Can governments post on WASHwatch? Advantages

An important question was raised during the East Africa CSO Forum: Can governments post on WASHwatch?

The short answer is yes, we don’t want to prevent anyone from being able to post on WASHwatch.

The long answer is that I would be excited to have government officials sharing on WASHwatch. WASHwatch strives to promote transparency and if governments are taking the time to post on WASHwatch then this is a fantastic demonstration of transparency and collaboration. WASHwatch strives to collect the most up-to-date information on government policies and there is no more direct source than government itself.

Nevertheless, I do understand that this raises a few concerns. In this post I will focus on the advantages of governments using WASHwatch and in the next post I will go into some of the potential disadvantages and address why I don’t think they are major concerns.

At the moment, even when a government has made progress towards delivering their policy commitments, it is difficult, time consuming and tedious to find out about it.

  • Assuming you know what you are looking for, it takes significant effort to sort through ministry websites to find the relevant documents.
  • Assuming that the relevant information can be found on the ministry websites, policy documents are often long, budgets are complex and the process of distilling all the needed information requires both an unhealthy level of interest in WASH policy and excessive amounts of free time.
  • The commitments monitored on WASHwatch are connected through their relevance to the WASH sector but individual commitments might be under the control of distinct ministries. Sanitation and hygiene are often the responsibility of the ministry of health whereas water policy falls under the responsibility of the ministry of water and environment. Anyone wanting to follow up on whether or not a government has delivered their policy commitments might have to sort through several ministry websites, each with different labelling and reporting protocols. Again, it’s time consuming and can be daunting to government outsiders.

WASHwatch strives to share the burden of collecting this information by creating a central platform to report policy progress and using crowdsourcing to secure the responses.

The data collection burden would be further reduced if governments, as they delivered on their commitments, posted their progress on WASHwatch. After all, they know best what they have and haven’t done. Governments could use their national WASHwatch page as a one-stop shop for all details on WASH sector.

We are working on adding a function that would allow users to upload supporting documents, which could be used by governments to upload WASH policy papers and relevant sections of their budget (or links to this information on their ministry websites). In the meantime, we can share documents through this blog.

If a government is following through on their policy commitments, WASHwatch is a platform to share their success with WASH sector workers and advocates from around the world. WASHwatch allows them to report WASH policy progress in real time while demonstrating a strong commitment to transparency.

Governments don’t necessarily need WASHwatch to create a comprehensive and easy to access picture of their WASH sector policy as they could create a similar space on the relevant Ministry’s website; however, using WASHwatch has the added benefit of allowing them to share their progress with the international WASH sector, and demonstrate their progress to the peers with whom they made the commitments in the first place.

I would be excited to have governments engage with WASHwatch.

  • I want up-to-date information and government transparency
  • WASH policy advocates want governments to engage because it will save them a whole lot of time sorting through huge, complex documents
  • All governments should want to engage with WASHwatch to ensure that the information that is publicly shared is correct and up to date
  • Officials may well find that using the site as a ‘one-stop shop’ for WASH information makes their everyday work easier
  • Governments who are true ambassadors for water and sanitation and meeting their commitments are needed to publicise their achievements, to lead by example and demonstrate to their peers the value of following through on WASH investments

 

By

Katelyn Rogers

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Using WASHwatch where there’s limited political space for campaigning (Part 2)

WASHwatch can be used at various meetings to identify the current status of WASH at the national level and lay down agreed upon short, medium and long term advocacy priorities.

As mentioned in a previous post, WASHwatch data is not independently checked for validity. WASHwatch should be thought of as a type of ongoing survey of the state of national WASH policy. I think this makes WASHwatch data more valuable for two reasons. First, often the information that we are trying to compile simply doesn’t exist elsewhere and must be generated somehow. Secondly, WASHwatch allows for differences in perspectives to shine through in order to generate a more accurate big picture.

So why does this matter?

WASHwatch data could be taken and presented at CSO meetings and Quarterly Multi-Stakeholder Forums as a starting point to begin discussions. Attendees of these meetings and events could then debate differences in opinion and present evidence and rationales behind giving a certain score.

WASHwatch can help ensure that certain key issues in the sector don’t go overlooked, especially if the overall picture seems to be improving. Improvement in access to water and sanitation is great but the sustainability of that access matters more in the long run.Sustainability is ensured through strong government leadership, effective and meaningful frameworks and strategies and consistent and reliable financing, all things WASHwatch monitors.

Through debating the status of national WASH policy, areas for increased advocacy, that might otherwise have been overlooked, become immediately evident. Be it for increased government transparency in general or better monitoring in particular, sector priorities should be established to ensure a coordinated and consistent approach to advocacy is being pursued.

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Katelyn Rogers

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Using WASHwatch where there’s limited political space for campaigning

Last month, at the East Africa CSO Forum, we had the opportunity to present and discuss WASHwatch with CSO partners from the region. This post represents the first in a series of posts addressing and elaborating on what was discussed as part of this very dynamic and productive session.

  • The concept of crowd-sourcing data
  • The role that such data can play in advocacy
  • How we might be able to use WASHwatch in states where there is limited political space for CSOs
  • How we might be able to use the site in states where there is plenty of political space for campaigning
  • What problems people perceive with the site (this led to the addition of the disclaimer)
  • What strategies we might use to gather information to share on the site.

How WASHwatch data can be used to influence government in states where there is limited political space for CSOs was discussed and some of the responses that came out of this discussion will be addressed over the next few posts.   

Series 1 – Using WASHwatch where there’s limited political space for campaigning

Often, even in states where the government is resistant to overt challenges from civil society, they are keen to achieve developmental outcomes, and resource-limited when it comes to succeeding in this.

WASHwatch can be used as an ‘insider’ tool, working with ministries to identify gaps in sector structures which would improve progress towards the government’s goals.

For the majority of countries on WASHwatch, up-to-date and in-depth data on national budgets is far from complete. Despite commitments from governments to be more transparent in their budgets on WASH financing (e.g. having a separate budget line, or at least identifying which budget lines relate to WASH spending), finding the relevant budgetary data is still a difficult and laborious process and the absence of detailed financial data on WASHwatch reflects this.

Often, even ministry officials may have trouble making the case for larger budgets, or managing their spend, because of a lack of clarity in the government allocation and poor sector monitoring.

In the recent survey we conducted, the highest number of respondents said that finding out whether their country was meeting the 0.5% of GDP target was the most difficult challenge. And government spending is one of the weakest areas of information in the site at the moment.

So if WASHwatch data is incomplete how can WASHwatch help?

WASHwatch data can be downloaded into spreadsheets or printed directly from the website and presented to government ministers or officials. Highlighting the gaps in information gives weight to the demand for better and more accessible information on WASH financing in national budgets.

Of course, I recognise that this entails a lot more than knocking on Parliament’s door and is likely to take time and various influencing strategies. In the meantime, WASHwatch provides a platform where interested parties can compile their best information to generate reasonable estimates, either for use in campaigning or to share with the government in support of their WASH sector goals.

In this way, WASHwatch has a sort of dual role hoping to shine light on data gaps but providing a space where stakeholders can compile and share their individual knowledge to generate a more complete picture.

Beyond financing, WASHwatch provides stakeholders with a collaborative and real-time platform to monitor governments on their sector monitoring commitments. Effective WASH strategies require that countries have both the institutions and monitoring framework in place to ensure that policies and projects are being carried out as planned. Monitoring WASH requires proper leadership and coherence from government. And WASHwatch allows CSOs to score their governments’ progress in taking this fundamental step towards effective leadership.

Both of these elements relate to the question, which we’ll address in an upcoming post, of how and when governments themselves might add data to WASHwatch.

By

Katelyn Rogers

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WASHwatch.org is not the last word – it is always a work in progress.

Our goal at WASHwatch is to provide a complete picture of national water and sanitation policies through measuring progress made by government towards meeting their policy and budgetary commitments. Were this simple, it would already have been done. Unfortunately, the necessary data is not always easily accessible, if at all. So how do you analyse data that is not available? You have to generate it!

The data available at WASHwatch can be thought of as an ongoing survey of how WASH stakeholders and advocates view their government’s progress. One common worry we have encountered is that as the data is crowdsourced (and therefore has not been independently checked for its validity), it might not be accurate. We do not see this as a challenge but rather an opportunity. Often when people think of data they think of hard data, that is, quantifiable data put forth as indisputable fact.  Hard data is certainly valuable but there is also a role to be played by hard data’s softer counterpart. Soft data is more subjective, a collection of anecdotes, surveys and opinions. Both hard and soft data add value and the two often work together, complementing each other to tell the full story.

The data available at WASHwatch is subjective and as with any survey data, the value is all in the analysis. It is not because survey respondents all agree about something that it is necessarily true but their agreement (or disagreement) tells a story. “Good progress” will undoubtedly mean different things to different people. Not all of the contributors will have access to the same information. Some contributors might have a rural perspective and others a more urban perspective. However, it is precisely this array of perspectives that enriches the WASHwatch data. Consensus over a country’s high score indicates more than just progress, it indicates a certain level of transparency because multiple stakeholders are aware of what the government is doing. Similarly, a government scoring poorly does not necessarily mean that no progress has been made but that the government in question has not been very transparent about their successes (or their failures). Although not always explicitly stated, it is certainly in the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh, eThekwini, SACOSAN for governments to improve transparency surrounding water and sanitation programming, policy and funding. After all, what good is a national sanitation policy if no one is aware it exists and no one can monitor whether or not it is being implemented?

WASHwatch contributors are encouraged to comment on previously uploaded data. Like any good survey, one response simply won’t do and the more the merrier! In order to generate reliable data, we need responses from multiple sources. WASHwatch data is constantly changing, reflecting changes in government actions and policies.  When governments make progress or start to fall behind, WASHwatch provides a platform for people to report these changes in real-time. Like policy, policy monitoring is an active and dynamic process.  WASHwatch provides a platform to collect and share data about  water and sanitation policy commitments. However, WASHwatch is not the last word. It, like the government policies we monitor, is a work in progress.

Join the discussion at WASHwatch

By

Katelyn Rogers

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