‘Transparency in the Water Sector’ Live Broadcast Review

international, ngo, video, water events, workshop

This morning, I was energized to listen to a live broadcast of the “Transparency in the Water Sector” panel discussion hosted by Water for People. This talk featured a variety of professional development practitioners, and viewers were tweeting about the event at #waterhonesty. I’m not an expert on water-project transparency, and this talk was a good opportunity to learn more.

First, a primer on transparency in the water sector.

Before the broadcast, I tried to find a good definition of “transparency in the water sector” online. Transparency International indicates transparency leads to accountability which leads to integrity which leads to less corruption. Corruption is defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain “. IRC says integrity and honesty lead to less corruption in the water sector. Transparency is defined as “sharing information and acting in an open manner”. SIWI states “Transparency, accountability and integrity are critical governance components without which corruption issues cannot be successfully addressed.” So in lay terms – transparency in the water sector leads to accountability, honesty, and integrity which leads to less corruption. This is good because corruption has been identified as the major barrier in meeting the Millennium Development Goals including MDGs focused on water and sanitation.

Now, the goods of the talk.

Much of the talk centered around defining water-project transparency in practice. The talk broached several subject areas, and I attempted to compile a few main points on water-project transparency below. If you have any updates to this review, send me a message. Water for People will host another live broadcast in the future, and – with Portland PHLUSH – one idea for a topic is emergency sanitation. Nonetheless, what a great way to open up global dialogue on water and sanitation issues. Hats off to Water for People and all presenters today!

Water-project transparency components:
Transparency in funding essential. USAID dashboard good example.
Other project components need transparency: design, construction, and long-term use.

Water-project transparency challenges:
Indicators for success not working. Indicators for Millennium Development Goals not applicable.
Many tools for evaluating transparency, but no streamlined system.
Lack of long-term monitoring for water and sanitation systems. Many donors not supporting longevity of WASH systems.
[Lack of analysis of project failure to promote learning and adaptation for future project success.] – See comment by Paige.

Water-project transparency solutions:
Indicators of project success developed unique to location. Cultural systems incorporated.
Low-cost monitoring tools, like Akvo Flow, used.
Transparency tools and frameworks compiled and streamlined. WIN site to compile tools.
Different responsible roles created for monitoring, evaluating, and learning.
Long-term monitoring and evaluation emphasized to donors. Sustainable funding source ensured for project, monitoring, and evaluation.
[Analyze project failure in detailed methodological way to be accountable to funders and incorporate lessons for future improvement.] – See comment by Paige.

4 thoughts on “‘Transparency in the Water Sector’ Live Broadcast Review

  1. Thank you for this excellent review and links to resources. I’ve downloaded WIN’s Advocacy Guide which looks useful. I only wish that WIN, following the lead of Transparency International, focussed on high-income as well as low-income countries. While we may talk about water resources management in the US, we rarely talk about sanitation. Experts have demonstrated that US sewer infrastructure is crumbling, but we seem to lack the conceptual and technical tools required for citizen advocacy. I wonder if this is due to a lack of transparency, or rather, the simple citizen blindness that haunts any tax-supported endeavor we neglect to monitor.

    1. Thanks, Carol. I’m not a development practitioner, and I was listening to the broadcast from a basic perspective. I wrote this post thinking there might be also be others that needed to start from Step 1 or Step 2. Nonetheless, the discussion was super valuable because it made me think about transparency in all my water and sanitation pursuits: media, volunteer, research, etc.

      Thanks for bringing up the WIN Advocacy Guide. I’m going to go through the modules. Maybe we could go through them as PHLUSH and write something on the blog about it? The WIN Space seems to have a lot of valuable tools: http://www.waterintegritynetwork.net/integrityspace. The communication tools relate to both PHLUSH and Water for the Ages. Also, I see what you’re saying about water-resources transparency vs. sanitation transparency in the US. It seems like transparency occurs on multiple levels. To me, it seems like the media is less transparent about sanitation issues here. But the government is required by law to be transparent. Think Sunshine Law(s). But they do not readily bring up information unless requested by the public.

  2. Hi Abby – glad I was introduced to your blog through WaterWired. I’ve been really interested to see what water issues different bloggers find important to highlight every week.
    I think that there was also an emphasis in the Transparency panel discussion about finding ways to talk about failure in a detailed methodological way, in order to be accountable to funders as well as learning to incorporate lessons for future improvement. I think this is such an important component of project development and securing longterm funding not only for international projects, but also at the municipal level in our own soil and water conservation districts. Have you written about transparency in your own work? or strategies to report and discussed failed projects?

    1. Hi Paige. Nice to meet you. You might notice, my blog posts are fairly random. I might write about something related to global water or sanitation happening near me and/or something popular in the news. I also appreciate your comments about the Transparency discussion. I added your thoughts to the post, and I asked readers to see your comment.

      On to your question. “Have you written about transparency in your own work?” At first I thought, “I’ve never managed construction of an international water project, and I’ve not studied the protocol outlined for transparency linked above.” But therein lies the danger, the moment an individual thinks transparency is not directly related to them. It’s wise for me to think about this one.

      I’ve not directly written about transparency in my blog. But I try to be transparent about where my information comes from by including links to the sources, but I have a lot of room to grow in learning about media ethics. This article looks valuable: http://cimethics.blogspot.com/2012/07/felix-salmon-on-media-ethics.html. In my research on gender and water, I worked with human subjects. The Instructional Review Board (IRB) system in the USA tries to ensure research involving human subjects is transparent about the research itself. That means, being clear to all subjects if/if not research may benefit them. In my government work, we had clear protocol for posting our information online, answering questions, etc. In my volunteer work, it has varied depending on organization. Actually, that brings up the question “where is a good place to start if your want to make your water or sanitation organization more transparent?” Maybe the WIN website shall have some answers. Take Care.

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