As competing demands for water increase from agriculture, industry, households and the environment, water governance -the systems in place to manage and allocate water and water services- is a central challenge and the first element to examine for failures and opportunities for reform.
Developing an assessment framework
The User’s Guide on Assessing Water Governance is the go-to reference to develop a relevant assessment framework for water governance and water integrity. The framework for an assessment will depend on its end objectives, which could include:
- Diagnosing governance and integrity problems in a given location, sub-sector or situation
- Comparing or benchmarking water governance in different contexts
- Informing programming and policy
- Reviewing trends and identifying gaps
The objectives and the way an assessment is designed and carried out will condition its impact and contribution to reform.
Generally, a holistic assessment framework includes an analysis of:
- Water sector institutions and stakeholders, both formal and informal, direct and indirect
- Water sector performance and effectiveness for selected governance functions, for example regulation or service delivery
- Integrity, governance principles, and related risks including corruption in the water sector
The User Guide provides details information about how to tackle each of these elements of framework and define the methods and indicators to portray each dimension in a clear manner.
Assessing corruption is a particularly complex exercise. The potential impact of such an assessment should be evaluated with care to clarify scope and methodology. (Here are some resources to support this process: Transparency International has guides, discussions and numerous tools, the UNDP User’s Guide to Measuring Corruption can also be helpful).
Assessing with integrity
Any assessment, itself has to be carried out with integrity: to ensure that it portrays a situation in an unbiased and clear manner and to avoid manipulation or misuse. The User Guide also includes useful considerations on the elements that are essential to developing frameworks and carrying out governance assessments with integrity, including:
- Clearly communicating objectives and results
- Involving stakeholders with an understanding of their power and interests
- Carefully using relevant indicators and collecting reliable data (considering pro-poor and gender sensitive indicators can be helpful)
For an assessment to be most useful and inform change processes in the water sector, it must be aligned with policy-making processes and reflect local context. This is why there is no standard assessment template. Several types of assessments have been carried out and can provide useful inspiration for new assessments depending on their objectives.
Several tools and examples have been used to specifically assess water one or more governance principles and integrity:
Social accountability tools and participatory assessment can also be useful additions or components of an assessment, for example:
Several other assessment methodologies have included sections on governance principles and integrity, and also explicitly look at corruption issues:
Several studies, governance indexes and assessment frameworks can also provide useful input:
- Integrated Method to Assess the Governance of Water developed by the Water Governance Centre
- Key Performance Indicators for River Basin Organizations
- Middle East and North Africa Regional Water Governance Benchmarking approach, developed by the UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI
- Water Governance in OECD Countries – Multi-Level Approach