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.