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Troubled Water: How Countries Can Achieve their Water Commitments

Aguas turbulentas: De cómo los países pueden cumplir con sus compromisos de agua

Elizabeth Moses and Emilene Martinez |

Those of us who work at the intersection of water and open government know that the Open Government Partnership (OGP) provides an exciting opportunity to leverage transparency, participation, and accountability strategies to address Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) public service delivery challenges. But we have our work cut out for us if want to help millions of people gain access to clean water.

Overall, OGP members across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe have made 35 water commitments, 20 of which are currently being implemented. But only a third of countries’ water commitments are complete or near completion, substantially less than the global average rates when compared to all OGP commitments. Further, only a fifth of OGP participants have water commitments in their most recent action plans, fewer than education and health and nutrition.

The Independent Reporting Mechanism’s (IRM) evaluation of 21 previous commitments found that only three commitments have transformative potential impact, and none are starred. This makes water one of only a few commitment themes without a single star.

But access to clean water can’t wait. Already diarrhea caused by dirty water and poor toilets kills a child under 5 every 2 minutes. At the current rate the total world’s population will not have access to at least basic water until 2045 and basic sanitation until 2066.

We can do better. Now is the time to join together and come up with innovative ideas to address the lack of successful implementation, modest levels of ambition, and help governments and civil society create and expand the number of highly innovative and impactful water-related commitments.

Water Under the Bridge: Accountable Water Governance

The Community of Practice on Water and Open Government (CoP) is working to expand country-specific WASH commitments and foster a cohesive, compelling voice for more transparent, inclusive and accountable water governance. Over the past year, the CoP distributed a survey to OGP regional and global summit participants who attended our water sessions. We learned what activities would be most useful.

A majority of respondents suggested that technical assistance from other OGP countries and outside experts would be most helpful for the development of new water commitments and implementation support. There was high demand for clear examples from OGP countries, webinars and other educational forums around specific water sector themes such as expanding open water data and information systems, expanding formal opportunities for public participation, and improving compliant and accountability feedback mechanisms in key water service delivery programs. Survey respondents also expressed a high interest in learning more about anti-corruption in water and sanitation service delivery.

Survey respondents also recommended the Community of Practice prioritize:

  • Supporting the national level dialogue between the OGP Point of Contact and water sectoral public institutions
  • Helping to bring in new stakeholders focused on water and open government from into the National Action Planning process
  • Raising awareness on water and open government
  • Organizing panels and discussions at OGP global summits and regional meetings to enhance networking and dialogue
  • Providing examples of water commitment from other OGP countries addressing similar issues

Singing’ in the Rain: Transforming Ideas into Action

During the upcoming year, the Community of Practice is ready to bring water practitioners together and encourage action on water commitments. We will host a series of webinars and events to facilitate development and implementation of transformative water commitments. We plan to work with national partners in order to cultivate the involvement of water management, multilateral institutions and WASH experts within the CoP.

This year, the CoP will author case studies and reports on a range of water themes to enhance implementation of new and existing OGP commitments. We will facilitate the involvement of civil society, social movement and local communities in the OGP National Adaptation Plan (NAP)process to ensure poor and marginalized communities have a seat at the NAP co-creation table.

Expanding access to clean water, better sanitation and hygiene services will not only reduce disease and death but improve education and the socio-economic wellbeing of people worldwide. The OGP offers an exciting multistakeholder forum for channeling great ideas into concrete commitments. But we can’t do it alone. Meeting WASH challenges requires bridging open government and national and local integrated water management planning in a holistic way. These commitments will enable citizens to hold water users and government officials accountable for inclusive, transparent policymaking. The Community of Practice takes up this challenge. We invite you to join us and make 2019 a great year for moving the water agenda forward.

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