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Closing Civic Space Poses Threat to Accountability Interventions Shown to Benefit Water Sector


WIN is a partner of the Accountability for Water action and research programme since its launch in 2020. The first part of the global evidence review for the programme concluded that 80% of articles reviewed associate positive outcomes for water sector governance with accountability and advocacy interventions (e.g. improved operations). This evidence is the basis for a theory of change detailing the factors influencing how accountability interventions contribute to improved service delivery and water management. The accountability interventions are grouped in 4 areas:

  1. social accountability and monitoring including social audits and citizen voice strengthening;

  2. evidence-based advocacy including research and public hearings;

  3. statutory accountabilty mechanisms including audit and disclosure or grievance mechanisms;

  4. and budget analysis and expenditure tracking.

In 2022, the programme release Part III of its global evidence review focusing on specific features of accountability interventions related to: gender equity, the role of donors, government responsiveness, measurement of acccountability, and closing civic space.

The study concludes that measuring accountability remains complicated. Donors can play a constructive role, especially with reliable funding and capacity building, but only when they do not determine the agenda and respond to community needs.

Government responsiveness depends significantly on context. Two elements of context can have a significant impact on the outcomes and impact of accountability interventions: gender equity and the closing of civic space. These also influence the other elements of the analysis and must be taken into account with care for future interventions.

Given that women are systematically excluded from decision-making in many regions, the study concluded that:

Approaches including gender-responsive budgeting, targeted funding, and external support to women’s groups have been shown to positively influence performance of accountability interventions. […] Opening up space for information sharing to give women the confidence to claim their rights and make complaints against relevant authorities improved access, equity, and affordability of WASH.

Wider societal interventions and complex dynamics must however also be taken into account to really secure improvements and long-term change.

Closing civic space is also a major concern for accountability interventions, especially as research from CIVICUS points to growing restrictions on civic space worldwide in the last years. As we move forward, we must take into account the “strong evidence that the protection of autonomous and open civic spaces, social movements, and alliances of environmental and social advocates spanning from the local to the national and international scale are paramount to securing a fair water future.


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