Improve governance for Sustainable WASH services

Ensuring lasting impacts of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme investments is a strategic, ambitious and complex task.

Sustainable future

It is simply not enough to invest more in WASH service delivery; we must also consider how those services are delivered. Only then can we achieve the ambitions of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – ensuring lasting positive effects on children’s survival rates and their general development.

The importance of the sustainability of safely managed water and sanitation is embedded in the SDG 6 wording. Success will mean changing the mind-set of stakeholders – including development partners and donors, who will need to move beyond measuring the functionality of infrastructure investments, to embedding the concept of sustainability into programming from the design and proposal phase through to implementation, monitoring and follow-up. Moving away from an infrastructure-based focus to ensuring that services are maintained and enhanced, with no time limit, is particularly ambitious in the context of the mounting pressures faced in the water sector. Urbanization, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and increased demand from rising populations, are factors that need to be considered, as along with ongoing political, social or financial changes.

 

This programme is a partnership with SIWI, UNDP, Unicef, Water Governance Facility

Sustainability research

Taking stocks of efforts to mainstream sustainability in UNICEF programming

Sustainability in Practice: Experiences from Rural Water and Sanitation Services in West Africa. The results of the assessment of UNICEF sustainability framework are now published in an open access article.

Sustainability in water and sanitation- understood as the durability of services with a set of agreed characteristics over time- is a major challenge, particularly in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. This fundamental issue must be addressed if the Sustainable Development Goals for universal access to water and sanitation are to be achieved. Major international organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) need to work alongside governments to improve sustainability. This paper developed by SIWI and UNICEF describes the framework for sustainability programming (UNICEF), which is based on a collaborative and interactive learning and adaptive approach, underpinned by regular sustainability spot checks that provide inputs to a wider national sustainability agreement.

The review assesses the effectiveness of the framework put in place by UNICEF to increase the sustainability of WASH interventions financed by the programme. The framework includes innovative aspects such as the establishment of a Sustainability Compact agreement between UNICEF and the Government, and the implementation of annual Sustainability Checks to assess the progress in WASH Sustainability.  The review takes stock of progress made in the first feedback loop implemented within the framework: what are the main challenges to sustainability identified at this stage? How can we continue to embed sustainability in efforts to improve WASH?

The framework is proven to be useful in identifying the main constraints to the sustainability and to define corrective actions. However, the necessary adaptation of programmes is a more challenging step.  At the same time, the limited time horizons of most programmes are sometimes incompatible with addressing structural bottlenecks to sustainability such as the lack of stakeholder capacity.  The next cycles of application of the framework will provide additional information on the successes and limitations of the approach and facilitate its conversion into a stable, country-led process.

The results of the assessment are available as an open-access paper here.

Sustainability frameworks

The importance of the sustainability of safely managed water and sanitation is embedded in the SDG 6 wording. Success will mean changing the mind-set of stakeholders – including development partners and donors, who will need to move beyond measuring the functionality of infrastructure investments, to embedding the concept of sustainability into programming from the design and proposal phase through to implementation, monitoring and follow-up. Moving away from an infrastructure focus to ensuring that services are maintained and enhanced, with no time limit, is particularly ambitious in the context of the mounting pressures faced in the water sector.  Urbanization, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and increased demand from rising populations, are factors to be considered, along with ongoing political, social or financial changes.

SIWI prepared with UNICEF staff a guidance that explores different programming intervention levels and models, the upstream enabling environment, as well as the importance of meaningful interaction with communities to ensure better access to sustainable water and sanitation services.

The document is rooted in UNICEF’s ambition to strengthen national capacity to deliver lasting WASH services, while, as ever, leaving no one behind.

SIWI is also commissioned to prepare and conduct webinar to strengthen UNICEF Staff capacity on how to understand and integrate sustainability in WASH programming throughout the programme cycle, from the assessment phase to implementation and monitoring of results and how to feedback findings for reinforcement or course correction.

 

 

Sustainability checks

Performance in the post-project period for the lasting provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene education (WASH) has become a leading development priority. To strengthen WASH sector capacities required to sustain service delivery and capacities for planning and monitoring sector performance, UNICEF put in place a dynamic implementation and monitoring framework for sustainability. The process starts with a bottleneck analysis, intended to identify the aspects that are hindering sustainability in service provision. The conclusions of this analysis are agreed upon in a Sustainability Compact, a formal document signed both by Government and UNICEF. Regular sustainability checks are then conducted to identify the progress on sustainability, feed back to the analysis and help focus on key aspects for sustainability.

Over recent years, UNICEF has performed sustainability monitoring by implementing over 35 ‘Sustainability Checks’. The checks have been a critical tool to put the sustainability of WASH services on global and national agendas – and have improved programmes to deliver more sustainable outcomes in WASH. However, the Sustainability Checks have suffered from inconsistency in approaches and metrics, which hampered the ability to compare sustainability gains or challenges over time, both in and between countries.

SIWI developed for UNICEF, a guidance built on previous experiences of sustainability monitoring that outlines guidance on how to design and implement Sustainability Checks as a means to obtain information about the state of functionality of water facilities as well as the level of adherence to social norms and behaviour change required to stop open defecation and build toilets.

The Sustainability Checks also provide information about underlying factors that are critical for future sustainability of WASH services, with a focus on the community and a decentralised service delivery level.

The guide aims to help deliver UNICEF’s ambition to strengthen national capacity to provide lasting services, while leaving no one behind.

The purpose of the document is to provide UNICEF country offices and partners with brief guidance on how to carry out a Sustainability Check, balancing good enough quality with a reasonable cost, with the aim of transitioning the exercise into national monitoring systems.

SIWI is also commissioned to conduct several analyses of the sustainability framework of the programme. These assignments included the review of the Sustainability Compacts and of the first Sustainability Checks conducted in the different region and the presentation of results in the review of UNICEF WASH programmes.