Open Government Partnership and Water
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a 79-member country multilateral initiative that aims to open up its member governments by securing commitments to enhance transparency, accountability, and citizen empowerment in governance processes. The OGP is essentially a platform to potentially reform water governance – with 844 million people not having access to clean water, 8.3 billion people not having a decent toilet, and diarrhea killing a child under five years every two minutes – as lack of access to water and sanitation continues to be a pressing problem. To add a sense of urgency, the 2018 Sustainable Development Goals (Clean Water and Sanitation) Synthesis Report concludes that the world is not on track to achieve the global SDG 6 targets.
What makes OGP unique is that it must involve both government and civil society in the design and implementation of each “commitment”. National Action Plans (NAPs) are at the core of a country’s participation in OGP. They are the product of a collaborative or what is called co-creation process between government and civil society to define ambitious commitments. To date, 2883 commitments have been listed as OGP Action Plans. Commitments that represent exemplary reforms, and have achieved a transformative impact on citizens in the country of implementation are honored with a star. To date, only 54 out of 2883 commitment have been starred.
Water Commitments under the OGP
At the OGP Regional Asia Pacific Meeting in Seoul (South Korea) in early November 2018, the author revealed that despite the potential of OGP, only 26 out of the 2883 commitments are on water and sanitation. This means that water and sanitation accounts for merely 0.9% of all commitments. Out of these 26 commitments, 3 are rated “Marginal” and 1 (Paraguay) is rated as “Major” in terms of impact. None have been rated as “Outstanding”. The problem therefore, is two fold: (a) there is a lack of OGP-water commitments and (b) among the commitments, none of them is transformative.
Gaps, Challenges and Potentials
The one reason that very few water-related commitments have been made can be attributed to the fact that civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the water sector and on OGP respectively generally do not engage with each other. OGP is traditionally focused on general governance issues such as anti-corruption, transparency, and access to information; the water sector on the other hand is largely viewed as technical in nature which tends to hinder CSOs outside of the water sector to participate on water governance issues. Moreover, some water-focused CSOs often center their attention around infrastructure and service delivery.
Most recently, CSOs and donors have started to pay attention to the sustainability aspects of water and sanitation infrastructure and, therefore, the question of governance becomes inevitable. But even then CSOs which work on water governance are often not so acquainted with the OGP.
The World Resources Institute (WRI), Water Integrity Network (WIN), Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and other CSOs are trying to mainstream water in the OGP by establishing a Community of Practice for water. The Community of Practice could shed light on the reforms that are required and “governance-focused” CSOs already participating with the OGP could provide guide on how commitments are developed, implemented, and monitored. The synergy between the two is vital.
So how can we get transformative water-related commitments? The criteria set forth by the OGP Guide is rather broad – a transformative commitment must be able to transform ‘business as usual’ in the relevant policy area, and contribute to improvements regarding the problem identified. The solutions would need to be set within the context of each individual country looking at both the technical and the political economy issues which affect water access, quality, and equity. Water-related stakeholders would be able to pinpoint what kind of reforms would be transformative in their respective contexts. The assessment of what constitutes a transformative commitment is subjective, however, the OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism interviews relevant stakeholders and/or consult the literature in order to establish a baseline and assess how a particular commitment could potentially solve a water governance problem.
Staging Water Commitments
Last but not least, it is crucial to examine how to integrate the OGP platform with water governance reforms. In this respect, it is important to stage each commitment as a part of overall water governance reforms.
In terms of water service delivery, for example, establishment of a commitment could be staged as follows: adoption of service standards, dissemination of such standards and set up of a grievance redressal mechanism.
In regard to water resources, for example, commitments can be staged as follows: consolidation and publication of hydrogeological information (using open data principles), stakeholder engagement at the basin level; transparency of the government decisions to allocate water rights; transparency mechanism on water abstraction licensing; and, finally, implementation of a grievance mechanism related to water allocation.
Staging of commitments will ensure that each commitment proposed is actually part of the water governance reform. It will also compel stakeholders to determine that the next commitment is related to the previous one, as they are all part of a roadmap.
Short clip from a presentation by the author on the topic of the blog article.
About the Author:
Mohamad Mova Al’Afghani is the director of Center for Regulation Policy and Governance (CRPG) and lecturer at Universitas Ibn Khaldun, Bogor, Indonesia. He obtained his PhD in Water Law from the University of Dundee, UK. Mova was Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism Researcher for Indonesia (2014-2016). The CRPG currently administer an Open Government Peer to Peer Learning Program for Asia Pacific.