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What does it mean to mainstream gender in open government processes and why are gender-blind indicators not enough?

November 25th 2020 at 20:02

Globally, women and girls take on a grossly disproportionate burden in the work of securing water for their communities. Yet they remain dramatically underrepresented in water management at all levels. This leaves them vulnerable to and dependent on men for their water and sanitation needs – despite distinct menstrual, pregnancy, and child-rearing needs – and effectively deepens their economic marginalization. Gender-blind indicators don’t make these issues appear and that’s a big problem.

In Open Government co-creation processes, including those related to water and natural resource governance, we often talk of mainstreaming gender to address these issues more systematically. At Técnicas Rudas, we’re proposing that to do this and take the next step in advancing gender-inclusive governance, we need to mainstream the use of gender indicators.


Why gender indicators?

To measure impact, to observe change, or to detect differences in characteristics across populations, policy makers, social scientists, and project managers make use of indicators. The feminist perspective calls our attention to two dangers of relying on easily accessible, simple indicators of well-being like GDP per capita, literacy rates, access to healthcare etc. First, the assumption of relative homogeneity obscures significant, systemic disparities within a given population along these indicators. A second and deeper danger is that the indicators generally neglect to take into account the systematic exclusion of marginalized populations from data collection efforts, which further exacerbates the fact that women’s and minorities’ realities are made invisible.

These dangers have significant consequences at the design, implementation, and evaluation stages of open government commitments related to Natural Resource Governance (NRG).

  • At the design stage, the blind spots mean that policy ideas and “theories of change” might be much less relevant and far-reaching in practice than they appear on paper.
  • At the implementation state, implicit discriminatory practices can go entirely unnoticed.
  • At the evaluation stage, the same blind spots mean that skewed or counterproductive impacts might go undetected and uncorrected.

Gender has been part of human rights and development sector discourse for years! In that time, many have come to realize that relying on feminist intuition or focusing on getting people of diverse backgrounds “at the table”, is simply not enough. For gender to be taken into account, it needs to count, and be counted. That’s why we’re proposing gender indicators.


New research to show impact of gender-based approach

In 2019, the Feminist Open Government Initiative invited organizations to present proposals for action-oriented and evidence-driven research to support the adoption of a gender perspective in Open Government. As a feminist organization that works a lot on issues related to transparency and extractive industries, and one that relies on open data and grassroots participation, this call for proposals made us think.

What does having a gender perspective look like in practice? Does a gender-based approach have observable consequences? For example, do policy priorities change? Do strategies change?

In 2019, my colleagues and I embarked on a year-long, action-driven exploration of the practical potential of gender indicators within the Open Government Partnership. We adopted a specific focus on commitments related to natural resource governance (NRG) and the differential impacts of the extractive industries on women. Our case study countries were Mexico, Colombia and Peru – contexts where land rights movements and socio-environmental conflicts persistently challenge both traditional and sustainable development logic, and where NRG commitments feature frequently in National Action Plans.

Our research took a detour almost as soon as we kicked off. Because the open government discourse is so embedded in the Sustainable Development Agenda, our original layout also integrated the SDG framework. However, we quickly realized that in the contexts where NRG challenges are most extreme – where indigenous communities face off against multinational corporations to keep toxic spills from contaminating bodies of water, and where open-pit mines threaten to displace entire villages – the development agenda doesn’t quite resonate. Instead, we turned towards the international human rights framework to help us think strategically and ethically about where we need gender indicators most.

We proceeded with an intensive period of literature review, interviews, and round-tables with specialists on the extractive industries, open data, and feminism in Mexico, followed by workshops with women land rights defenders in Peru and Colombia, with whom we worked together to test methods for creating and using gender indicators in the context of the challenges and needs of their communities.



Gender indicators highlight the harmful impact of extractive industries in terms of human rights

According to front-line land rights defenders who participated in this research, the differential impact of decisions about how natural resources are exploited or safeguarded is most apparent in connection with the impact of extractive industries on human rights.

In particular, when it comes to the right to water and sanitation, we see a very dangerous chain reaction of impacts. For example, a mining project has a dramatic effect on a community’s ability to exercise its right to water (due both to pollution and scarcity), which has cross-cutting consequences, by affecting the health of the entire community, which disproportionately burdens women due to traditional roles as caregivers, and thus in turn also lead to a drop in their ability to participate in the labor market, a subsequent reduction in livelihood, and further deterioration in access to health. Meanwhile, fewer clean water sources translate to more time dedicated to household chores and supporting agriculture production, further reducing time available for rest, education, and remunerated work.


Where there is resource extraction, there is violence

We also discovered that using gender indicators in the process of co-creating Open Government Commitments brings issues to the forefront that we rarely see in conversations, let alone in action plans, on open natural resource governance. One of these issues is violence.

Across the board, where there is resource extraction, an increase in the threat of physical violence appears to be ubiquitous. This includes forced displacement, forced labor, domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual extortion, human trafficking, militarization, intimidation and attacks against community leaders and land rights defenders, and more. Natural resource governance strategies need to confront head-on the violent consequences of opening communities and the environment to extractive industries.


Beyond specific indicators, committing to the process

Our research illustrates what using gender indicators can accomplish, which is to:

  • make visible what has been invisible for many up until now
  • assign value to what is normally taken for granted – issues that have traditionally been viewed as secondary or only indirectly related to natural resource governance – and put it center stage; and, finally,
  • serve as guideposts for designing much more inclusive and impactful natural resource governance strategies that have respecting and protecting human rights as one of their primary objectives.

We now have an extensive menu of gender indicators, which, for the water sector, includes for example disaggregated data on water quality and perceptions on water availability. But the most relevant result of this research is not the indicators, but the process.  We created a replicable process to develop gender indicators and published two short, simple guides (in Spanish) to help stakeholders design gender indicators for evaluating long-term impacts as well as short-term results of Open Government commitments.

Overall, it’s important to recognize we don’t have to wait for sweeping reforms or for the next national action plan to start using gender indicators. They can be incorporated from the word go, in implementation. That said, and as far as OGP on the international level and on the country level is concerned, there are  key moments where we can start to plan and integrate gender indicators: during co-creation, as part of the processes, at the conclusion of a national action plan – specifically in the self-assessment and in the independent reporting mechanisms methodologies- and, ultimately, at impact evaluations.

We should think of indicators not just as evaluation tools but also as guideposts that can help us ensure – from the moment of co-creation – that what we’re trying to achieve and the path we’re taking to getting there takes into account gender and gender minorities

The emphasis on process is in line with one of the final takeaways that I am left with as this project comes to a close:  One doesn’t “have” a gender perspective in a passive state; a gender perspective is, or should be, the active, collective and continuous undertaking of a deliberate process. Keeping this in mind will be key if the OGP is to transform into a genuinely inclusive platform.


About the author

Tamar Hayrikyan, Managing Partner at Técnicas Rudas, a Mexico-based organization that aims to contribute to social movements and human rights defense through strategic research, technology, creative alliances and organizational strengthening. Prioritizing grassroots initiatives, our approach integrates an intersectional gender lens and digital security. Tamar has an academic background in political economy and human rights, as well as professional expertise in corporate accountability, transparency in the extractive industries, documenting human rights violations and protecting human rights defenders.


See more posts from the Water and Open Government Community of Practice here.

See more posts on gender and water integrity here.

The post What does it mean to mainstream gender in open government processes and why are gender-blind indicators not enough? appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Water and sanitation through a gender lens

November 5th 2020 at 20:01

Every day, across the world, women and girls spend around 200 million hours collecting water. Women also have specific WASH needs. Yet they remain dramatically underrepresented in water resource management at all levels. Corruption and integrity failures shrink revenue for and effectiveness of the sector, further threatening the welfare of poor women and children in particular.

The Water and Open Government Community of Practice is working to change this by sharing research, best practices, and recommendations on how decision-makers in water management can significantly improve gender-related outcomes of their work. In a recent webinar, experts in national and international water and resources management focused on one means of action: gender-specific strategies linked to the WASH commitments made in Action Plans under the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Here are the key discussion points and conclusions.



Gender across OGP action plans

Allison Merchant, Open Government Partnership

Platforms like the OGP have major potential for governments and civil society to work together on improving gender responsive reforms. In the past years, we have seen promising transparency and accountability reforms on gender equality priorities through these collaborative efforts, building on strong partnerships as well as learnings from the Feminist Open Government Initiative.

Gender is the second fastest-growing area for OGP action plans. To date, throughout the partnership, 41 members – governments in particular – have made 127 commitments on gender. Furthermore, there are currently 28 members implementing 82 commitments in 2018 and 2019 action plans.

However, this merely scratches the surface of how these cross-sector initiatives can collectively champion ambitious reforms to close economic, resource, and social gender gaps. Natural resource governance has particularly been a long-standing integration into OGP’s work, but bringing a gender perspective is relatively new. So, when we think about opportunities to advance gender throughout open government work, I would urge that the following be considered as part of our water and sanitation reforms:


Inclusive co-creation:

The process of co-creating reforms can be made more inclusive through proactive outreach and engagement with government ministries and departments which are tasked with gender or inclusion


Gender mainstreaming:

Non-gender-specific action plans and commitments can be transformed by gender analysis.

Such a gender analysis can take many forms and use specific tactics like gender budgeting or gender-disaggregated data.We have examples from Kenya related to open contracting and from Cote d’Ivoire related to participatory budgeting.


Gender-specific commitments:

Specific interventions are needed to close gaps that disproportionately impact women and other key communities and reforms must be designed around those areas. Germany, for example, is monitoring women’s leadership in public and private sectors and using that data to inform law. Sri Lanka is connecting international protocols with the open government platform, by ensuring reporting for the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women is cross-populated and reinforced within open government structures.



Integrating gender priorities into WASH commitments

Kanika Thakar, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)

Of the 65 WASH and sanitation commitments made to date, there are two on gender or gender equality, three on women’s participation, and another three on women’s agencies among their supporting actors. Gender equality is key to achieving sustainable water governance yet those numbers indicate it is largely forgotten in the process for open water governance.

We can’t just will gender equality into WASH.We need a process, with renewed and ongoing commitments on gender. Rather than having only specific areas of work dedicated to improving gender equality, we must actively mainstream (or include) at every stage: from planning and implementation to monitoring and resourcing.

It can feel like a huge undertaking, but we can build on our existing work and find easy entry points for activities that can deliver gender-equal outcomes.


Represent gender diversity:

Participants in the co-creation process should reflect our populations and their needs.

One woman or one non-binary individual does not represent all; we need to strive for strong representation of women and gender minorities from different backgrounds.

One tactic is to request that all partners or supporting organizations send gender-diverse representation to meetings. If these organizations have gender focal points – increasingly common among WASH institutions – they should be engaged in the process. Consider your audience as well – guarantee the right conditions which allow full participation. Segregated consultations or groups may be appropriate, particularly when it comes to discussing toilets and menstrual hygiene management.


Be gender explicit:

While the term “community involvement” is used with good intention, it can result in gender blindness. Too often we take for granted women as part of the community. However, without being deliberate that the community includes men, women, and gender minorities, experience shows that one group will outweigh the others: typically, many men participate while women and gender minorities are left out, due to lack of engagement or underlying barriers to participation. This results in missed critical information about times and quality of service, as each group engages in WASH infrastructures at different hours and in different ways.


Illuminate and account for inequalities:

At first glance, pledging that a newly developed platform will offer “access to updated, complete information on drinking water supply and sanitation services” seems strong and gender neutral. However, women and girls make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate population, meaning that reports and written media are far less accessible to them. Women also have fewer financial resources, which can translate in less access to smartphones or computers and therefore less access to less online information. By appending to a commitment that access to and reporting on data is equally done by women and men, or by including the consideration that women and gender minorities face difficulties to do so, gender is brought to the surface. This may ensure follow-up on gender in implementation of open government commitments.


Collect gendered data and set targets:

With any good commitment, outcomes must be measurable.

Evidence and data are the backbone of good policies; sex-disaggregated data is thus critically important.

To recognize and measure how women and gender minorities are engaging with or being affected by commitments, is to gain deeper insight into otherwise hidden barriers and motivators, which helps in noticing implicit bias in our commitments and activities. Seeing low numbers in these areas can also help motivate better policies to address these challenges and help us take active steps to achieve gender-equal outcomes. However, it’s important to be ambitious but reasonable about targets. Achievable targets are more likely to be realized. The World Water Assessment Programme’s gender and water toolkit (2019) is a helpful resource for this, including interview questions, indicators, and methodologies.


Be prepared to pay:

Mainstreaming does not need to be hard, but it doesn’t come without cost. The process of monitoring indicators, addressing barriers, and ensuring women and gender minorities are engaged and equally provided for takes resources, and these should be allocated from the start. Gender-sensitive budgeting, advocated for since the 1980s, works to achieve gender equality by providing funds to ensure gender-responsive outcomes. In South Korea, for instance,  gender-sensitive budgeting was applied to modify their act on public toilets and allocate more resources to building them for the differentiated needs of men and women.



Developing and using gender indicators for open natural resource governance

Tamar Hayrikyan, Tecnicas Rudas

We have carried out a year-long applied research project on gender indicators in natural resource governance, with the input and support of frontline land rights organizations and local communities and researchers from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia as well as the Feminist Open Government Initiative. We see that gender indicators, and not only the numbers but especially the process of developing them, can:

  • make visible what has been invisible for many up until now;
  • assign value to what is taken for granted; and, finally
  • serve as guideposts for designing much more inclusive and impactful natural resource government strategies which respect human rights.

Gender indicators can be incorporated from the start and in implementation of OGP commitments.

We don’t have to wait for sweeping reforms or for the next national action plan to start using gender indicators.


The hidden human rights impacts of natural resource governance:

The differential impact of natural resource governance decisions is connected to the human rights impacts of the extractive industries, for example the rights to food, to a healthy environment, and to water and sanitation.

Using gender indicators and undertaking the commitment co-creation process with a feminist approach brings to the forefront these issues and more that are rarely talked about.

One of these hidden issues is violence. which appears to be ubiquitous when there is resource extraction, and includes forced displacement, forced labor, domestic violence, sexual violence, sextortion, human trafficking, and attacks on community leaders. Natural resource governance strategies need to start dealing with this reality head-on.


Chain reactions of impacts:

From our research, we saw that impacts highlighted by gender indicators can lead to a dangerous chain reaction, also in the water and sanitation sector. For example, a mining project has a dramatic effect on a community’s ability to exercise its right to water – both due to pollution and scarcity. This has cross-cutting consequences on the health of the entire community, which disproportionately burdens women due to traditional roles as caregivers. This leads to a drop in their ability to participate in the labor market, and later to a reduction in livelihood and further deterioration in access to health. And meanwhile the reduction and unavailability of clean water sources increases the amount of time dedicated to household chores and agricultural work, further decreasing time available for rest, education, and remunerated work.

In conclusion, gender indicators, from the moment of co-creation, can help ensure that what we’re trying to achieve and the path we’re taking to get there fully takes into account gender and gender minorities.


The webinar “Water & Sanitation through a Gender Lens: Reinforcing Commitments in OGP Action Plans” is one of a series organized by the four lead organizations of the Water and Open Government Community of Practice: Fundación Avina, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Water Integrity Network (WIN), and World Resources Institute. Founded in 2017, the community has grown to 75 member organizations worldwide. For more information, write to wateropengovernment@siwi.org.

The post Water and sanitation through a gender lens appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

A novel method to measure corruption in urban water and sanitation

November 18th 2020 at 14:08

Is corruption a real threat for water and sanitation services in our city? Is the situation improving or getting worse? How does our city compare with others? Can we even do something about it, and how do we start?

These questions are often asked but are actually difficult to answer with objective and reliable evidence.


Can you improve what you can’t measure?

Corruption is a concealed act by definition. It doesn’t easily lend itself to measurement. It’s nonetheless costly and dangerous, as it skews planning, diverts resources, and protects incompetence. In the water sector, corruption can be deadly.

Existing measures of corruption tend to focus on country-level reports of perception of corruption, provided by sources such as the Political Risk Service, International Country Risk Guide, and Transparency International’s Global Corruption Index. These are important tools to raise awareness and guide research but they are less useful when trying to examine and improve integrity in a given sector.

To ensure sustainable and resilient water and sanitation services across cities, local governments and sector decision-makers need a better understanding of the corruption risks that undermine their efforts. They need reliable measures that can guide practical action.

We couldn’t find this, so we’re building it.


Leveraging increasing data availability and advances in analytics to develop new measures for integrity

Big Data and advances in analytics are making new kinds of measurements of corruption and integrity risks possible. WIN is collaborating with the Government Transparency Institute to take advantage of these innovations and develop a Water and Sanitation Sector Integrity Risk Index (WIRI) for urban areas.

The Government Transparency Institute has a proven track record in applying innovative quantitative and qualitative methods to researching and advocating good governance. They recently won the IMF Anti-corruption Challenge with an intelligence tool which uses big data to spot corruption risks in public procurement processes. WIRI partly draws on the methodology applied in this award–winning project.

WIRI is a composite index, which is constructed by applying Big Data analytics to administrative data and survey datasets. WIRI offers insight across the three main integrity hotspots in the water and sanitation sectors:

  1. Public investment projects
  2. Recurrent spending supporting ongoing operations
  3. Client-utility interactions

In developing WIRI, we benefitted from continuous feedback from an advisory panel of experts, including Cetina Camilo (CAF – Development Bank of Latin America), John Dini (South African Water Research Commission), Kasenga Hara (ESAWAS), Ricard Gine (SIWI), Sanjeev Narrainen (GCF), and Vincent Lazatin (CoST).

Our new working paper explains the building blocks of the Water Integrity Risk Index and presents results for selected cities..

First results are very promising. The working paper shows that corruption risks in a particular city tend to change over time. WIRI enables us to capture even small variations in risk levels, thanks to the precision achieved by measuring corruption at the transaction level (such as contracts, customer interactions, etc.). In contrast, the measures of corruption perception widely employed in other indices tend to be persistent over time. The results in the working paper also show that corruption risks can differ significantly across different cities within the same country. This makes us cautiously optimistic about the prospects of selectively preventing corruption at the local level through carefully designed interventions.


Water Integrity Risk Index
The index captures even small changes in risk levels over time

WIRI preliminary results – from GTI-WIN Working Paper


An actionable index focusing on sector-specific corruption risks

What makes WIRI a useful tool? Firstly, we have aimed to capture a comprehensive list of sector-specific corruption risks. Moreover, unlike other existing measures of corruption that predominantly focus on perceptions, WIRI relies on direct measurement of corruption risks. Finally, WIRI results are comparable across time and space, which enables policy-makers to track progress and benchmark different cities.

These properties of WIRI make it a useful tool for:

  • monitoring, auditing, and investigations of corruption risks;
  • informing sector-wide policy decisions, for example on regulation and oversight; and
  • supporting civil society and other stakeholders to hold governments accountable and advocate for better services


Building integrity in cities: WIRI for your city?

In 2021, we aim to support a number of cities in applying WIRI. The aim is to support decision-makers get insight on how to improve integrity in the water sector and enable better service provision. We’re always seeking out new partnerships.

Want to know more? Interested in applying WIRI in your city? Contact us with your questions – uallakulov(at)win-s(dot)org.



The post A novel method to measure corruption in urban water and sanitation appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

More transparency in Brazil’s water sector national information system

November 14th 2020 at 09:53

In Brazil’s 4th Open Government Action Plan, the development and implementation of Open Government Commitment 10 on Water Resources, have been an opportunity to build participation and bring new actors to the table -including civil society and basin committees- to improve and increase the availability of information on water resources in Brazil. 

In April 2020, the #WaterOpenGov Community of Practice spoke with Marcus Fuckner, Coordinator of Planning Area Situation and Information Management at Brazil’s National Water Agency (ANA), on the open government commitments for water included in Brazil’s 4th Open Government Action Plan. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.


Understanding Brazil’s Water Governance

The National Policy of Water Resources (PNRH), defined in 1997 by the law Nº 9.433, also called the “Law of Waters”, is the cornerstone of water governance legislation in Brazil. The PNRH structured, oriented and modernized the administration of Brazil’s water resources. In 2000, Law No 9.984 established the National Water Agency (ANA) as the responsible entity to implement the national policy and to coordinate the National Management System of Water Resources (SINGREH).

ANA implements the PNRH in Brazil through water allocation terms and the regulatory framework, in addition to five official policy instruments: water resource plans, water permits, water quality objectives, water charges, and information systems.



Water management in Brazil is decentralized and managed at different levels by different entities. States and Federal Districts work with additional instruments to manage the water bodies under their control.

The National Management System of Water Resources (SINGREH) is a cooperative mechanism for water management which brings together entities from different levels.



Currently, the sanitation portfolio (which covers drinking water supply services, sanitary sewerage, urban cleaning and solid waste management, and drainage and rainwater management) is shared between the Ministry of Regional Development’s (MDR) National Secretariat of Sanitation and the regulatory bodies of the States and municipalities, with occasional service outsourcing to private companies in certain municipalities. At the time of this publication, a bill is under debate at the National Congress that would modify the regulatory framework for sanitation in the country, giving regulatory powers to the ANA, which would make it the National Agency for Water and Basic Sanitation.


Developing Brazil’s 4th Open Government National Action Plan

Brazil’s 4th Open Government Action Plan contains 11 commitments, which were discussed and designed with the participation of 105 individuals (representatives of 88 institutions, including 39 civil society organizations, 39 Federal Public Administration bodies and 10 State and Municipal Public Administration bodies). The Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), which coordinates the Alliance for Open Government in Brazil led the process of developing the Action Plan.

The methodology included the discussion of challenges and then the definition of commitments through co-creation workshops, i.e. meetings with equal participation of government specialists and civil society on the prioritized issues. The process was meant as democratic and designed to open the floor to issues beyond those prioritized by government bodies.

Several topics were thus addressed:

  • Structural issues, which their very nature, have the potential to improve Open Government policies in Brazil;
  • Issues prioritized by the government,which have been identified and proposed by government bodies as being of strategic importance for the Federal Government to move forward on matters of open government;
  • Issues prioritized by civil society and selected through a public consultation on thematic proposals.

The topic of water resources was brought in via civil society participation, as the third most-voted for during the online consultation phase.

Two co-creation workshops were held in May and August of 2018 to define Open Government Commitment 10 on Water Resources. One workshop sought to identify the problems and their respective potential solutions, and the other was designed to formulate the commitment. Commitment 10 is linked to target 6.5 of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water. It focuses on improving the National Information System of Water Resources (SNIRH) portal, first published in 2016, with the aim of providing more transparency on the water situation in the country, to address challenges in improving its availability in terms of quality and quantity.


ANA’s involvement in the Open Government Commitment on water

As the process of developing the OGP Action Plan was ongoing, the CGU contacted the Board of Directors of the ANA and the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), to which ANA reported until December 2018, to highlight the government’s work with transparency in water issues.

During the process of co-creating Commitment 10, it was recognized that ANA is responsible for a) systematic monitoring of the water resources b) the preparation of annual reports of the Brazilian Water Resources Overview and c) the coordination and management of SNIRH. The CGU then proposed that ANA coordinate the water commitment included in the OGP Action Plan.

The full process has helped to deepen ANA’s work on access to water resources information and data. Currently, ANA has its own open data portal, in addition to making data available on the Brazilian Open Data Portal platform

ANA has defined priority databases to make available in open formats, based on the most frequent information requests made through Citizen Information Services (SIC) of public administrations (established through Brazil’s Access to Information Law (Law No. 12,527 of 2011).


Implementing Open Government Commitment 10 on Water Resources

Launched in August 2018, the implementation process of Commitment 10 on Water Resources comprised a set of eight compliance milestones.

Public institutions such as ANA, the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) and CGU were some of the actors involved in implementation along withcivil society organozations such as Artigo 19, Fundación Esquel, Water Governance Observatory, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the University of São Paulo. CGU held six meetings with stakeholders throughout the process, to work towards the milestones and to address common challenges, including for example the required changes in the administrative structure.

Critical river basins were identified to carry out improvements. A pilot training workshop was held for a specific river basin committee (Paranapanema river basin, in the State of São Paulo and Paraná) and another extended workshop was held at the Annual National Meeting of River Basin Committees (ENCOB), in October 2019.

Moreover, civil society organizations Artigo 19 and Fundación Esquel organized an online consultation to propose further improvements to the SNIRH.

Improvements to the SNIRH carried out in the implementation of Commitment 10 now have important benefits.


Lessons learned from implementing Commitment 10 on Water Resources: the need to plan a sustainable process

An important lesson learned from implementing Commitment 10 on Water Resources came to the fore from the uneven level of participation between institutions throughout the implementation process. The change of government in Brazil (2018/2019) and the changes that occurred in the institutional matrix of SINGREH influenced the actions of some participating partner institutions, making it difficult to implement some actions previously planned in the commitment. In particular, it affected the participation of the National Water Resources Council (CNRH) and the availability of resources for the participation of representatives of basin committees and civil society in the workshops. To mitigate this, an online workshop was planned.

As a suggestion for future action plans and for other member countries of the OGP, the duration and timing of the Action Plan commitments should be carefully considered to limit the impact of changes in the administrative structure when implementation extends over two administrations.

The post More transparency in Brazil’s water sector national information system appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Water integrity is a woman’s issue

November 2nd 2020 at 09:55
By: Ivanna

Despite the prominent role of women in managing household water and their specific water and sanitation needs, women  are rarely consulted about the provision and delivery of water services, and women’s needs for water for families or for irrigation are often given a low priority by water managers and decision-makers. This is a failure of integrity. Corruption in water and sanitation further increases the burden on women and girl children fetching and managing water, and puts their health and safety at risk.

How does this play out and what can we do about it? How are women specifically affected by water sector corruption, including sextortion?

Let’s find out…


The post Water integrity is a woman’s issue appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Partner survey and partner meeting 2020

October 30th 2020 at 21:10

WIN conducted a detailed Partner survey in 2020. Thirty one partners working at the international, national and regional level responded to the survey. The questions we asked related to integrity issues and how these affect the work of our partners. We also looked at potential areas of collaboration.

See full report:



Some responses from partners on the incidence of corruption in the water and sanitation sector include:

  • “Corruption in the sector is well hidden especially when it involves big companies or big projects. The participants are usually well-versed in handling the money through offshore/shell companies which is difficult to trace. These offshore companies are used to transfer shares in an opaque manner.”
  • “The process of changing mindsets takes long especially where even the community is involved in corruption. We are also perceived as a threat by the people in power especially when it comes to advocating for disclosure of budgets and amounts expended.”
  • “Investments in rural water and sanitation by municipal, state and/or federal governments do not respond to local needs, are priced at a premium and do not comply with the rules of operation, therefore, in the end, there is poor infrastructure, of poor quality that is quickly abandoned.”
  • “Citizens are often aware of these issues but they are not motivated to demand their rights, thinking this would not be implemented due to the integrity environment.”


Partner meeting 2020

These partner survey results were presented at the annual WIN partner meeting which took place in August 2020.  The partner meeting was an opportunity for us to plan jointly with partners for 2021 and beyond and to share ideas and aspirations. For the first time, the meeting went online, enabling more of our implementation partners across countries of focus to participate actively and to share their experience and insight in the deliberations. A total of 50 participants including a full house of all WIN staff members took part.

See Partner Meeting notes:

The post Partner survey and partner meeting 2020 appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

What is integrity readiness for climate finance and why is it necessary in the water sector?

November 3rd 2020 at 14:07

This blog is based on our partners’ work and responses at the webinar “Integrity Readiness of Water Sector for Climate Change Finance – Challenges and Opportunities”, organized by GIZ on August 28th, in partnership with Green Climate Fund Independent Integrity Unit (GCG-IIU), Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI), and WIN. (Full recording). Thank you to all partners and participants!


Water plays a pivotal role in how the world mitigates and adapts to climate change impacts. Extreme weather such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves caused by climate change not only affect water availability and quality but also hinder access to safe drinking water, especially for the most in need.

For these reasons, global climate finance increasingly flows towards the water sector, especially for climate adaptation processes. As all major financing flows however, climate finance to the sector is vulnerable to corruption.

The relatively untested nature of funding sources for climate finance, the increment in the number of interested parties (e.g. energy and agricultural sectors), as well as the rise of multilateral climate finance and the emphasis on mobilization of the private sector boost the potential for corruption.


0% corruption, 100% climate action

Water infrastructure development for climate adaptation is prone to corruption, bribery, and nepotism, especially at the procurement stage. Without integrity and strong governance standards, climate finance can be diverted from vital prevention and adaptation activities into private bank accounts and vanity projects, often leading to catastrophic effects for vulnerable countries.

In response, there is a need to promote integrity readiness of the water sector for climate finance, by building capacity of all relevant actors and raising awareness of red flags for corruption throughout the project lifecycle.


“Integrity readiness is highly important to ensure that these funds are adequately used to safeguard vulnerable communities; who may be affected the most from the consequences of lack of integrity in climate adaptation processes. The water sector already has complex fragmented institutional arrangements. With added complexity comes added risk. That is why integrity readiness within institutions absorbing climate funds and among stakeholders at an early stage is important. We need to prepare for the changing architecture of the water sector.”

– Binayak Das, Programme Coordinator at WIN


The aim is to ensure corruption cannot compromise effective climate action.


#WW4D webinar on climate finance with (clockwise from top left) Fanni Zentai, GIZ as moderator, Ibrahim Pam, GCF-IIU, Rennie Valladares Alcerro, CABEI, Binayak Das, WIN
#WW4D webinar on climate finance with (clockwise from top left) Fanni Zentai, GIZ as moderator, Ibrahim Pam, GCF-IIU, Rennie Valladares Alcerro, CABEI, Binayak Das, WIN


Integrity readiness – building block 1: preventive action and capacity building

Green Climate Fund (GCF) is an operating entity of the Financial Mechanisms of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It provides the largest amount of funding to water-related projects in climate finance, approximately 13% of its portfolio.

The GCF Independent Integrity Unit (IIU) registered 40 cases of integrity violations in its 2019 Annual Report. These included project-related fraud, corruption and collusion; staff misconduct such as abuse, harassment, conflict of interests and retaliation against whistle-blowers; and others. The cases marked a 90% upsurge in the number of investigations by the IIU, in comparison to those of the previous year.

The trend is of concern and confirms that increased funding may lead to increased risk. Preventing and managing these risks is essential, an approach GCF-IIU is working actively exploring, in addition to implementing strict policies and a strong control framework.


“We are developing and institutionalizing strong preventative measures as well as investing in capacity building to address risks. The most crucial future development is Proactive Integrity Reviews (PIRs) methodology based on a data-driven integrity risk assessment.  We think that descriptive data analytics would help to understand what it is going on from the integrity perspective.”

– Ibrahim Pam, Head of the Independent Integrity Unit, Green Climate Fund.


There are a number of other tools and methods to address integrity risks, from both the water sector and the climate sector, that can be applied and adapted for water-related projects for climate finance. The Integrity Management Toolbox, is one such water sector tool that is adaptable and has already been used by water sector government agencies and river basin organisations.


Integrity readiness – building block 2: involving local communities and civil society

In the water sector specifically, corruption directly affects the most vulnerable. From project selection to implementation, there is also a high risk that vulnerable communities and those most directly touched by an intervention are not able to participate. It is crucial to safeguard and include local communities and civil society at all levels and stages.


“Understanding what the local population are seeking from a project and bringing people’s voices is one of the biggest challenges, but it is fundamental. In most of my experiences, there are conflicts of interest with the private sector. It is important to have close auditing and monitoring with due diligence. We must also have the conversation with the beneficiaries of climate finance, not just follow the procedures.

– Rennie Valladares Alcerro, Country Analyst at CABEI


Integrity readiness – building block 3: building partnerships

In addition to promoting the participation of vulnerable communities and civil society, we need more knowledge-based partnerships to collect data and information, to increase transparency and jointly curb corruption in water-related projects for climate finance.


“We need to work in partnerships and coalition. It is also key to keep the media involved. If you are looking for solutions and measures, it is necessary to think about what we can do to improve together, instead of just pointing out that corruption is happening.”

– Binayak Das, WIN Programme Coordinator


GCF Integrity Forum with Accredited Entities at COP 25, Madrid in 2019 (source: GCF)


Key takeaways

  • 0% corruption, 100% climate action and commitment
  • A data-driven approach, as well as strong preventative measures and capacity to address risks is important.
  • Zero tolerance, honesty, and professionalism must be core values.
  • Working with beneficiaries and in partnerships is key


For more information on climate finance and water integrity, we invite you to read our GIZ/WIN policy brief:



This post is by Kei Namba. Kei is an independent consultant, specializing in water governance, climate, and environmental politics. She has been working with WIN on several projects including water integrity and climate finance, Water Integrity Global Outlook (WIGO 2021), building strategies for Asia-Pacific, and promoting WIN’s tools .

The post What is integrity readiness for climate finance and why is it necessary in the water sector? appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

The smart investment for the water and sanitation sector is an investment in integrity

November 3rd 2020 at 12:43
By: Ivanna

Joint statement by IRC WASH, Wateraid, and WIN.

“The ability of low- and middle-income countries to mobilize additional, repayable financing and explore financial innovations is highly dependent on the ability of the sector to demonstrate that it receives and makes good use of existing funding.”

– Sanitation and Water for All, 2020, Water & Sanitation: How to Make Public Investment Work. A Handbook for Finance Ministers


Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are essential to the COVID-19 pandemic response. And, the performance and sustainability of the WASH sector will be decisive for how well and fast countries can recover and become more resilient in the face of climate change.

Considering this central role, why does the sector suffer so clearly from the “interlinked challenges of underinvestment and a poor performance record”? The WASH sector requires funding to at least triple to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, every 10 per cent of investment that is lost to corruption implies annual losses to the sector in excess of USD 75 billion. Because the sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption, some estimate actual losses are many times higher. Low integrity, capacity issues and mismanagement make the situation worse.

Starting in early November 2020, ministers of finance from Sanitation and Water for All partner countries will gather to “develop and strengthen partnerships for smart investments in water, sanitation and hygiene”. They have the power and responsibility to coordinate more effective funding mechanisms and attract new finance. Thought leaders in the sector agree that the ministers’ ability to do so is linked to improving governance in the sector and making better use of existing funding. We argue that it’s high time we go one step further than good governance and also focus on integrity.

Because of corruption, money we cannot afford to lose seeps out of the water sector. Low integrity contributes to inefficient and unfair investments and undermines investor confidence by increasing risk. We must take the bull by its horns and aim for accountable and transparent governance, with proactive measures in place to prevent corruption and build integrity.


Lost money; inefficient, unfair investments

There are important integrity risks in the planning and design of WASH interventions and infrastructure developments. The actors involved, the location, the size, and technical specifications of an intervention are all elements that can be manipulated to suit vested personal and political interests. Procurement is another major risk area for integrity and corruption because of the size of financial flows involved.

Collusion between project owners and bidders, kick-backs, and bid rigging or suppression are relatively common examples of corruption in WASH infrastructure development. As a result, projects are more expensive than they should be and infrastructure breaks down prematurely, if it even becomes operational. More broadly, other typical examples of practices with low integrity include targeting interventions to sway votes, to provide business opportunities for friends, or in exchange for favours, irrespective of population or inequalities in service levels, and at the expense of those in need.


High integrity risks: low investor confidence

Key sector stakeholders like service providers or utilities, must become creditworthy and able to defend their financial management and performance track records to access new finance, including repayable finance and innovative finance from new players that are used to working with possibly more seasoned actors in other sectors.

However, abuse of political power to influence utility management is not uncommon. There are many red flags for investors, including: wasteful expenditure by boards of directors (often made up of political appointees), procurement issues, patronage in human resource management, financial irregularities, poorly kept records, or unclear mandates.

Concurrently, utilities are not necessarily subject to the same oversight and control mechanisms as many government institutions. Their financial plans and statements tend to be less openly available, and public participation and reporting mechanisms less developed. These are important risks that need to be addressed.


Making better use of existing funding and bridging the financing gap with integrity

In its Handbook for Finance Ministers, Sanitation and Water for All highlights four critical and useful intervention areas with the potential to mobilize resources for the sector:

  1. “Maximize value from existing public funding by incentivizing sector performance, improving subsidy targeting and promoting better sector planning and management.
  2. Mobilize more funding by setting up adequate cost recovery policies, reforming tariff systems, introducing earmarked taxes and establishing an array of options for cross-subsidization.
  3. Increase repayable domestic finance through mechanisms that reduce perceived risks and pool finance at national, municipal and household levels.
  4. Encourage innovation and least-explored new approaches such as climate funds and social impact bonds, to tap sources of finance rarely accessed by the water and sanitation sector.”

Integrity is an enabling factor in all these areas and finance and sector ministers can incentivise sector performance on integrity, for example with stricter corporate governance standards, public participation measures, public disclosure, effective oversight and complaint mechanisms, and transparency and controls on staff appointments.

Integrity measures can directly contribute to increasing financial efficiency by curbing corruption and mismanagement in the use of investments. They can also stimulate bigger gains by addressing perverse incentives and undue influence of special interest groups in intervention planning and design. Integrity can help build trust of users in duty bearers, a condition for tariffs to be understood and accepted. It can also help build creditworthiness of service providers, a condition to attract new financing.

Improved integrity is a critical underpinning of sustainable finance for the water and sanitation sector. Investments in the sector should be accompanied by investments in improving integrity and good governance.


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How Bangladesh citizens and the media exposed corruption in water management

September 28th 2020 at 13:17
By: Ivanna

This brief is based on the study “Water Financing for Flood Protection in the Wetland Areas (Haor) in Bangladesh: Determining the Scope for Social Accountability” by Touhidul Hoque Chowdhury in partial fulfillment to the requirements for obtaining the degree of Master of Arts in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague. This thesis was supported by WIN.


Sunamganj is a wetland district in the North-Eastern part of Bangladesh, which is flooded every year due to monsoon rain and flood water from the Brahmaputra river. Flooding is a natural phenomenon in the country’s wetlands (Haor). To protect local crops from the most severe floods, the government implements crop protection embankment projects through the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).

The study on which this brief is based, revealed that corruption contributed directly to the failure of protecting local crops during a particularly devastating flood in 2017. The research highlighted how integrity deficits within these projects came to light as a result of a grassroots civil mobilisation, which put pressure on authorities to investigate.

Credit: Oxfam


Media and community pressure lead to policy change

In 2017, newly constructed embankments in Sunamganj collapsed, leading to the flooding of 142 Haors. Damages estimated by the government included crop loss on 371,401 hectares with a value of over USD 800 million (rice and fodder)[1], in addition to losses in fishery and livestock.

This led the local NGOs/CSOs and media to report on the damage, linking it to poor maintenance of the flood protection embankments in the wetland areas. Local-level journalists were providing real-time reports through social media and reaching out to the local community as well as the national press. Media reports showed that not only contractors, but also engineers and other officials were involved in corruption in the construction and maintenance of the flood protection structures as well as in other major development projects  (river dredging and irrigation). They brought nationwide attention to the losses.

The wide coverage on the issue in the national media,  prompted the government to review the “Kabita Nitimala 2010”, the policy governing Haor Management, which led to the implementation of the “Kabita Nitimala 2017” policy. In the revised policy, project implementation was shifted away from the BWDB’s responsibilities and delegated to the local administration. The BWDB was made responsible for technical support of the implementation process.

Despite this swift policy change, it was revealed that there were many places where the height of the embankments was increased beyond the established design parameters, which became a barrier to the natural flow of floodwater into the wetlands.

People’s active participation in the local governance system has always been a challenge in the local development context. The geographical characteristics of the wetland areas make it even more difficult to promote people-centered governance. Because the livelihoods of the Haor community are vulnerable to the natural catastrophes (i.e., floods), the government implements water projects to protect the Haor community and its crops.

The “Kabita Nitimala 2017” is one of the policies that created scope for the local people to implement the water projects under the leadership of the local administration. It was brought forth due to the pressure from the media and local organizations on the regulatory bodies, which prompted to launch an investigation into the corruption that occurred in these projects.

The role of the media was acknowledged by government officials and NGO activists who were interviewed for the study.


Credit: Touhidul Hoque Chowdhury


Investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission

In response to the tremendous pressure from the media and civil society, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is mandated to investigate corruption in any public institution, decided to launch an investigation. During 2017, the ACC found evidence of irregularities in the embankment development and maintenance. . Despite the ACC’s efforts in filing lawsuits against the BWDB duty bearers for negligence and malpractice during the implementation of the water projects, the wetlands communities are sceptical as to whether the responsible authorities and other parties involved will be held accountable. Currently, the cases are moving slowly.


The chronic failure to maintain the crop protection embankments is an integrity issue, affecting the lives and livelihoods of the community members. The policy change altered the local accountability mechanisms, shifting ownership to the local administration and providing more space for local community involvement in a region where geographical characteristics have increased the challenge of promoting people-centered governance. The new mechanisms are promising but still have their obstacles. It was, for example, revealed that since implementation there are many places where the height of the embankments was increased beyond the established design parameters, becoming a barrier to the natural flow of floodwater.

It is important that joint accountability mechanisms are encouraged to ensure that BWDB and the local administration are active participants.

Media and civil society engagement also remain crucial. They played a significant role in building popular mobilisation, informing policymakers of wrongdoing and holding all stakeholders to account, thus directly contributing to safeguarding the rights of the local population.


[1] Haor Advocacy Platform (HAP) Position Report Flash Flood 2017

You can download a lengthier summary of the study here:

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WW4D: Government, pay your water bills!

September 17th 2020 at 13:04
By: Ivanna

Water utilities are crucial for guaranteeing the human right to safe water and sanitation. The session “Government, pay your water bills!” on August 25th at the Week on Water for Development (WW4D) shed light on the issue of governmental non-payment of water and sewage bills. This issue can heavily starve utilities of much-needed resources to operate efficiently and become economically viable. Also it is of great importance as most utility managers, government representatives, and development partners are aware of the matter, but rarely discuss it openly. This session brought together utility managers, development partners and civil society organizations to openly discuss, in four different breakout groups, the topics  of governmental non-payment, its impact, and the strategies to overcome it..

Research presented by Sara Ramos, member of Solutions for Water Integrity and Management (SWIM), demonstrated that 95% of the utilities investigated across 18 countries – mostly from the global south – reported cases of governmental non-payment. The reasons identified were diverse, ranging from political interference to the belief that government entities and public service providers should not have to pay for water and sanitation services.

Civil society campaign in Zambia

In Zambia, for example, services to government institutions comprised 50% of the utility’s anticipated operational revenue in the financial year of 2019/20; however, the bills were not paid. Bubala Muyovwe, from the NGO WASH Forum in Zambia, explained the diverse reasons for these developments, ranging from weakness in cooperate governance to failure to prepare financial statements. Furthermore, Muyovwe highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial stability of water utilities stating that revenues have declined even further while expenses have risen due to, for instance, the purchase of additional chemicals. Although the government has developed strategies to overcome governmental non-payment such as, the installation of prepaid water meters, the problem prevails. Muyovwe stated that the next steps of a civil society campaign in Zambia will be to raise awareness of the issue through the media, collaborate with various utilities, and to exert pressure on the Ministry of Finance.

Getting the government to pay its bills in Romania

In her opening statement, Sara Ramos highlighted that the issue of governmental non-payment is solvable and there are diverse approaches to tackle it in the long run. In his breakout session Teodor Popa from the Romanian Water Company (Brasov), presented a successful example  outlining how Romania was able to solve the problem 10-20 years ago. In Romania, the root of the problem was, among others, the lack of regulations and the problem of legal enforcement of non-payment. Consequently, certain measures were identified and implemented to address non-payment. The most important of these measures discussed were (i) the establishment and legal strengthening of regulators who can enforce the payment of unpaid accounts, (ii) the simplification of the legal process to sue for arrears, and (iii) the establishment of accountability provisions for government institutions in which they need to show that the funds have been used to settle arrears. Furthermore, through structural change, water utilities gained more independence from political interference.

What regulators can do: experiences from Rwanda

In this breakout session, Jacques Nzitonda, Director of Water and Sanitation from Rwanda,highlighted different ways that regulators can provide incentives for government institutions to pay their bills. Advocating for government institutions to allocate annual line budgets, as well as, the inclusion of indicators on government debt in utility reporting, were identified as the most influential measures to transform the issue of non-payment. Additionally, he noted that utilities should be encouraged and authorized to disconnect government institutions in case of non-payment. In the case of Rwanda, it was possible to address the issue through the increase of queries by the auditor general if a government institution has arrears. Overall, the aforementioned methods to address non-payment also played an important role in the utilities ability to take on commercial financing loans.

Supporting civil society space and voice through international advocacy

The role of civil society was comprehensively discussed in this breakout session. Al-Hassan Adam from End Water Poverty explained how a civil society-led campaign can exert pressure on government institutions to pay their water bills. The key aspects of such campaign would be to put local partners upfront and assure its flexibility.. Al-Hassan further emphasized that civil society is not homogeneous and that its diverse organisations operate differently in the light of national politics.

The key insights of this session were that the problem is very real and the question should be how we address it. People are right-holders and governments are duty-bearers; it is, therefore, the government’s responsibility for human rights to water and sanitation, and non-payment undermines it. If the government does not pay, it is the individual who will have to compensate for the costs through higher tariffs or poorer service. However, examples from Romania or Rwanda showed that governmental non-payment is a solvable problem, but only if there is the willingness and the long-term vision to make this behavioral and cultural change.


For more information on the issue of governmental non-payment, we invite you to read our policy brief click here.

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#WW4D webinar: Governments, Pay Your Water Bills

August 25th 2020 at 11:06

Online event. August 25th at 3pm CEST.

This session shines a spotlight on an issue most development partners, government representatives, and utility managers are aware of, but seldom discuss openly: across the globe, too many public institutions don’t pay their water and sewerage bills, thereby starving utilities of resources they need to provide adequate service and ensure realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation.

Find out more and register at https://www.everydrop-counts.org/

The event is organised by GIZ – Water Policy, Water Integrity Network (WIN), End Water Poverty, Eastern and Southern Africa Water
Regulators Association (ESAWAS), Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), NGO WASH Forum.

Download the programme :


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Governments, pay your water bills!

August 25th 2020 at 10:50

Access to safe water and sanitation are human rights. To serve everyone and realise these rights, water and sanitation service providers must be able to operate and stay financially viable.

However, there is evidence to show that many public institutions do not pay the water bills they receive, or with crippling delays. This is a problem for service providers who count on this revenue.

When governments don’t pay, people do. The burden shifts to those who face increased tariffs and those who are left with poor or no service, who pay with their health, time, and productivity.

There are many ways to address the issue. Utilities must improve systems to ensure collection of payments. Governments must ensure payments to utilities are given due priority and urgent attention. This is essential, to ensure resilience in crises, avoid costly bailouts, and safeguard the human rights to water and sanitation for all.

To bring attention to this issue and share best practices to improve collection processes and prioritise timely payments, WIN and End Water Poverty are launching an advocacy campaign with the support of GIZ, ESAWAS, AMCOW, Water Citizens Network, KEWASNET, and the Zambia NGO WASH Forum.

Join us at #GovernmentPayYourWaterBills



Download policy brief, based on latest research:

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Governments, Pay Your Water Bills!

August 25th 2020 at 10:48

Access to safe water and sanitation are human rights. Water and sanitation service providers must be able to operate and stay financially viable to serve everyone. But this ability is often at risk due to non-payment – including by government institutions.

Water that is treated and delivered has a cost, also water meant for public office buildings, security and policing facilities, and other public institutions such as public hospitals and schools. Except when they are exempt from payment by law, these public institutions should receive water bills and are expected to pay them. However, there is evidence to show that many do not, or that they pay with crippling delays.

These arrears contribute significantly to the financial and operational challenges faced by utilities. Non-payment thus has direct impact on the ability of utilities to provide adequate service and hampers the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation.

Someone always pays. When governments don’t pay, people do. The burden shifts to those who face increased tariffs and those who are left with poor or no service, who pay with their health, time, and productivity. The impact on affordability of service is severe. The long-term social, economic and environmental costs are dramatic.

There are many ways to address the issue. Based on new research by WIN and End Water Poverty, this policy brief outlines best practices for service providers, regulators, public finance actors and water sector stakeholders.

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Ensuring COVID-19 relief funds are used with integrity in Nakuru and Makueni counties

COVID-19 is a major threat to the livelihood of rural communities living off agriculture and livestock herding in Nakuru and Makueni counties. Key economic institutions have been shut down in response to the pandemic, including markets. This has negative consequences on household income and social interactions in rural communities and is leading to underemployment in informal labour markets.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene issues (WASH) are coming to the fore. Governments are urging people to wash their hands with soap and water as an essential means to stop the spread of infections. This has led to high demand for communal handwashing facilities in low-income areas and for the distribution of soap with handwashing tanks.

To address these issues, curb the spread of the virus, and cushion Kenyans from the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the Government of Kenya is disbursing COVID-19 relief funds to county governments, with support from non-governmental actors.
There is no room for corruption or manipulation in these unique circumstances. Relief funds cannot be wasted. County governments must follow national procurement rules and regulations in using these funds. They must use the money transparently and with integrity. We cannot afford to take this lightly. We must hold service providers, civic and county leaders accountable.



Holding local governments accountable for effective use of COVID-19 relief funds

The Centre for Social Planning and Administrative Development (CESPAD), with the Water Integrity Network (WIN) and the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Societies Network (KEWASNET), are launching a citizen’s campaign, to sensitise the public on their rights and duties to ensure the effective and transparent use of COVID-19 relief funds during the pandemic. We are focusing on ensuring meaningful public participation, as well as monitoring and evaluation of funds and procurement activities.

The campaign highlights ways to hold county governments and water service providers accountable:

  • how to report corruption from civic and county leaders,
  • how to ensure the poor and marginalised are not excluded or exploited,
  • how to deal with misinformation spread through social media,
  • how to take part in county budgetary processes.

The pandemic can only be stopped in its tracks with integrity. County and national governments must put in place sustainable measures to limit the impact of the pandemic. People must follow guidelines to wear masks correctly, wash hands, practice social distancing, get tested and self-isolating when feeling ill. For it all to work, active participation, accountability mechanisms, and anti-corruption procedures are essential. They can ensure that funds disbursed to help fight the virus are used well and benefit those who need them most.


Follow news on the campaign on Twitter: @cespadkenya

For more information, contact the WIN Programme Officer for this initiative:
Nagnouma Kone, nkone[at]win-s.org

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Water-related commitments in Mexico’s Open Government Plan

This blog was written by Cartocritica, as a contribution to the Community of Practice on Water and Open Government.


Access to water is a right that affects various aspects of life: environmental, social and political. It is essential for the conservation of biodiversity, to maintain hygiene, and to support health and livelihoods.

In Mexico, water is considered the property of the nation and the government is responsible for guaranteeing the right to its access, its availability in sufficient quantity and quality, and access to safe sanitation. However, what can be seen in Mexico is desiccated landscapes, polluted aquifers, and communities that lack water access. Even in cases where water is available, quantity and quality are often inadequate. Much water is lost or polluted by excessive toxic discharge, large concessions for industries, and irregular system operation.

When one tries to review official data on volumes of water available, extracted, licensed under a concession, or polluted, it becomes clear that there is little or no information available, and that most of what is available is in restricted access.

Such opacity prevents interested users, especially territory and human rights defenders, from accessing key information that would allow them to know what the state of water resources is in their localities or to promote citizen participation in water management.

This is why more transparency and accountability in the water sector are urgently needed. Incorporating water-related commitments in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process is a means to address this and enable dialogue between government and civil society.


1. Context: the first water-related open government commitments

Introducing water in Mexico’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plans

Mexico has been a member of the OGP initiative since its creation in 2011. It has to date adopted four National Action Plans. While the second National Action Plan (2013 – 2015) included the governance of natural resources as one of its commitments, it was not until the third National Action Plan (2016-2018) that water was specifically included as a thematic focus. This has to do with the fact that this action plan was intended to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of the water-related commitment in the third National Action Plan was:

  • To measure both volume and quality of water consumption and discharges, as well as to promote water reuse, zero discharge of large-scale users and to supervise treatment, making information transparent in order to facilitate citizen participation in monitoring.

Its principal line of action was described as:

  • To promote inter-institutional coordination and the active participation of citizens in order to establish a system (public and open platform and other means of communication), to make up-to-date information available on water volumes extracted and granted in concession, as well as on discharges, based on available and newly created information.

To act on the commitment, the National Water Commission (Conagua) launched a website where documents on water quality were published, although not in line with the original objective (see evaluations on compliance with third plan here and here) and only till early 2018. Documents were then replaced by a link to a web platform featuring a real-time map of installed water meters in the country,  including information on volume extracted at each measurement point, but not on the volume of granted concessions or of discharges. However, the option for downloading open data was difficult to use and the platform ceased to be updated in March 2019.


Mistrust between stakeholders leads to the interruption of work on commitments

Unfortunately, the implementation and monitoring of the commitments made in the third Plan were interrupted in May 2017, following allegations of espionage directed at journalists and human rights defenders, some of whom were active participants in the OGP process. The Núcleo de Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil (Nucleus of Civil Society Organisations, NOSC) then decided to withdraw from the OGP coordination board, known as the Tripartite Technical Secretariat (STT), on the grounds that there was a lack of trust and no enabling environment for the promotion of dialogue needed to continue the process. The government tried to get support from new CSOs to continue with the implementation of the third Action Plan but did not succeed.

In mid-2018, presidential elections were held in Mexico. The opposition won the election, taking power at the end of that year. In this new scenario, the OGP process was resumed in 2019, with the publication of the fourth National OGP Action Plan on December 10th, 2019.


2. A new commitment

Preparing a fourth National Action Plan with a commitment for water

Following the transition process into the new administration, the Ministry of Public Administration contacted members of civil society and academia (including UNAM, CartoCrítica, Agua para Todos) to review the most relevant issues on their agendas and consider them for future commitments. At that time, transparency and accountability in natural resources management had not shown many signs of improvement. Several civil society organisations were thus making efforts to promote access to natural resource data.

During this new round of meetings, CSOs pointed out that the situation in Mexico was characterised by over-exploitation and pollution of aquifers, vulnerable communities having little access to drinking water, a lack of transparency regarding the volume of granted concessions and of real extraction, and a lack of information on fees paid by private entities and by the real beneficiaries of those concessions.

Such a lack of access to information on the state, management, and protection of water limits the possibilities for constructive public debate and inclusive citizen participation. This lack of access to information also hinders the improvement of public policies that promote equity, efficiency, and sustainability in access to and use of water resources.

Around the time of the meetings, a group of CSOs (Causa Natura, Reforestamos Mexico, the Fund for Environmental Communication and Education, and CartoCrítica) were already working on the design of a Natural Resources Transparency Index (ITRN in Spanish), a tool to measure transparency of public information regarding the management of forests, water, and fishing resources. In this work, recommendations were made for the development of commitments on open government.

Proposals were then made to develop a commitment for water resources, to be integrated in Mexico’s fourth National Action Plan (2019 – 2021). The commitment would identify areas of opportunity to promote openness and dissemination of information in efforts to achieve SDGs (6, 14, 15 and 16), with the joint participation of three parties – government, civil society and the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI). An OGP Coordinating Committee replaced the STT and promoted meetings with the CSOs developing the ITRN, as well as with the government entities involved in natural resource management. In the water sector, these were Conagua and Semarnat (Ministry of the Environment).

The meetings resulted in an agreement to include the Index in the fourth OGP National Action Plan, under commitment number 10: Strengthening transparency in forest, water, and fisheries management. The commitment covers two main developments: the implementation of recommendations from the transparency assessments carried out through the ITRN, and the creation of a participatory mechanism called Transparency Monitoring Groups (Grupos de Monitoreo de la Transparencia), to follow up on the progress of this commitment.


The Natural Resources Transparency Index (ITRN): input for the OGP Action Plan Commitment

The ITRN involves an analysis of transparency in the forestry, water, and fisheries sectors, through indicators for three types of data -categorised as active (required by law), proactive (voluntary, useful and available online) and reactive (requested). The ITRN examines these in three axes, or areas, of resource management:

  1. Permits and concessions: rights to use the resource
  2. Subsidies: assistance or aid granted to the population for the use of the resource
  3. Inspection and surveillance: compliance checks on resource-related obligations



The indicators are assessed based on a set of variables (required data) according to their availability and usefulness. A set of variables (and their components) is foreseen for each data or transparency category (Active, Proactive, and Reactive), in each area of management (concessions and permits / subsidies / inspection and surveillance). In order to identify these variables, both officials and users from each sector were involved. Vulnerable groups with direct links to the resources, who are defenders of territories and the main users of the data, in particular women, indigenous peoples and small-scale producers, were also involved in this process.

To date, the variables identified are in the process of being evaluated. For example, one of the variables identified in the Active Transparency category and related to permits and concessions is: information on concessions for the exploitation and use of national surface waters. This variable is broken down into various components such as type of use, concession volume, validity period and location of the authorised point of extraction. A value of 1 is assigned to the variable if the components are available online, 0.5 if incomplete, and 0 if not available.

With the results obtained, specific recommendations will be made for each sector to improve transparency and information access. The commitment made in the OGP Action Plan is to implement these recommendations.


Moving forward with the new commitment

A roadmap was developed to ensure implementation and follow-up of the commitment. This roadmap contains key actions that make it possible to identify the state of the commitment process at any point in time. The creation of the Monitoring Groups is a milestone in this process. These groups are public, inclusive, and have an open follow-up mechanism. They include participants who are also decision makers, and who verify and ensure that recommendations are implemented. They also provide feedback for the future, including new needs, new participants, and new commitments to be monitored.

In the ongoing ITRN assessment of variables related to water resources, several issues have already been identified in terms of transparency and accountability. There is for example too little updated data on quality, extraction volumes granted and effectively withdrawn, and availability of environmental flows.

After this first assessment, it is expected that not only will the information gaps identified be filled and that data will be made available in official websites in a timely and reliable manner and in open formats, but also that this data will be usable by different stakeholders: for a researcher studying the behaviour of a basin as well as for users defending their territories, and their rights.



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WIN statement in support of Black Lives Matter

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer in the United States of America has thrown a spotlight on the systemic racism and discrimination that affect the lives of Black people every day, across the world.

The Water Integrity Network is not blind to the role that structural arrangements play in producing racially disparate access to adequate water and sanitation. The persisting and often invisible legacy of white supremacist institutions like slavery, apartheid, and Jim Crow segregation entail that race still serves as marker of service delivery in many countries.

WIN is committed to exposing and fighting against the ways in which Black communities and communities of colour – particularly in the Global South – bear the brunt of climate change induced environmental disasters. Now more than ever, we are committed to exposing and fighting against the corrupt forces which contribute to inadequate water and sanitation provision.

Dignified and adequate access to clean water is a matter of life and death and a human right. The Water Integrity Network is dedicated to a world in which equitable and sustainable access to clean water and decent sanitation are not threatened by corruption, greed, dishonesty and wilful malpractice. This world cannot be achieved until Black lives are given equal weight to all other lives.

Racism and injustice breed inequalities to access to water and sanitation, impacting on the health and well-being of Black communities, and on their ability to enjoy equal economic and social opportunities compared to other communities.

WIN supports the call to dismantle systemic racism,  discrimination, and stigmatization wherever it occurs. Meaningful change must challenge existing structures that privilege whiteness and deconstruct barriers facing Black people. In this, we commit to ensuring that the processes that we facilitate with governments and civil society are inclusive. We commit to ensuring diversity in our staff and governance structures, amplifying Black voices and providing a platform for contributions from the Global South.

Radical systemic social change is required for the eradication of the racial injustices Black people face. Through our work, we strive toward a world in which Black lives mattering is a lived reality.

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Putting integrity and accountability at the heart of government response to COVID-19, especially in the water sector

Posted by the Water Integrity Network, WaterAid, IRC WASH, GWP, SIWI, IWMI, Water Witness International, End Water Poverty, Shahidi wa Maji, and PNE Benin, BAWIN, and Sanitation and Water for All, with contributions by Sareen Malik (Coordinator and Secretary to the Board, African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation), and Robert Gakubia (CEO, Water Services Regulatory Board, Kenya).


The COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the vulnerability of the millions of people whose human rights to water and sanitation have not been realised

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the stark realities of people who still do not have access to reliable supplies of clean water, and do not have decent houses in which they can safely isolate themselves from infection. There are two messages about how to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus: keep your distance from other people, and wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

“Washing your hands is such a simple act, and yet such an essential step in halting infectious disease transmission and saving lives”

– Oliver Schmoll, Programme Manager for Water and Climate at the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany.

And yet, globally, one in three people does not have access to safe drinking water and nearly half the population does not have access to decent sanitation, at least in part due to corruption and mismanagement in the sector.


Governments across the globe are stepping up measures to slow down infections

During this crisis, many individuals and organisations have stepped up to fill gaps in services and increase availability of clean water and soap for regular handwashing, to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus. While these innovative responses and solidarity are commendable, governments as duty bearers have primary responsibility for managing the crisis, including in facilitating access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

For example, governments in a number of countries have taken targeted measures to either suspend or pay water bills and/or block disconnections for poor families. And a number of countries are taking action to improve access to WASH for vulnerable communities in particular. Currently, billions of dollars are being invested in emergency packages in response to the COVID crisis, including in the water sector. In Kenya, interestingly, proceeds from anti-corruption programmes by the government have been dedicated to providing water and other essential services to vulnerable communities in this crisis.

But governments face formidable challenges in quickly implementing such measures for populations that have no piped water systems, poor hygienic conditions, and are often times not reached by formal service providers. Increasing access now – to help control the outbreak – and sustainably for the future after the pandemic has subsided, are both fundamental, and require international support, as well as due attention to good governance, integrity, accountability and transparency.


If this is how you get your water every day… How do you physically distance? Will you get enough for your family? Will you get enough to wash your hands?

Photo: Hossain Ismail, WIN photo competition entry 2011


Integrity matters, especially in a time of crisis

Integrity requires that state powers and resources are used ethically and honestly, in this case, for sustainable and equitable water and sanitation services. There are four pillars to integrity: transparency, accountability, participation, and anti-corruption activities. Around the world, corruption and lack of integrity have contributed to the failure to deliver services to those most vulnerable, reinforced existing inequalities in access to water and sanitation, diverted resources from where they are most needed, and reduced the quality, availability and sustainability of services.

Over recent decades, considerable work has been done to improve accountability, participation and transparency in the water and sanitation sector, and to reduce corruption. The challenge in this time of crisis is to defend and build on those advances. Past and present experiences shows that the threat is both severe and very real, not only in countries with weak government accountability systems: the US Government Accountability Office estimates that about USD 1 billion in emergency response funding was improperly used or fraudulently obtained after Hurricane Katrina. German authorities had to temporarily shut down emergency COVID-19 response grants for small businesses due to massive fraud risks. Others use emergencies to prey on the weak and vulnerable.


The approach taken can either exacerbate or reduce integrity risks

In order to provide services in the COVID-19 crisis, governments and state agencies, quite correctly, invoke regulations which are designed to enable speedy delivery in the face of an emergency. However, delivery under emergency conditions can, either unwittingly or deliberately, open the door for corruption, lack of integrity and reductions in accountability and transparency practices that may have been built up over years.

According to U4, “there has already been a wave of corruption-related incidents, decreasing transparency and accountability, as well as manipulative political propaganda from all over the world.” In Brazil, as just one example, media reports raised questions over government emergency procurement buying surgical masks at 12 times the market value from a company with ties to the president, despite other companies offering lower prices.

It is all too easy, in a time of crisis, for the elements of good governance to fall by the wayside, or, indeed, for the crisis to be used by those with particular vested interests to force through changes, not necessarily for the long-term good of the people.

This then raises the question as to what can be done to ensure sustainable delivery of water supply and sanitation to the most vulnerable in both rural and urban areas, based on the four pillars of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption.

“The lesson for us duty bearers in the WASH sector is that we must create a new normal, characterised by ’outrage’ against continued inequities in WASH service provision that make public health messages not make sense, but also demand that actions be founded on integrity and accountability among other values.”

– Robert Gakubia, CEO, Water Services Regulatory Board, Kenya


Maintaining accountability, transparency, participation and social inclusion during the response

We have highlighted some actions for governments to ensure that accountability and integrity are at the least maintained, and at best improved, during and after this emergency, and that they form part of a programme of meeting the human rights to water and sanitation for all.


1 – Develop responses with affected communities:

Developing response mechanisms with affected communities is inclusive and recognises their agency. It brings a greater ability to address specific cultural, social and religious challenges and to effectively meet the needs of people with disabilities and other marginalised groups. Creative solutions can be found to doing this distantly and in languages that people understand.

The Asivikelane programme in South Africa provides a remarkable example of people in informal settlements monitoring delivery of water and sanitation services in their areas and thereby holding government accountable. The resulting information is provided to relevant organs of state to facilitate improvements. The tool holds potential not only for holding government accountable during the COVID crisis, but also going forward into the future.


Asivikelane Dashboard (South Africa) - example - inclusive WASH responses to covid19
Photo: Screenshot of the Asivikelane Dashboard (South Africa)


In Ethiopia, EthioTelecom has introduced a recorded message every time a phone call is made about COVID-19 prevention.

In South Sudan, the great majority of people has no easy access to internet, television or newspapers. Radio Miraya is available across over two-thirds of the country, and 80 per cent of those it reaches listen to it every day. Radio Miraya runs public service announcements (PSAs), including recently written songs by popular artists on the best practices to prevent any eventual outbreak from starting or spreading, such as handwashing and physical distancing.

Finally, inspired by lemiwashmyhands.org, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific is persuading tech giants to create a handwashing emoji and help spread the importance of handwashing for years to come. Scientists Nasim Lotfinejad et al state that hand hygiene emojis may strengthen infection prevention and control in different aspects such as raising awareness with no language barrier.


2 – Maintain transparency standards in emergency public procurement:

Government agencies must publicly disclose information on emergency procurement including how much (unit and total price) money is spent, for what (goods and services are acquired) and whom (target population and need), how (procurement procedure used), and to whom it goes (contractor).

Emergency measures should include complaints mechanisms to report corruption, misuse and other malpractices. While complaints from the public can be very effective against misbehaviour in frontline service delivery, whistle-blowing from staff is key for detecting irregularities in administrative processes including procurement, payments and accounting. This why robust whistle-blower protection in public institutions is crucial. Since customer service centres may be locked due to the confinement situation, alternative channels should be offered for ensuring communication between utilities and users such as websites, social media channels, etc.


3 – Establish a national oversight task force to monitor integrity and accountability in the COVID-19 response:

Consisting of experts from anti-corruption and accountability bodies (including investigations, procurement, audit, civil society watch dogs) and sector institutions (health, water, economic affairs), such a body can oversee budgetary allocations, monitor red flags in their use and launch special investigations and real-time audits as needed, and report to the public on the same.

This task force should also

  • Follow up and monitor cash transfers from government to service providers
  • Follow up and monitor cash transfers from government to households (universal versus targeted support to vulnerable households, how they are targeted, specific conditions)
  • Follow-up and monitor how service providers invest extra resources (e.g., cash transfers from government, donors, etc.) in improving services

The task force should also have oversight of the significant financial investments being made by donors and development partners into improving access to water and hand washing facilities. The use of these funds should be tracked and a clear commitment made to delivering sustainable and affordable solutions.

After the acute emergency phase, response measures need to be subject to the public reporting, auditing and review standards and processes and other government operations. This includes making sure that audit institutions, other oversight bodies and sector institutions (including their internal audit and compliance functions) are adequately resourced to carry out additional audits, conduct reviews, and produce diligent reports.


4 – Take measures against emergence of new water cartels in emergency water supply:

Systems should be put in place to prevent new cartels developing, or existing cartels taking control of emergency water supply arrangements. Such systems might include GPS tracking and identification of tankers, complaint mechanisms, widespread distribution of information on tariffs/free availability of water, and rotation of tanker drivers. Where possible, government should work with informal water suppliers to enhance the service that they provide and to build greater transparency and accountability into their service provision.


Strong WASH systems are the first line of defence and the path to resilience to crises, pandemics and climate change included. Corruption and lack of integrity in the water and sanitation sector undermines these systems and the human rights to water and sanitation. We call on government around the world to ensure that the water sector becomes an island of integrity, during and after this crisis, starting today.


Further reading:

Five human rights principles that put people centre stage in water, sanitation and hygiene responses to COVID-19 (Wateraid)

Public Integrity for an Effective COVID-19 Response and Recovery (OECD)

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector and its response to Covid-19: Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean (SIWI)

COVID-19 and rural water crisis: putting pressure on Burkina Government (IRC WASH)

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Demystifying water integrity: from policy to practice using the Integrity Management Toolbox

Corruption and poor integrity can be a big drain on the resources, reputation, and effectiveness of key water sector players, service providers in particular.

There are some high-level policies in place to tackle the challenges of corruption and poor integrity but water utilities, for example, don’t often feel they have enough practical guidance to deal with the issues they actually face in their daily business. What do you do to make sure integrity risks don’t drag you down? What do you do when funds disappear or when vehicles and company resources are being used abusively for private purposes?

Integrity Management in the water sector is a change management approach to prevent and reduce unnecessary losses from corruption and develop preventive measures to strengthen procurement, human resources, accounting, O&M and other work processes. The Integrity Management Toolbox was developed to support such a process and transform challenges into opportunities. To date, the Toolbox has been used to support different organizations in over 20 countries, including large utilities in Bangladesh, Kenya, Albania, Ecuador, and Honduras.

WIN and cewas organized a webinar on the Integrity Management Toolbox on March 18th 2020 to discuss the methodology and share experiences from previous applications of the toolbox. Here’s what we learned.


An Integrity Management Toolbox to assess and tackle corruption and integrity risks in water utilities

The webinar was kicked off with a new video introducing the tool. It shows that there are business-savvy management tools to tackle corruption and describes the basic implementation process for the Toolbox, from the preparation, through the description of an organization’s business model, the assessment of risks, and the development and implementation of an integrity action plan.



Panellists discussed their experiences with integrity management. For example, Erion Likaj of KfW Albania, a former Integrity Management (IM) coach for utilities, explained that better revenues can be a positive result of good planning and discussed how the Toolbox has been used to support planning, develop better performance targets, and link these to investments. Sareen Malik of ANEW, a former IM coach in Kenya, discussed the way institutions are increasingly seeing the water crisis as a governance crisis, not a technical one. Many see the need for a new approach even if they may at first fear digging into the corruption angle.

Panellists agreed there is real value in being prepared and having a good understanding of risks. Integrity management can also ensure corruption problems are detected early and contained without the need for external or costly interventions.


Lessons learned: what is needed to launch integrity management processes?

  • An enabling environment must be created if it doesn’t exist. Utilities must see the alignment of operational processes to integrity values as beneficial for the organisation’s performance.
  • There needs to be willingness at mid- or senior management level.
  • Lenders can require utilities to have performance targets before investment is activated. This has been the case in Albania for example.
  • There can be significant socio-cultural barriers preventing adoption of integrity management; the integrity toolbox may not automatically be well received. Communication is key for avoiding misunderstandings that could potentially damage the process. In Kenya, for example, utilities willing to address integrity issues pulled out at last minute, for fear they might be accused of having corruption problems in the first place. Context-adapted communication could have pre-empted such issues.


Lessons learned: assessing integrity risks and choosing the right tools to address them

  • Each specific context will require a different risk assessment (looking at what regulations are in place, what institutions, etc.). It’s partly why cookie-cutter approaches will generally be less effective.
  • Encouraging behaviour founded on integrity principles can be done through rewards.
  • There needs to be a structured process for addressing emerging issues.
  • It’s key to be clear about who is doing what, and when.
  • If corrupt activities are protected and propagated at top management level, it will be of little use to address integrity issues from within the organization itself. Instead, different strategies would have to be adopted: supervisory boards or administrative councils can be very influential and steer an organization towards integrity; third parties addressing integrity or external oversight mechanisms can also influence an organization.


Follow the full webinar:


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Integrity and urban water and sanitation: photo competition winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WIN photo competition on integrity and corruption in urban water and sanitation!

Thank you to all who participated and reflected on the impact of corruption and the ways integrity can support water and sanitation services in cities and urban settings. Special thanks also to the judges for their support, time, and contributions. We received over 200 stunning photos to judge and the selection was very difficult.


The impact of corruption and the role of integrity in urban water and sanitation

With COVID-19 bearing down, these are very trying times all over the world. The pandemic has made it painfully evident how essential strong WASH systems and practices are for the health and livelihood of millions. We are also seeing how inequitable systems are and who bears the brunt of poor planning and poor service when crisis hits. Water and sanitation infrastructure and services have been chronically underfunded for decades. Almost three-quarters of the population of Least Developed Countries lack handwashing facilities with soap and water. We are poorly prepared.

The top images of this year’s competition on corruption and integrity in urban water and sanitation emphasize these concerns. They mostly show the impact of poor integrity, poor planning, and laissez-faire. They show inequality and the vulnerability of many to crises, runaway pollution, and climate change, especially in dense urban areas and informal settlements. Nearly 7 out of 10 people will live in urban areas by 2050. As the urban population booms, it is a major, and urgent, challenge to ensure provision of sustainable water and sanitation services and to realise the human rights to water and sanitation for all.

Strong WASH systems are the first line of defence and the path to resilience to crises, pandemics and climate change included. Corruption in the water and sanitation sector undermines these systems and our human rights to water and sanitation. The sector must be protected from such practices and become an island of integrity, starting today:

  1. Be transparent, share reliable information.
  2. Act sustainably and with accountability. Emergency action can’t be an excuse for poorly planned or problematic practices that violate people’s basic rights.
  3. Leave no one behind, set inclusive targets.



Best Artist – First Place: Mohammed Shajahan

Water Vendor.
A water vendor is collecting water from the deep tube wells on the other side of the river for sale to people with low incomes living on the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong.Bangladesh.


Best Artist – Second Place: Mahbubur Rahman

Since decades, people are languishing in 116 ‘Bihari settlements (Pakistani Refugee)’, located largely in urban Bangladesh. The settlements are generally overcrowded, have inadequate water and sanitation, and poor or non-functioning waste and sewage disposal systems. Women and children are the main victims of this crisis. Here at Mirpur Settlement, they are sharing a well with men for bathing and fetching water. Sometimes, they need to fight for a little amount of potable water.


Best Artist – Third Place: Supratim Bhattacharjee

Toxic Environment.
School child and other locals walking through Hazaribagh tannery area of Dhaka. Dhaka, currently home to 20 million people, is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia. Repeated electrical blackouts, insufficient clean water supply, poor sanitation and hygiene, poor governance, air pollution, unreal traffic jams, etc. are looming large. Every year, a huge portion of the population, including many children, succumbs to deadly waterborne diseases. By 2030, it is estimated the population will reach 30 million, making Dhaka the fifth largest city of the world. Water supply and sewerage must be improved, especially in informal settlements.


Special Prize – Best Young Artist: Vu Thi Thanh Thu

Money Controls Clean Water. The uneven supply of clean water at different locations in the city. In poor household areas, people are waiting for clean water supply as if waiting for rain in the desert, while some water supply managers direct services to specific groups for more money.




Sudipto Das. Street Saloon

A customer gets a quick shave at a street-side makeshift saloon in waterlogged Amherst Street area in Kolkata, India. During the monsoon, after heavy rain, the area will become waterlogged for the next three days. This is a common problem suffered by the local residents. Lots of money is spent to rebuild sewerage lines in that particular stretch known for waterlogging but due to lack of planning and corruption, the problem persists. A recent article in the ‘India Water Review’ mentioned that due to high corruption and despite the huge amount of money spent on various water and sanitation programmes by the state government, conditions are still the same.


Azim Khan Ronnie. Brick Factory.

The breathtaking scale of Bangladesh’s brick-making industry is captured in this photo which shows the piling-up of bricks in thousands as manufacturing processes wreak havoc on the surrounding environment. It is estimated that one million people churn out a staggering tens of billions of bricks each year across 7,000 separate kilns. In the capital of Dhaka, pollution from brick factories and dyeing plants increasingly turn water in the River Turag green with algae. Brick kilns are also the top air polluter in the country.


Pranab Basak. Water and Life.

Prolonged monsoon brings floods and chaos to many parts of India such as the city of Kolkata. The reasons are complex but experts cite unplanned urban development that has destroyed the wetlands around the city as a prominent reason. Flooded cities like Kolkata are also affected by shortages of drinking water during heavy monsoon.


Mac Mullengz.  Untitled

Four Nigerian children collectively trying to fix a broken water pipe on their return from school after having a drink from it. This shows they know the value of water and the importance of clean water in a clean environment.


Nafis Ameen. Untitled.

Dhaka is the second least liveable city in the world because of pollution. People in the city’s informal settlements are living surrounded by waste and polluted water.


Guillermo Gutierrez. The Inequality in Distribution of Water.

A young boy stands at the summit of the hills in San Juan de Miraflores, a precarious settlement in Lima, Peru. He is watching how a tanker truck with a long pipe is taking water to a top reservoir behind him. The Peruvian coastal area has the largest population concentration and an increasing water deficit. In the capital city, more than one million people lack drinking water. By 2040, it is predicted this deficit could affect 70% of the population. Corruption, demographic expansion, inefficient management and distribution, and climate change result in inequity in the distribution of water. Families in the periphery of the city end up paying six times more than those with access to this resource in the rest of the city.

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