regional, and international NGOs, and we brought in a number of our members to plan and formulate the various submissions and engagements with government. We tried to be as participatory as possible. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some Forum members were already supporting commercial utilities, for example, by providing the necessary water treatment chemicals. They are particularly involved in devising strategies to support utilities. Other members helped share the work with partners and on other platforms. Going forwards, we would like to have a bit more engagement with the public and raise awareness as much as we can.

 

How would you characterize the changes in the sector so far? What are you most optimistic about?

Bubala: It’s very significant, being able to have the conversation around accountability where debt is concerned. This is a big win for us. We’ve also become a recognised voice, with the national assembly asking us to contribute to the conversation around this key governance issue. That relationship is something to harness to help effect change.

Moving forwards, we hope to see some big improvements and policy changes to strengthen governance in the sector. In terms of leadership, we were sorry to see the Minister of Water Development move to the Ministry of Health but it is valuable that we now have a WASH ambassador in the health sector. We see a great opportunity for him to champion some of our causes. At a recent courtesy meeting, the new Minister of Water Development, Sanitation, and Environmental Protection, the Honourable Raphael Nakachinda, has demonstrated good leadership and a willingness to collaborate with the Forum. We see potential to collaborate with the government and continue to strengthen the sector.

 

Thank you Bubala for your insight on the campaign and all the best going forward!

 

Bubala Muyovwe is a health psychologist, soon-to-be lawyer, and a human rights activist. She is the National Coordinator of the Zambia NGO WASH Forum. She has worked for 10 years in the water and sanitation sector in Zambia to influence policy and practice through advocacy.

SWIM (Solutions for Water Integrity and Management) is an NGO based in Dresden, Germany, working for a world in which every person has unconditional, conflict-free access to water and sanitation.

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WIN annual partner survey

Water integrity means using powers and resources ethically and honestly for the provision of sustainable and equitable water and sanitation services. It is built through Transparency, Accountability, Participation and the proactive implementation of strong Anti-corruption measures.

To strengthen integrity in the water and sanitation sectors, WIN works with networks, associations, and partners from across the globe. While doing so, WIN remains keen to learn more about what we are doing right; what we can improve upon and whether – within our resource constraints – there are ways to enhance the functioning of the network, and with that, integrity in the water and sanitation sectors. The aim of WIN’s annual partner survey is to tease this information out and understand what the needs of our diverse network partners are. It helps us find ways to improve the support we can offer to or receive from the network.

As in the WIN partner survey 2020, this year we asked our partners what WIN resources they employed or found useful in their work. We focused specifically on tools, research, training and publications, including the theme of the next Water Integrity Global Outlook 2024. We also wanted to know how integrity features in partners’ work and activities in 2021.

Seeking integrity in the way we work within the water and sanitation sectors is asking for change, focusing all our collective energies – in not only fighting the old – but building the new. As a network of partners, it is exciting to see the constellation of relationships and collaborations in the network and how they are growing.

Explore the results of the WIN partner survey 2021 here or below.

 

WIN Partner Survey 2021

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Water Dialogues call for action to accelerate SDG implementation

Over the past several months, a high-level Steering Committee made up of representatives of countries and water organisations, has been grappling with the challenges of how to accelerate progress in delivery on SDG 6, ahead of the mid-term review of the International Decade for Action on “Water for Sustainable Development” in 2023.

The Committee was assembled by the German Environment Ministry (BMU) under the umbrella of the Water Dialogues for Results, which culminated in a Virtual High-Level Conference on July 1, 2021.  The Water Integrity Network was privileged to be part of this Steering Committee.

The issue on the table is urgent. There is less than a decade left to deliver on the SDGs, and billions of people do not yet have access to safe drinking water and decent sanitation services. Water is not only critical for life, it is critical for development opportunities across almost every other sector.  Failing to meet the SDG 6 targets will affect most of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Sustainable Cities (SDG 11), Zero Hunger (SDGs 2), Good Health (SDG 3) and Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7). Without improving access to water and sanitation, the Gender Equality goal (SDG 5) is unlikely to be met, nor the goal on Education (SDG 4). The list goes on.

Business as usual in the water and sanitation sectors is no longer an option. Allowing failures in integrity and widespread corruption to hamper progress on SDG 6 is no longer an option.

The Water Dialogues Steering Committee identified a range of actions under five “accelerators”, which include a recognition of the importance of improving integrity and accountability in the water and sanitation sectors.

 

Financing for Acceleration: a New Paradigm

Under the financing accelerator, the Water Dialogues recognise two important integrity-related measures. Firstly, that more effective use should be made of existing funding, and secondly that institutional capacity needs to be strengthened by promoting transparency, participation and accountability, as a means towards improving bankability.

Work done by WIN and its partners with, for example, water utilities and small water supply systems, has shown how improved integrity practices can drive improved financial viability and effective use of limited resources. For example, the Khulna Water and Sanitation Authority (KWASA) developed a roadmap to improve integrity using the Integrity Management Toolbox. After a two-year programme, the improvements in performance were significant (Table 1).

 

Table 1: Operational improvement on key indicators following Integrity Management Toolbox implementation
Utility efficiency indicator Operational improvement
Time to install water connection 33 % decrease
Water supply quantity 8 % increase
No. of customer connections 12 % increase
Revenue collection rate 5 % increase
Increase in billing of previous unidentified customers + 1250 customers
Meter installation for household customers 30 % increase
Time needed to detect and repair pipeline leaks 40 % decrease

Source: KWASA and Global Water Intelligence (23 March 2017, Vol 18, Issue 3)

 

Data for Acceleration – Data-based Decision-making

For the second accelerator on data, the integrity implications are also significant. One of the key pillars for improving integrity is improving transparency of information. Such transparency cannot be achieved unless appropriate data exists. The requirement, as captured in the dialogue process for decision-makers to be able “to employ quality, accessible, timely, and reliable disaggregated data for analysis, planning and implementation of effective cross-sectoral action in order to leave no one behind” is critical. We are pleased to see the emphasis on transparency and locally adapted monitoring and reporting systems, and on data disaggregation, which is especially needed for gender.

What is equally important, is to make the information, including budget and planning information, available to all stakeholders in a manner that they can understand and use to hold service providers accountable.

Data poverty is an essential concern linked to transparency, disclosure policies, and coordination between institutions, which all are linked to integrity. When data poverty leads to inequitable service delivery – for example in informal settlements where data on service levels is particularly scarce – we face a deep failure of integrity that requires urgent attention.

 

Capacity Development for Acceleration – an Inclusive Approach

The Water Dialogues messages make clear that “capacity development needs to holistically transfer knowledge beyond training to foster cross-sectoral decision-making, planning and implementation, intensifying horizontal and vertical cooperation on all levels”.  The emphasis on cross-sectoral knowledge is important.

We are acutely aware of the silos in which water and sanitation stakeholders work on one hand, and open government or anti-corruption stakeholders on the other. Cross-sector knowledge sharing and support among these actors would be an important and innovative lever to speed up progress on the delivery of SDG 6.

 

Governance for Acceleration – a Cross-sectoral, Cooperative, Good water Governance Approach

Of equal concern in the fight against corruption and integrity failures in the water and sanitation sectors is the fragmentation of governance arrangements as recognised in the Water Dialogues messages.

This fragmentation creates a vulnerability to corruption arising from unclear roles and responsibilities and the difficulties of knowing who to hold accountable. Clarity on institutional mandates and responsibilities, as well as clear accountability lines and mechanisms are essential elements to counter these risks and to support effective implementation of SDG 6.

 

We have limited time and limited resources for delivery on SDG 6.

Each day that we continue with business as usual sees resources wasted, and unserved communities still struggling to escape from poverty.

We must accelerate the delivery to those still facing a daily struggle to collect water and to access safe sanitation services. Improvements in transparency, accountability, participation and integrity are non-negotiable if we wish to meet SDG 6.

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“Integrity is an imperative principle for us”

WIN is proud of many of our partners, and this week we are featuring the work of our partner SWIMSolutions for Water Integrity and Management. SWIM works towards a world in which every person has unconditional, conflict-free access to water and sanitation. We interviewed two “SWIMmers” to tell us about their organisation; Sara Ramos and Armin Bigham.

 

WIN: Hi Sara and Armin, can you tell us a bit more about SWIM, and what life backgrounds you have that led you to starting the organisation?

Sara: I am a 33-year old Environmental Engineer from Colombia. I had the opportunity to work for around 7 years in quite diverse fields from water management in industries to environmental impact assessments for infrastructure projects. This allowed me to have a broad view of water issues from different angles. While studying in Germany (Master in Hydro Science and Engineering) it was revealing that many of the problems I observed in previous years are rooted in inadequate water governance and lack of integrity. My perspective was broadened, and this led me to be a part of SWIM, as I am eager to engage actively on IWRM and water governance to work on the foundations for equal access to water for all people.

Armin: I’m 28 years old, German-Iranian and spent 7 years of my life in the United Arab Emirates where I had the chance to understand the highly fascinating and complex geographical and political dynamics of the Middle East. This was also when I realised that some oil-rich gulf-countries can simply afford to provide water resources through desalination, whereas many other countries have to be careful with every single drop of water.

We founded SWIM in the Summer of 2019 as we realised that conflicts or at least rising tensions over water resources were increasing globally, particularly in the Middle East. The violent demonstrations in Basra, Iraq, in 2018, over precarious water quality is just one example. We believe that these challenges will be exacerbated by rising population and extreme weather events such as droughts. It is therefore essential to mitigate these risks by acting before rising tensions turn into open conflicts,  creating solutions to which SWIM wants to contribute.

 

WIN: Why is integrity important to you?

Armin: Integrity is an imperative principle for us. Corruption, poor water management and wasted or stolen water affect the poor and vulnerable first, depriving them of their basic human right to water and sanitation. Therefore, we at SWIM believe that open, accountable decision-making by everyone involved in managing water resources leads to strengthened integrity, which in return reduces the likelihood of water conflicts on all scales. It is crucial that water is managed equitably and sustainably, especially in transboundary water arrangements. What happens if equitable and sustainable management is not given is evident in the MENA region and Central Asia, where tensions are rising as we speak.

Sara: I have personally witnessed the tremendous impact that corruption has on ordinary people, and how it is entrenched in institutions and seems to have no solution. I worked on wetland preservation projects in Bogotá – Colombia, seeing first-hand how corruption affects all levels of contracting institutions and executors. For example, because of poor integrity, the construction of a road was prioritised over the preservation of one of the few remaining strategic ecosystems in the middle of the city. Moreover, the scandalous cases of corruption in my country are no secret, and I sympathise with the people who have been affected, mainly in rural areas or vulnerable conditions.

 

WIN: What do you think is the role of the youth in addressing the topic of integrity, and how can you be involved more?

Armin: I believe that the youth has the biggest responsibility to act for positive change. We are the generation that has been sensitised from a young age about the impact climate change can have on our future lives. The Fridays for Future movement has shown that our generation is aware of the challenges. We are the ones that will inherit the planet; we must have a say in what it should look like, and we will have to work with the challenges that are yet to come.

Sara: Furthermore, we will inherit the work from our senior colleagues and will be in charge of making it evolve. Therefore, it is essential for us to learn as much as possible in collaborations with established organisations in the water sector such as WIN to ensure that water integrity can be consolidated even when the conditions are more challenging.

 

WIN: What kind of work have you been doing with WIN, and what is important about it?

Armin: We had the chance to be an integral part of the “Government, Pay Your Water Bills!” campaign, where we were responsible for the research. We looked at how big the scope of governmental non-payment of water bills is on a global scale and tried to identify approaches to transform the problem. We investigated a great best-practice example from Romania that involves different stakeholders, from the regulatory authorities to the judiciary. We also looked into the impacts non-payment has on water utilities, customers, society and the environment. A policy brief is based on this research, and is being used for awareness-raising campaigns globally, for example in Mexico, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and Nepal. It was a very interesting project, especially because non-payment is highly overlooked, which sets the perfect conditions for corruption. In Zambia, for example, we identified a utility where government arrears were so high that they represented 50% of its revenue. This represents a big drain on resources for the water sector and is an additional challenge for the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation and the SDGs by 2030.

Sara: We are now supporting the update of the Integrity Management Toolbox, which was created to improve service delivery and performance of water organisations – utilities in particular – by reducing integrity and corruption risks. With new research, and based on lessons learned from 10 years of implementation, we are updating and further developing the specific tools that utilities can use to address key integrity risks.

 

WIN: Thanks for your time Armin and Sara, and good luck with SWIM!

 

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Open Government and Water and Sanitation Declaration

The Declaration on Open Government and Water and Sanitation is an international call to bring together water and open government reformers and mobilize ambitious action that strengthens implementation of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) service delivery. It outlines targeted recommendations that leverage transparency, participation, accountability, and anti-corruption measures in the Open Government Partnership and other WASH forums to increase collaboration and realize the human right to water and sanitation.

Adopting open government reforms can help governments strengthen their institutional capacity, facilitate coordination and trust among stakeholders, and resolve information asymmetries. These reforms can also ensure that civil society organizations and direct citizen engagement have a role in shaping government commitments to transparent, responsive, and accountable WASH services, free from corruption.

At this pivotal moment in time, we have the opportunity to galvanize political will and leverage open government strategies to transform our shared values for clean water and sanitation for all into a reality.

 

Read full declaration in EN, SP and FR:

 

A broad coalition of civil society and international organizations worked to co-create the Declaration.

 

You are invited to endorse the Declaration to send a clear message on the importance of addressing WASH through an Open Government lens, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Declaration is open for endorsement from open government and water advocates through September 2021.

Endorse here:

English endorsement form

Spanish endorsement form

Or contact Elizabeth.Moses(at)wri.org or WaterOpenGovernment(at)siwi.org with questions about the Declaration.

 

The Water and Open Government Community of Practice (CoP), is supported by Fundación Avina, Stockholm International Water Institute, Water Integrity Network and the World Resources Institute, and aims to strengthen water and sanitation (WASH) services for all and ensure the needs of vulnerable, marginalized communities are considered.

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Mother’s Parliaments in Bangladesh bring home award

Congratulations to the Development Organization of the Rural Poor (DORP), which recently won first place in the ‘People’s Choice’ category of the Water ChangeMaker Awards organised by the Global Water Partnership, for work on one of their many successful projects; the Mother’s Parliaments.

DORP is a long-time partner of WIN. We interviewed DORP’s Zobair Hasan, Director – Research, Planning and Monitoring, to learn more about Mother’s Parliaments and their role in strengthening women’s voices in the water sector in Bangladesh.

 

WASH challenges in coastal Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s south-west coastal region is quite vulnerable to effects of climate change; flooding, high levels of salinity in groundwater, soil, and drinking water due to sea level rise. Resulting reductions to drinkable water adversely affect health and sanitation.

Additional challenges in the region include:

  • 38% of people live below the poverty
  • inadequate local government funding for WASH facilities
  • lack of local awareness of water rights
  • lack of understanding about how to effect change

Zobair Hasan of DORP explained the situation: ‘Transparency is a problem, and budgeting decisions are not participatory. Many elected policymakers don’t make time to engage people after elections.

 

Increasing participation to improve service

DORP began working with Helvetas Swiss Inter-Cooperation in 2016 on the Panii Jibon (Water is Life) project, which began as a four-year project to build resilience in climate change affected communities, especially for youth and women. The project area was to be disaster-prone districts of Bagerhat and Khulna in south-west Bangladesh. The partners prioritised work with local governments and empowerment of communities and women.

To raise awareness of the communities and create a space for their concerns to be discussed and resolved, 130 Health Village Groups (HVG) each consisting of 25 members, were established, representing the vulnerable and disadvantaged women households. Starting in 2017, they formed an apex body called Mother’s Parliament (MP), who meet 3 times a year. Each MP consisted of nine women elected at sub-district level. DORP had based this initiative on earlier experience in Bagerhat District in 2012, where they had worked at the lowest tier ward level.

Key organising measures of Mother’s Parliaments:

  • created space for inclusive discussion and problem solving
  • flagged up communities’ needs and concerns
  • made plans for awareness raising, especially for disadvantaged women
  • created cost-benefit analysis of solutions
  • developed advocacy plans, organised trainings on advocacy techniques

DORP’s Zobair Hasan explained, ‘The MP plays a key role advocating with their local governments and departments to solve water problems, for example reducing long distances needed to fetch water.‘ Reductions in the distance needed to fetch water are vital to women’s equality in Bangladesh, where women do this job 90% of the time for their families according to Unicef.

 

Mother’s Parliament being handed over a water point by local government official
Mother’s Parliament being handed over a water point by local government official

Photo by DORP

 

Improvements in integrity continue

Once better informed of their rights, women started raising their voices for WASH at local government budget meetings. The local government was forced to involve women in decision making, resulting in increased water budget allocation. In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Mother’s Parliaments achieved an increased budget allocation or investment of up to 212%. With the MP’s now involved in multiple stages of planning and decision making, the entire process also has become more transparent. For example, budgets are now disclosed on public billboards and walls. The water system has benefited from improvements in integrity. Roughly 12,500 people now have better access to drinkable water at household and community level.

The Mother’s Parliaments have come a long way, and now local families are able to access water points in their communities. The MP’s work is crucial to making government service providers more accountable.

 

Thanks to Zobair Hasan and the Global Water Partnership for background to this article. Read more here about the Water ChangeMaker Award recently awarded to DORP and the work of Mother’s Parliaments.

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