Improve accountability mechanisms and regulations

Ensuring the sustainability of investments in the WASH sector remains a major challenge in many parts of the world.

Ensure Accountability

An unacceptable number of WASH projects still fail within a few years of completion, putting access to safe and sustainable drinking water and sanitation at risk. Even communities that have access to water and sanitation services have to deal with poor service provision.

The solution is not so much about installing new infrastructures, but about building systems that can deliver reliable water and sanitation services in the long-term.

Governments, service providers, civil society and communities must all play their role and cooperate to better protect the right to safe water and sanitation.

Accountability is an effective entry point to work with water governance. In most countries, institutional arrangements for water service delivery are in place: policies, plans and institutions exist, yet performance remains poor. In this context, accountability, which works on improving the quality of relationships (clear roles and responsibilities, integrity, transparency) between the different stakeholders in service delivery arrangements, is a key element to make these institutional arrangements start to work. 

Accountability triangle



Accountability mapping tools

Accountability mapping tools are participatory instruments developed to assess the status and quality of accountability lines within the water and sanitation sector. They enable participants to review practices in any country at the local or sector level. The tools produce graphics of the water sector, represented as a comprehensive system of accountability relations including:

  • Roles and functions – who is doing what in the sector?
  • Relations between actors – who is accountable to whom?


The mapping helps identify the accountability weaknesses to be addressed, the actors who should be engaged in this work and potential improvement measures.

The WASH accountability mapping exercise is a methodology conceived by SIWI, where participants are facilitated to identify the relationships between policy makers, service providers and users in WASH service delivery. This clarifies the challenges among them and leads to a proposal of an action plan consisting of tools and mechanisms to overcome those challenges. At first, the accountability service delivery triangle framework (World Bank, 2004) was introduced as an ice breaker, helping participants to specify who the sectorial actors are based on their respective roles.


Accountability mapping training

In order to guide UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) professionals in facilitating practical activities related to accountability in the WASH sector, we developed training and facilitator guide. The guide operationalizes the learning outlined in the supporting documents referenced below. It includes interactive learning opportunities for participant discussion, reflection and peer-to-peer learning. The tasks provide an opportunity for participants to visualise the service delivery framework in a given WASH sub-sector as a system of interconnected accountability relationships. This mapping provides a structured way of identifying and analysing challenges and choosing options for improvement. The in-depth tool also assists in evaluating adequacy of actions and developing a road-map for implementation and monitoring.


The training exercise follows sessions dedicated to the three dimensions of accountability; responsibility, answerability and enforceability. In each of these, the participants are allocated time to select the two most important challenges, which were then prioritized, deciding on the top three in a separate session for each of the LGAs. The final exercise drafts an action plan with concrete actions and activities to address the prioritized challenges. Its outcome shapes each activity within a time-frame, tentative budget, leading agency and a level of urgency. Common findings outlined in the action plans include the need for more enhanced instruments clarifying the interactive relationship between users and service providers, challenges within the community-based monitoring, and the need for consumer associations to (better) hold the policy maker (state) and service providers accountable.


This training was done so far in Nigeria (2018), Bolivia (2018).

Regulations Guide and training

Despite progress made in recent decades, as of today, 2.1 billion people do not have access to safe water and more than twice as many lack access to safe sanitation. The recognition of the human right to water and sanitation, and the international commitment towards sustainable water and sanitation services for all, expressed through the Sustainable Development Goals, requires a stronger focus, in both coverage and the quality of the delivered services.  Lack of water and poor sanitation and waste water practices have also a serious impact on health and environment.  

Regulation of water and sanitation services in the economic, social and environmental dimensions, has proved to be an essential function, which ensures better outcomes in terms of affordability, consumers protection, quality of service, and health and environmental protection. This Concept Note covers the rationale for and the basic elements of regulation while offering different examples of its application. 

The guide and training are part of the set of guidance documents produced under the “Accountability for Sustainability” partnership, between UNICEF and the UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility – which aims at increasing sustainability of WASH interventions through the improvement of governance in the service delivery framework at national level.

We believe that supporting regulation and accountability in the water sector will systematically improve the sustainability of water and sanitation service delivery to those who need it the most.

The training has been tested in Liberia in 2019. 



Dr. Alejandro Jiménez

Programme Director