This partner feature was written by GWP-PNE Benin.
The West African Regional Water Partnership (GWP/AO) was established in 2002 by West African sub-regional water partners. GWP/AO is the regional branch of the Global Water Partnership (GWP). GWP is an intergovernmental organization established in 1996 to help countries put the principles of sustainable water resources management into practice.
GWP, based in Sweden, mobilizes states and civil society to ensure the issue of water resources management is high on international, regional, and national agendas. GWP supports transboundary states and basin organizations for sustainable water resources management. They promote integrated water resources management (IWRM) as a relevant and comprehensive approach to address water management issues that states and local communities may face, such as drinking water supply and sanitation, agriculture, environment, and floods.
GWP-PNE Benin is one of the members of the network within the GWP/AO. The Executive Secretary of GWP-PNE Benin is André Zogo, who plays a key role in the implementation and coordination of GWP activities in Benin. In this interview, Mr. Zogo will tell us more about the specific activities and impact of water integrity programmes in Benin.
1) Can you tell us a little about the work that GWP-PNE Benin is currently doing to promote water integrity and good governance in the water sector in Benin?
Currently, PNE-Benin is supporting Benin’s water sector actors in a process of capacity building, and testing the use of tools to promote integrity and good governance in the sector. Capacity building involves improving knowledge of governance issues within the sector, such as mapping corruption risks, but also training young people on water integrity issues. The results and recommendations of this risk mapping are used to define areas of work for further action by civil society organizations (CSOs) to promote water integrity.
Usage tests are carried out for integrity promotion tools to assess the development and implementation of a charter to promote integrity and good governance in the sector, as well as for other tools such as citizen accountability hearings at the local community level. The charter is a true code of conduct through which the various categories of actors in the sector have made commitments with regard to the values and principles to be observed in conducting their activities. This charter takes into account state structures, CSOs, the private sector, and technical and financial partners. The actors within these different categories are in the process of formalizing their adherence to the charter, which has been jointly drawn up. The knowledge gained from testing the use of integrity promotion tools is capitalized in the design of actions to promote integrity and good governance in the sector.
2) How were these programmes received in Benin, and what were their effects?
The socio-political context in Benin is favorable to the promotion of integrity and good governance across all sectors, including water. Successive governments have shown their political will to fight corruption, even if they have not given themselves the adequate means to achieve concrete results. The beneficial effect of anti-corruption efforts by successive governments since the late 1980s is that the corruption debate is public, and no longer taboo. This has encouraged the actions of PNE-Benin – supported by WIN – and has ensured that technical and financial partners such as the European Union and USAID accompany other Beninese CSOs and state structures in anti-corruption actions. Thus, the effects of the programmes implemented are spreading across all sectors, and the current government has instructed all sectoral ministries to create integrity focal cells headed by the Secretary General of Ministries, as provided for in the charter for governance and integrity in the water and sanitation sector.
What is deplorable, is that corruption cases continue in the sector. However, the fight is on the political agenda and important steps are being taken – even if they are still small steps.
3) What do you see as the key areas of collaboration with WIN to promote integrity in the water sector in the future?
In the future, the key areas of collaboration with WIN for the promotion of integrity in Benin’s water sector are:
- supporting the development and enforcement of anti-corruption legislation complementary to existing legislation;
- developing and implementing anti-corruption measures;
- awareness-raising and training of stakeholders on the impact of corruption, and ways and means to combat this phenomenon in the water sector;
- organizing forums to discuss integrity at strategic and political levels;
- developing and disseminating tools and methodologies on: mapping and analysing corruption risks; promoting integrity in the water sector; and, good water governance;
- networking with non-profit organizations to fight corruption in the water sector.
4) What specific actions should GWP/PNE-Benin focus on in the future to further promote participation and transparency in the water sector in Benin?
The specific actions on which the GWP-PNE-Benin should focus are:
- supporting stakeholders in implementing the charter, and organising forums on integrity in the water and sanitation sectors;
- building the capacity of CSOs to promote integrity and human rights related to water and sanitation;
- facilitating access to sector information for the populations and players concerned on the service markets in the sector;
- advocating for the establishment of a formal, inclusive, and fair water pricing mechanism;
- advocating for the elaboration/revision of texts and the popularisation of legal texts relating to the fight against corruption;
- conducting action research on water and sanitation behavior dynamics;
- conducting alternative monitoring of the water sector, including in relation to the evolution of integrity risks.
5) What are the current and future challenges to reducing corruption in the water sector?
The first challenge to reducing corruption in the sector is ending impunity. Indeed, the fact that some citizens commit acts of corruption without suffering the rigors of the law because they are protected by their status, or because the procedures do not facilitate their judgment, is not likely to facilitate the fight against corruption.
The second challenge concerns the mobilization of citizens to constitute a real counter-force capable of claiming their rights in terms of participation, transparency, and accountability. The existence of a strong and credible civil society puts pressure on officials at various levels to observe the principles of water integrity. In this sense, educating people on the rights and duties of citizens, but also on the responsibilities of authorities with mandates related to water services, is very important.
The third challenge is the relative improvement of the justice sector so that corruption cases can be handled with diligence and competence. The means currently available to the justice sector do not allow it to deal with corruption cases quickly and efficiently enough. It is important to provide the justice system with adequate human, material and financial resources to fulfil its role. As you can see, the first and third challenges require state action, while the second challenge is more the responsibility of CSOs.
6) GWP-PNE Benin has led several successful initiatives to ensure that journalists have the tools and knowledge to more accurately assess issues within the water sector, and encourage greater transparency and integrity on the part of the authorities. Can you tell us more about the impact of your programme and the challenges journalists face in making water integrity an “accessible” topic to talk about?
GWP-PNE Benin’s actions have strengthened the capacity of journalists to address water and sanitation issues, and to form a network. The members of this network are equipped to deal more specifically with water integrity and monitor the commitments made by the authorities in the sector. Currently, these journalists are partners of GWP-PNE Benin in the organization of advocacy and lobbying actions for the promotion of good governance in the sector. As part of advocacy for the constitutionalization of water and sanitation rights, an advocacy plan was developed and implemented with the support of this network. Several reporting actions have been organized with this network of journalists to question the authorities on governance issues, as well as on the respect of the commitments made by these authorities for the sector.
With regard to the challenges faced by these journalists, access to information is of particular importance. Indeed, it is not easy to obtain information, especially on corruption cases. It is important that measures be taken to effectively guarantee the right to information, even in cases of integrity violations – whether the case is before the courts or not. Judges must, in the event that such cases are referred to them, organize information sessions on the most important cases. The other challenge is that journalists must be sufficiently equipped to carry out investigations in if cases arise. Finally, it is important that journalists are protected from the need to give in to certain practices that may involve them in corruption or unethical cases.