Why development effectiveness matters for water, sanitation and hygiene

28 November 2016

The GPEDC shares important objectives with the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, which aims to improve the effectiveness of development cooperation in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in order to build the systems and capacities needed to deliver and sustain WASH services to all by 2030.

To support its work, SWA has identified four Collaborative Behaviours, which provide a sector-specific articulation of the internationally agreed GPEDC principles of development effectiveness. As such, the second High Level Meeting (HLM) of the Global Partnership – taking place in Nairobi this week – not only marks an opportunity to amplify the positive impact of development cooperation over the next 15 years, but also carries important implications for progress in the WASH sector.

Reflecting on progress

Ahead of the meeting, the GPEDC has released a monitoring survey, capturing progress among 80 countries and more than 120 development partners in making development cooperation more effective at the country level.  Although the level of participation in this process is encouraging (particularly for SWA, which has begun tracking progress against its WASH Collaborative Behaviours for the first time this year), the findings of the survey are worrying in many ways.

The survey shows overall performance by countries in strengthening their own systems is mixed – although 18% of countries have improved their public financial management systems, 23% have experienced a decline. Similarly, 11 years after the Paris Declaration, development partners still channel only 50% of development cooperation finance through countries’ public financial management and procurement systems, and governments are engaged in the evaluation of results for only 49% of development partner interventions.

This lack of progress reflects experience in the WASH sector, where, despite an encouraging shift in discourse facilitated by SWA, stark differences still exist between global commitments and practice on the ground. Although there are encouraging examples – such as the Ethiopian Government’s ONE WASH Programme, which is working to bring all donors together behind one plan, one budget, one report, and one consolidated WASH account – governments and donors continue to face constraints and incentives that do not always encourage effective development cooperation. In particular, WASH sector donors have highlighted the challenges faced in reconciling high-level support for a systems-building agenda with domestic reporting pressures. 

Moving forward

For the WASH sector, the GPEDC survey findings – and the outcomes agreed in Nairobi – will be important for several reasons:

  • There is an urgent need to use the Nairobi HLM to secure the political will necessary to meet existing development effectiveness commitments, including those made at the sector level. The principles of effective development cooperation remain extremely relevant, and it is more important than ever that we continue to push for their implementation.
  • The Nairobi HLM provides an important opportunity to make links between global and sector experiences of development cooperation. Not only should we consider what the WASH sector can learn from efforts to improve the impact of development cooperation at the global level, but we should also use concrete evidence from the WASH sector to highlight the real sector costs of the lack of progress described in the GPEDC monitoring report.
  • The scale of the challenge of improving development effectiveness requires joined-up, cross-sector efforts. Many of the greatest challenges to ensuring the effectiveness of WASH sector programmes stem from outside the immediate sector. For example, the quality of country’s public financial management systems, or the willingness of a donor to provide ‘on budget’ support. SWA cannot tackle these challenges alone, and will need to work closely with other partnerships such as GPEDC to overcome the politics and incentives that can work against effective development cooperation.

In April next year the WASH sector will assemble for its own high level meetings, as SWA convenes sector and finance ministers to discuss the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal WASH targets. We hope that the outcomes of the GPEDC HLM will provide us with a firm foundation on which these meetings can build, to drive the changes in practice needed to put these internationally agreed principles of effective development cooperation into action to deliver WASH for all.