What we know about commitments related to financing water, sanitation and hygiene targets

9 Aug, 2019 in Partner Perspective Categories


Significant resources are required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More than two-thirds of countries which shared country briefs ahead of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM) highlight financing as a major challenge to the sector, to eliminating inequalities and to achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services by 2030.

Current funding levels need to be tripled to address the capital needs of the water and sanitation targets of the SDGs. SWA’s focus on inequalities in 2019 raised attention to the significant financing gaps to achieving local and national goals. This attention also highlighted the importance of systemic and strategic reforms needed to ensure that current and new resources are efficiently turned into sustainable services.

As part of the Mutual Accountability Mechanism, SWA promotes government-led processes for partners to analyze sector performance; identify bottlenecks and solutions to remove them; agree on priorities for the sector; and accelerate service delivery to achieve sustainable services for all. All sector partners are encouraged to table matching commitments aligned to the priorities of their national plans.

As of August 2019, almost 50 governments and nearly 20 global partners tabled commitments expressing their intentions to work together and tackle systemic barriers to progress. Of the 50 countries that have tabled commitments so far, 14 are focusing on developing financing strategies which include approaches for mobilizing additional resources and effectively using existing funding; 11 focus on increasing financing to the sector.

In addition, partners used the preparations for the 2019 SMM to raise political attention to the financing challenges and mobilize political leadership necessary to address inequalities. Out of 35 countries which discussed financing in their Country Briefs ahead of the SMM, 21 reported that financing was a major challenge they face. All 35 countries presented the financial implications of the SDGs – the needs, gaps, or both.

Not surprisingly, inadequate financing (especially from public funds) is a major constraint, in reaching the SDGs and in eliminating inequalities, as reported by 19 countries in their Briefs. This stems from the low priority given to water and sanitation in national budgets. A related challenge is the overreliance on, insufficiency of, and sustainability in aid from development partners (as one country reported, “donor dependence creates uncertainty with respect to long-term planning”). Many countries also underscored the lack of accountability in investments as a major challenge; absorbing and tracking existing funding are two other challenges.

In most cases, the commitments were developed through multi-stakeholder processes and are linked to the national plans. The majority of the countries which presented commitments also articulated some major factors concerning sector finance in their Country Briefs. This includes the reliance on donors whose priorities may not be adequately aligned with the countries’ most pressing needs nor primarily focused on putting the furthest behind first. For instance, significant funding targets urban, accessible areas whereas needs are most significant in rural hard-to-reach areas.

While donor funding plays a critical role in the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene targets, and all development actors should continue to make improvements in how their support is delivered, it is clear that the sector needs to broaden its scope for WASH financing.  Compared to government, few global organizations and networks committed to increasing financing (1) or identifying financing mechanisms (2) this suggests a gap between what is required by countries and what global organizations and networks are delivering.

National commitments are also not very robust in their articulation of how to close the financing gap beyond advocating for an additional budget from the treasury and additional resources from donors. These two approaches draw on resources from taxes and transfers and more can be done to optimize the contributions from tariffs as well as from more efficient utilization of existing funding. Several countries identified priorities related to financing, including exploring innovative financing such as through community approaches, marketing, results-based financing, Zakat and WASH Business; establishing and operationalizing public funds for WASH; and exploring private sector involvement – as investor, service provider and through public-private partnership. Only a third of the countries mentioning such priorities clearly identified a commitment to achieve progress.

SWA continues to emphasize on finance and the recent webinar on “finance to eliminate inequalities” in the WASH sector provided an opportunity for partners to exchange experiences. The partnership also has a Tools Portal where more resources can be found, including the SDG costing tool which can be used by countries to estimate the overall cost for achieving their water and sanitation SDG targets. In 2020, the SWA High-level Meeting will be primarily for Finance Ministers and will take place in Washington DC, during the time of the World Bank spring meetings. In the period leading up to that Meeting, the partnership’s high-level political dialogue will engage partners around their progress on the financing targets and how to effectively address the financing gap as well as the risks to progress.


For more resources on finance click here 

For tools on sector finance click here 

The webinars covering different topics including sector finance can be found here

Information about the Mutual Accountability Mechanism can be found here

Highlights from the 42 country briefs submitted before the SMM can be found here