‘The issue of integrity is critical to best utilize the resources we invest in the water sector.’
-H.E. State Minister Kebede Gerba (Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity)
At the East African Water Integrity Forum, May 9 to 11, more than 140 non-profit actors, politicians, civil society organizations, UN agencies and research institutions shared their experiences and discussed the required actions needed to further strengthen and promote integrity in the water sector.
The three day conference was co-convened by the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity (MoWIE) in collaboration with partners including GWP, IRC, IWMI, the UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI, OECD, GIZ, MetaMeta, and KEWASNET.
The forum explored integrity perspectives, challenges and solutions in five main areas, including:
- Water security and integrity in river basins,
- Investing in water infrastructure of economic growth and sustainable development,
- Ensuring transparency in urban integrated water and wastewater management and services,
- Integrity management in rural and peri-urban community-based water and sanitation,
- Building resilience to climate-related events and disasters.
There are still key integrity concerns across the water sector
Key integrity concerns were identified during the parallel sessions in relation to the main themes of the forum, including:
Infrastructure: a build-neglect-rebuild culture has developed in water sector infrastructure, which has resulted in poor performance of public services and which creates and sustains institutionalized corruption.
Climate change: frequent flooding and drought, affecting urban environments, agriculture, water quality; and water infrastructure, should be addressed as an integrity concern.
Monitoring: There is a need for a complete and structure monitoring framework that takes into account water governance. There is no common understanding of water integrity, and no framework for monitoring it. Little data and evidence is available on the status of integrity, which is why baseline studies are urgently necessary.
‘We cannot prove what we cannot measure – we need a systematic framework to measure water governance.’
-Joannie Leclerc, representing both SUEZ and the OECD-WGI
National integrity systems: policy frameworks for water integrity management are missing at national level in East-African countries. We need to push for institutionalization of integrity practice at all levels.
Urban water management: within integrated urban water management, integrity concerns can be observed in poor service delivery, dishonesty and corrupt practices. There is a need for a better application of water governance principles and practices.
Community involvement: for more integrity in the water sector, the capacities of CSOs need strengthening, more inclusive community structures should be set up as well as common platforms of engagement. Above all, community participation must be institutionalized as a central and effective element of policy and guidelines.
‘There is still a gap in terms of the role of civil society and the community in the governance of water.’
-Bethlehem Mengistu from WaterAid during the panel discussion.
Walk the talk: stakeholders commit to pushing integrity forward
Participating stakeholders are taking the lead to implement strong plans to promote water integrity in the East Africa region, by for example supporting the development of integrity steering committees or of a capacity development hub.
Monitoring, capacity building, advocacy and participation among most pressing needs
‘Integrity is the key ingredient in improving sector performance.’
–Sareen Malik (KEWASNET)
The closing panel reiterated some of the outputs and key messages that came out of the three day forum and poster presentations by the participants.
- Better knowledge management systems could be created by setting up a water integrity hub where more information on water integrity is shared (such as stories, practice cases, etc.).
- There is no need to reinvent the wheel in terms of monitoring but that instead a more focused and targeted approach is required to gather better evidence and convince more people that water integrity is a worthwhile investment.
- It is important to ensure that the use of integrity tools is scaled up and that the appropriate tools are used by the appropriate actors.
- More advocacy will be required to generate interest and action, and to raise the profile of integrity in the water sector. Working in partnerships, and for example with AMCOW and SWA, is an important path to explore for this.
- Water integrity practitioners should continue to support and nurture integrity champions, from both state and non-state actors.
- Community and civil society actors have a crucial role to play in promoting integrity. CSOs are more aligned to the community needs and are in a good position to explore whether policies are being implemented, and assess whether they are working or not.
- Donors should reconsider their funding strategies and make more resources available for ‘software issues’ such as governance and integrity, including capacity building, knowledge sharing and community involvement, instead of primarily for hardware.
‘Community engagement and involvement is key when it comes to the promotion of integrity. It is the role of CSOs to supervise the policies that are being implemented and to reflect whether they are working or not working.’
-Doreen Wandera from UWASNET