The Water Integrity Network actively participated in the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia (Brazil) this March through a number of events. Putting integrity high on the agenda in thematic sessions, WIN shared experiences on integrity action and fostered new partnerships to further promote and enhance integrity in the water sector.
The importance of integrity – an underlying theme
The sessions in which WIN participated discussed the topic of water integrity from various angles, including finance, ICT, communications, and capacity building. While it is widely recognized that the global water crisis is a crisis of governance, it was emphasized that integrity is a cornerstone of good governance. The fact that key challenges in addressing water integrity stem from the lack of awareness of the problem of corruption, and shortfalls in investments in integrity mechanisms were thoroughly addressed.
Several contributions in the sessions showcased that external support agencies are increasingly taking proactive steps to prevent corruption by investing more in good governance and integrity mechanisms. Still, investments in good governance remain extremely low compared to the total investments in the water sector. Yet, many donors do not explicitly track the number of investments in good governance, and even fewer on integrity and anti-corruption efforts in the sector. Governments have the ultimate responsibility to ensure water and sanitation for all; however, translating the importance of good governance into investment for it is still a major deficiency.
A notable consequence of this marked deficit is a lack of human resources and expertise for water governance. Substantially more financial resources are required to build and sustain capacity for better integrity at government agencies, water sector organizations, and civil society organizations (CSOs). In addition, innovation in information and communication technologies have the potential to prevent corruption and leakage of resources in the sector by ensuring the sector is more transparent and accountable. While some good practices exist, the application of new technologies for these purposes remains very limited, owing partly to the lack of investment and capacities.
Conclusions from the Forum
Water Integrity was reflected in the key messages in the final presentation on the thematic processes in the Closing Ceremony, throughout the themes of finance, sharing, capacity, and governance. The concluding remarks pointed to the importance of creating synergies between the water-related SDGs and climate adaptation, whereby strong water governance – including water integrity – is essential. Integrity is considered crucial for the mobilization of extra funding for the water sector. The need for clear regulations for public and private investments and inclusive decision making were also highlighted.
The capacity theme concluded that accountability and integrity are key to improving the water sector, and significantly increasing investments in building he required capacities of governmental agencies, operators, and civil society organizations is required.
Further words from the thematic process emphasized the importance of:
- Tailored communication and information to empower target groups to participate
- Capacity development at all levels, from government to grassroots, is essential
- Modern legislation and regulation is needed for effective and responsive work
Declarations – moving forward with integrity
One Forum highlight was the launch of the OECD’s latest report, Implementing the OECD Principles on Water Governance, Indicator Framework and Evolving Practices, produced in collaboration with WIN and other partners of the Water Governance Initiative. As a follow-up, WIN and partners agreed to implement the OECD Principles on Water Governance through the Brasilia Multi-stakeholder Pledge.
The role of integrity in water governance was also subject to discussion in the Conference of Judges and Prosecutors on Water Justice. In this high-level segment, jurists from around the world congregated to exchange and contribute legal expertise to address current challenges in the water sector. The culmination was the adoption of which centers around 10 Principles. Specifically, Principle 8 underlines the importance of an independent judiciary and rule of law in ensuring integrity in sector governance.
In the closing session, the Forum adopted its Sustainability Declaration, which acknowledges that legal and economic security have to strengthen the public and private sectors responsible for water supply and sanitation services, with a focus on universalization, transparency and tariff moderateness; it should recognize community-based approaches.
Over a 100 countries signed-up to the Forum’s Ministerial Declaration. It presents an urgent call for decisive action on water, and declares that now is time to support the strengthening of transparent, effective, inclusive and accountable national and, where appropriate, subnational water institutional arrangements, with participation of all relevant stakeholders and consideration of local circumstances in the policy-making process, while fostering necessary partnerships, confidence building, exchange and sharing of information and experiences among public, private and civil society actors.
Other events WIN participated in throughout the 8th WWF included the SuSaNa meeting, a session for partners on the operationalization of the SWA Mutual Accountability Mechanism, and OGP meeting organized at the Ministry of Transparency, Supervision and Control.