Monitoring is essential to strengthen water governance

Improving measurement systems for change

The OECD Water Governance Initiative (OECD-WGI), a multi-stakeholder platform co-founded by WIN, advises governments on how water policies can be designed and implemented to improve livelihoods. The approach used by the OECD-WGI is to increase multi-stakeholder engagement and support bottom-up processes which will enable the development of policies for the water sector. For this purpose, the OECD-WGI has developed a set of principles for the sector which guide policy reform.

To help government institutions and other stakeholders in different countries to monitor the implementation of these OECD principles on water governance, the OECD-WGI is developing an indicator framework. Indeed, monitoring is a crucial means to help identify where reform is needed and how it should be structured.

At the Stockholm World Water Week, the President of the OECD-WGI, Peter Glas confirmed, ‘We all need to work towards putting in place the right conditions for efficient, effective and inclusive water governance systems at different scales. Measuring water governance is a cornerstone to achieve this objective. A proper measurement framework can help policy makers to take the right decisions and to monitor the progress towards ever better water management.’

At the session co-convened by the OECD-WGI, IWMI, SIWI, UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility and the Water Research Commission, on how public policies can be designed and implemented to contribute to achieving water related goals, he also called participants to join the action: ‘let’s get to work’.


Building a strong monitoring framework

During the interaction of the audience with the panel, composed of Transparency International, ASTEE, WIN, the International Network of Basin Organisations and SIWI, Teun Bastemeijer from WIN shared insights related to promoting water integrity and measuring impact of good water governance programmes. Some of the questions asked were: What measures need to be put in place which promote good governance in the water sector? How can we ensure accountability and avoid corruption creeping into water governance?

Indicators that measure good governance in the water sector cannot be developed in one day. The process will require trust and engagement of stakeholders and should include the development of input, process, output and impact indicators. The effort of setting up a strong indicator framework is worth it, as it can help public institutions together with stakeholders at different levels to determine which results areas to focus on in achieving better water governance for sustainable and equitable outcomes.

Bastemeijer was clear to stress that improving good governance in the water sector ’is not just a matter of having the right indicators, but also of documenting and learning from evolving practice‘. Indicators cannot replace the documentation of best practices.

What to measure

Choices on what to measure need to be made in specific country, basin and local contexts, and can relate to one or more of the twelve OECD principles that stakeholders decide to focus on. But in water governance improvement processes, more urgent attention is generally needed for monitoring of effective and efficient use of financial resources. According to the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 (WIGO), there is no comprehensive overview of funding levels available to the water sector and weak financial data makes it difficult to track finances and losses. Therefore, it becomes nearly impossible to ‘follow the money’, to see what exactly it is spent on, and to identify where it is lost. At the same time, we know that at least 10% of investment in the water sector is lost to corruption. This translates into billions of dollars disappearing annually. Better financial monitoring is therefore needed to ensure that water governance is “clean” and it will be key to establish social accountability mechanisms in public financing systems for water sector financing. This may help ensure that risks or gaps are identified at an early stage.

Whilst financial monitoring alone is not enough, it has to be a strong element of any comprehensive monitoring framework.


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