Feedback from Civil Society delegate on the 2017 HLM: Pursuing good governance in WASH as prerequisite to achieving SDG6

Samson Shivaji, Civil Society Delegate, KEWASNET and African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW)

31 May, 2017 in Partner Perspective Categories

The High-level Meeting happening in Washington DC has in some way attempted to highlight the important place of pursuing good Governance as a prerequisite to achieving the level of ambition. On one hand, the HLM has reiterated the level of ambition, pointing out the aspirations as well as demonstrating the requisite investment required to achieve the elevation in ambition up from the levels previously held in MDG. On the other hand, there has been an emphasis that it is not only the increased investment that is required, but a concerted effort to increase efficiency in utilization of current and anticipated investments.

Repeatedly, the question of the right to water and sanitation popped up, an indication that there is a greater realization of need to look beyond looking at WASH as an important contributory goal to overall development. This is especially important when the question is raised on how to create a balance between pursuing the ambition of safely managed services or/and  ensuring the spirit of the global goals of leaving no one behind.

So, how does Good Governance come in play?

The elevated level of ambition without doubt calls for government leadership in providing a proper framework for structuring initiatives for upscale, engagement of multi-stakeholders, as well as providing oversight mechanisms. First amongst several things that government has to do is build institutional capacity, including having proper facilitatory policies and ensuring that they are abided to by the sector. And it is also true that good governance shouldn’t only be a preserve of government leadership and execution, thus calling for other actors within the sector to take up their space and contribute in practice to the achievement of such good governance in the sector.

However, the thorn in the flesh about good governance is the subject that has not been raised enough, or, in my sense, received sufficient discussion when raised. This is the unacceptable high-level of inefficiency in sector. Without doubt, one of the systemic weaknesses that would make it very difficult to convince finance ministers of the need for increased financing is the high level of non-revenue water. In many African countries, the current level of non-revenue water is approximately at least 40%. This essentially means that utilities lose close to up to half of their possible incomes, and that the possibilities of ring-fencing is really low.

Inefficiencies as a result of corruption has also not received sufficient discussions. Corruption is always a direct cause of leakages in productivity, but also contributes to discouraging possible investor confidence within the sector. As much as corruption is not unique to the water and sanitation sector , it would have been important that the sector provides leadership in demonstrating the thirst to provide leadership in curtailing pilferage, integrity as well accountability as a means of improving performance and building confidence in the sector.

The place of the rights to water and sanitation

As the discussion now bends towards finance and how to promote increased investment in the sector, it would be useful for the sector ministers to wear a clear rights-to-water-and-sanitation lens heading to the finance ministers meeting.  It would be important for the sector ministers to demonstrate commitment to the obligation to reach the most marginalized in society besides raising the level of ambition to safely managed services.  Discussion around good governance has to be, and must always be, centered around promoting the situation of the most disadvantaged in the society.