What is water integrity? Why is it important? How can it be promoted?
These were some of the key questions addressed in the Training of Trainers (ToT) course on water integrity, organized by GIZ in May 2012. Experts from GIZ, UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI (WGF), IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and WIN instructed a group of 21 experienced trainers from the Middle East and Africa to familiarize them with the topic of water integrity and the “Training Manual on Water Integrity”, a tool developed by WGF, Cap-Net, WaterNet and WIN. Apart from learning more about water integrity, I participated in the training to see how this concept can be integrated into (existing) water governance programmes and projects.
Key to the training was the combination of presenting theoretical frameworks and practising diagnostic tools to make the abstract topic concrete and attractive. Water integrity can be understood in different ways, but the trainers focused its meaning by presenting the concept through three core elements: Transparency, Accountability and Participation (TAP). “Integer” water management therefore means that the rules and responsibilities of actors should be clear (transparency); procedures should be applied and actors should hold each other accountable (accountability); and information should be accessible to all stakeholders, who should be able to influence decision-making processes (participation).
Having defined these core elements it becomes possible to really analyse water integrity, for example with the Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS); one of the practical tools introduced in the training. The scan, developed by WIN, consists of a series of workshops in which different stakeholders are invited to score to what extent they regard water management as transparent, accountable and participatory in five main risk areas. This type of scan can support broader water governance analyses and create a constructive dialogue between stakeholders. The trainers emphasized the benefits of approaching the topic of water integrity in a positive way. Talking about “corruption” can antagonize and polarize stakeholders, whilst “water integrity” can form an entry point to discuss sensitive topics and look for solutions together.
Promoting water integrity and reducing corruption can lead to freeing up public resources and result in a more efficient and effective water management. But is this feasible and if so, how can it be achieved? To address these questions, the trainers highlighted a variety of mechanisms that, among other things, promote social accountability, engage civil society, raise awareness and mobilise political will. Very valuable and promising in this respect were also the presentations of participants about their own experiences, such as the success of water action groups in Kenya and the creation of an independent Consumer Consultative Council in Tanzania. Sharing these successful initiatives strengthened the conviction that there are indeed many ways to start improving water integrity.
The promotion of water integrity in the water sector is a long-term, complex and at times even dangerous process. It addresses underlying power structures in the water sector that are not easily transformed. Raising awareness on the positive impacts of water integrity and the mechanisms available to promote transparency, accountability and participation forms a key starting point in this respect. The skills and knowledge acquired in the GIZ ToT form, together with the Training Manual on Water Integrity, an excellent toolkit to start or continue contributing to the larger process of capacity building on water integrity issues.