On 12 October 2016, SWA held a session at the UNC Water and Health Conference. The topic of discussion was the transformational change needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, participants discussed how the Collaborative Behaviours adopted by SWA can improve ways of working and catalyse action towards the ambitious SDGs.
Most previous discussions put emphasis on explaining what the Behaviours are and their history. At UNC, SWA partners focused on how compliance can happen. Examples from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda offered insights on the complex processes required to increase adherence to the Behaviours at national and sub-national levels. This was followed by a frank discussion on what supporting partners are also doing to align their practices to the Behaviours. The audience had insights into the approaches and changes, which partners such as WaterAid, the World Bank, USAID and the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW) are taking to make their approaches more aligned with those of the national governments they work with.
Notwithstanding the differences in context, the type of engagement that governments have with partners, and the differences in the policy environments, the session brought out interesting insights. For example, Kenya is now moving towards developing a single sector Plan around which partners are expected to rally their support. Ethiopia’s One WASH National Program continues to attract the attention of development partners, with Finland recently joining the World Bank, UNICEF and the DfID to contribute to the Consolidated WASH Account of the Program. The country is encouraging additional partners to join the pool. In Uganda, the experience of IRC in engaging government actors at the district level underscored the importance of government leadership in setting the pace for progress.
The session also discussed the challenges of putting the Behaviours into practice. Some are about how to capture the results of these Collaborative ways of working and how to strike the delicate balance between supporting long-term outcomes against the short term results demanded by the political environment. Working with government agencies whose systems are at various levels of development means providing different levels of support to fit the situation of each agency. In some cases, the challenge may be around partners that work with external support agencies but may not necessarily be actively engaging or supportive of the approaches promoted by the Behaviours. WaterAid, for example, promotes a programmatic approach but not all of its partners do so. Making the changes that are needed will require a broad-based shift in practices. USAID on the other hand is using sustainability as an entry point, with an indication that a focus on systems can help create long-term results and reduce aid-dependence over time. An institution such as the World Bank, which works through client systems, has the unique opportunity to identify which systems require improvement. The private sector sees improvements in the enabling environment as a path to better facilitation of service delivery which contributes to better outcomes.
SWA continues to use different platforms to enable partners to share lessons on how they are aligning to the Collaborative Behaviours in their daily business. Using country level processes such as Joint Sector Reviews will help to assess current ways of working and develop incremental steps to progressively move forward. The SWA Secretariat is keen to share any lessons or best practices which show case the actions being taken to improve the Collaborative Behaviours for development effectiveness.
After the SWA Ministeral Meeting in Addis Ababa in March 2016, the government of Kenya organised a country-level discussion on the implications of the SDGs. Sector stakeholders who participated in the meeting in Nairobi agreed on a country action plan which includes activities to strengthen sector systems through effective collaboration. In addition to activities at the national level, the plan includes support to counties which are developing integrated development plans. County governments will be at the centre of achieving the SDGs in Kenya.
After the SWA Meeting of Ministers responsible for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene which was held in Addis Ababa in March 2016, the government of Kenya organised a country level discussion on the implications of the SDGs. Sector stakeholders who participated in the meeting in Nairobi agreed on a country action plan which includes activities to strengthen sector systems through effective Collaboration.
In addition to activities at the national level, the plan includes support to counties which are developing integrated development plans. County governments will be at the centre of achieving the SDGs in Kenya.
Ethiopia’s One WASH National Program (OWNP) has featured prominently in recent SWA discussions. It is one of the programs which Partners studied in the evolution of the collaborative behaviours and its financial components were presented at the SWA Sector Ministers’ Meeting in March, 2016. The program was identified as a key pillar of sector development in Ethiopia. It has One budget, One Plan, One Monitoring system, One procurement plan which exemplify the main ingredients of a well-defined sector framework. At UNC participants got information on the process leading up to the development of this elaborate program.
Prior to the OWNP, the WASH sector in Ethiopia was dominated by a project approach. The OWNP tried to bring key actors together under one umbrella program which would help to formulate a program-approach. In 2006, three government ministries- Water, Education and Health - agreed to work together to address bottlenecks in the WASH sector. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed among the ministries. In 2012 the MoU was revised to respond to two weaknesses, the lack of an accountability framework and the exclusion of the Ministry of Finance.
In terms of financing, the OWNP program has a Consolidated WASH Account (CWA) which has contributions from both government and donors. Finland joined the DfID, the World Bank and UNICEF as the cooperating partner contributing to the CWA. The government is encouraging other donors to contribute to the common account.
IRC shared insights from its program in Kabarole district. The work of IRC in Kabarole underscored a number of points.
Firstly, one of the entry points was through the existing strategic vision and mission of the district. In Kabarole district, IRC found that the existing mission already promoted stronger government leadership. This made it easy to encourage government and partners to rally behind the mission statement.
Secondly, IRC also identified language which reinforced the districts adherence to national policies and leadership. This created opportunities for having context specific discussions on how local leadership can be strengthened. It was important for partners to realise that ‘government leadership sets the pace for progress’.
Thirdly, building on already existing best practices which reinforce the collaborative behaviours. Uganda has a long history of implementing a sector wide approach. Therefore, a number of attributes linked to the behaviours are in place and can be easily harnessed to catalyse action for the SDGs. For example, there is one government led monitoring system with 11 ‘golden indicators’; there are annual district budget conferences and the country is known for its consistent JSRs.
IRC highlighted the roles and responsibilities of those involved in budgeting and planning of WASH as the area requiring further clarification in the future. Operating at district level also entailed that often you can discuss the attributes of the collaborative behaviours without having to use the actual broad terms. It is more important to identify the existing or missing attributes and build a common agenda.
What does it take for development partners to put the Collaborative Behaviours into practice?
A significant part of the session was dedicated to a frank conversation of agencies which support governments towards the achievement of the SDGs. Representatives from WaterAid, USAID, The World Bank and the Global Public Private Partnership for Hardwashing (GPPPHW) engaged in a panel discussion moderated by SWA Senior Advisor, Clarissa Brocklehurst. A number of points emerged as critical for practices to shift towards more alignment to the Collaborative Behaviours.
Partners noted the relevance of the Collaborative Behaviours in underpinning progress towards the SDGs. However, the shift in practices is a complex process which has opportunities and challenges.
Sustainability was highlighted as a major entry point for Partners. In particular, USAID and WaterAid noted that the collaborative behaviours underpin sustainable service delivery. Behaviours also reinforce focus on building sector systems that can catalyse action. Communicating the changes needed in order to achieve the higher service levels is important. If properly done, the lens of sustainability can be effective in reaching various audiences including political leaders.
The Collaborative Behaviours entail significantly new ways of working for development agencies, who may also need to consider the actions of the organisations they collaborate with at country level. WaterAid noted that they have 400 partners many of which still use project approaches, therefore the pace of change will be impacted by the level to which these partners can take the lead in implementing the behaviours. The World Bank equally highlighted the constant need to be responsive to the priorities of the client, which can create its own opportunities and difficulties. Getting widespread changes will not happen overnight and will need to be reflected in theories of change, organisational strategies and visions.
In some cases, there is clear alignment to the service delivery targets and agreement on using government systems. The World Bank, for example, operates through government systems. This provides opportunities to identify systemic gaps and make iterative adjustments. However, there are trade-offs to be made sometimes. For example, the continued use of Project Implementation Units (PIUs) came into question during the discussions. The World Bank respondent noted that sometimes insufficient client capacity can necessitate the use of PIUs as a stop-gap mechanism.
USAID noted that there is need to better articulate how success is measured and communicated. It is important to figure out indicators which can also convey success to different audiences including the political leadership.
For private sector, the Collaborative Behaviours are seen as contributing to an improvement of the operating environment which can help facilitate business engagement in the sector. For example, strengthening the policy environment may be seen to have direct results for private sector whose main mandate is to improve service delivery. Some may be able to align with the goals of the government to deliver sustainable services, while others may be better suited to develop the systems for procurement or financial management.
Taking advantage of upcoming opportunities
Going forward, Partners expressed an ongoing interest to use internal and external opportunities to take incremental steps to put the Collaborative Behaviours in place. The upcoming High-level Meetings in 2017 are opportunities to bring the gaps on the Collaborative Behaviours to the attention of ministers and development partners. An idea which emerged was for possibly the World Bank to hold a meeting of its WASH staff on the implications of the Collaborative Behaviours for their operations. Such a meeting on the sides of the HLMs can help to create an internal discussion on the specific steps which can be taken by personnel operating at the country and global level. More importantly, the action needs to happen at country level and small changes can create big differences. As pointed out by one of the participants currently working in Malawi, day-to-day Behaviours can help build institutional changes. It is important to support government leadership by believing in it. Using country monitoring and evaluation systems and asking which indicators are relevant, can all help create new cultures.