Enabling environment and good governance
The first pillar, as in the NHSS, is about an enabling environment, but for the OWNP this is extended to include good governance. These two terms are conceptually different but are similar in their relevance to WASH sector development effort in general and to OWNP implementation in particular. We will describe them separately and then summarise their overall significance.
Put simply, an enabling environment refers to the fulfilment of conditions that can enable a certain phenomenon to happen. From your elementary school biology, you will know that a plant seed can germinate and grow only if important elements such as water, soil and sunlight are available. In this example, water, soil and sunlight create the enabling environment. If these factors are partially or totally unavailable, growth will not happen or at least will not be successful. Likewise, for the OWNP to be successful, several prerequisites must be fulfilled. These prerequisites are the foundation for the programme and are described as an ‘enabling environment’. They consist of a wide range of policies, strategies, institutional arrangements and formal agreements, together with the commitment and integrity of personnel at all levels, access to information, compliance with agreed norms and standards, and contractual relations among implementing bodies.
As you have just read, policies, strategies and formal agreements are among the elements of an enabling environment. Can you name one policy, one strategy and one formal agreement that you would include as part of the enabling environment for the OWNP? (It may help you to think back to Study Sessions 2 and 3.)
The Ethiopian Health Policy and the National Water Resources Management Policy are the two main policies. You may also have mentioned the Ethiopian Environmental Policy. From strategies, there is the National Hygiene and Sanitation Strategy and the Ethiopian Water Sector Strategy. The relevant formal agreements are the WASH Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the WASH Implementation Framework (WIF), both signed by Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Energy, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
Commitment and integrity of personnel are also mentioned as elements of the enabling environment. What do commitment and integrity mean for a potential urban WASH worker? Commitment is the strong feeling and decisiveness of a person to carry out duties and fulfil obligations. Integrity is a person’s quality to carry out duties and responsibilities consistently and honestly. An urban WASH worker, working with communities, would have to be a role model to the people they were working for. This could mean working extra time, at the weekends, and on holidays if it is needed. However, an important aspect of integrity is honesty and no one should promise to people what they may not be able fulfil.
Creating an enabling environment for WASH sector development is a continuous process. The stronger the enabling environment that can be created, the better we can promote WASH to a wider population. In Ethiopia, the basic elements in the making of the enabling environment for WASH have been developed in the past decades and the achievements so far are encouraging. The policies and strategies in both health and water sectors and the formal consensus-building documents such as the MoU and WIF demonstrate this progress. However, there is still a need to strengthen the environment for even better results. For example, the shortage of suitably trained and qualified WASH personnel from federal to woreda levels is still visible. An integral part of the enabling environment for WASH sector development is having a sufficient number of WASH workers at all levels, and this is one of the areas to be improved in the future.
Nowadays, the terms governance and/or good governance are widely used in the spheres of development and aid due to an ever-growing understanding and recognition of the key roles that governance plays for any sort of development endeavour. There is a general consensus that the fate of any development programme, either to succeed or fail, is directly related to the characteristics of existing governance. In other words, if there is good governance, then a programme will probably be successful, but if there is bad governance, it is likely to fail.
Good governance is about the processes for making and implementing decisions. It’s not about making ‘correct’ decisions, but about the best possible process for making those decisions (Good Governance Guide, n.d.). Good governance can be defined by a collection of several characteristics, as shown in Figure 5.2. For governance to be ‘good’ it should fulfil those characteristics, or at least be judged against them.
Figure 5.2 shows eight major characteristics of good governance, which are further described below (adapted from UNESCAP, n.d.).
- Participatory:Participation means taking part or being actively involved in something, usually a decision or activity. It is particularly relevant to decision making; participation by a wide range of stakeholders tends to lead to better decisions. WASH programmes, from planning to implementation, need the full participation of people regardless of gender, age, occupation, wealth, or any other differences. Participation of beneficiaries significantly increases their sense of ownership, which, in turn, improves sustainability.
- Consensus-oriented: This means that the governance processes should be aiming to reach consensus among stakeholders. Consensus means a general agreement. Good governance requires consideration of the different interests of the stakeholders in order to reach a decision or create a situation that is in the best interest of the whole community. It requires open thinking that is not trapped in a single perspective or biased towards one particular side of a debate. Reaching a consensus requires a good understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.
- Accountable: Accountability was defined in Study Session 3 as an obligation or willingness by an organisation or individual to account for their actions and accept responsibility for them. It is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organisations must be accountable to the public and to their stakeholders. In general an organisation or institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions.
Which of the WASH documents explicitly included accountability as a required element of the new national WASH programme?
The revised (second) WASH MoU, signed in 2012, emphasised the accountability of each of the WASH signatory ministries.
- Transparent: Transparency literally means you can see through something, so in the context of governance it means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in such a way that is easy for anyone to see what procedures have been followed. In the Ethiopian WASH context, transparency means sharing of all information concerning the WASH programme (financial, material, human resource, etc.) in a given area. Providing this information is the duty of the programme coordinating body, while receiving the information is the right of the programme beneficiary.
- Responsive: To be responsive means to respond appropriately and in good time. Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
- Equitable and inclusive: You may remember the definition of equity as the allocation of resources, services and opportunity to all segments of the population according to their needs. Good governance requires that all members of society, especially the most vulnerable, are treated equitably and are not excluded or ignored by decisions and processes. Equity and inclusiveness of the WASH programme are among the basic implementation considerations that have been included in the One WASH National Programme Operating Manual.
- Effective and efficient: It is common sense that good governance should be effective (achieve its intended purpose) and efficient (make best use of resources). Efficiency of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment. In the Ethiopian WASH sector, the move from project-based to sector-wide approaches was made to enhance effectiveness and efficiency of WASH programmes so that resources (financial, material, time and human) can be used in such a way to yield maximum results and ensure sustainability.
- Follows the rule of law: Again, it is common sense that good governance should follow the rules of law. Impartial enforcement of fair legal frameworks that protect human rights is essential.
Looking at these characteristics of good governance, what is your opinion of them? Do you think it is possible to fulfil all eight elements? It may appear very difficult to achieve all of them. Only a few countries and societies have come close to achieving good governance by fulfilling these characteristics. But it is important to remember that without good governance it is impossible to ensure sustainable human development. Working towards the attainment of good governance by all responsible bodies, including individual citizens, is a continuous process.
As you can see from the detailed explanation above, an enabling environment and good governance, as one of the three pillars of the OWNP, embrace a wide range of issues. They are crucial for the success of the programme but, at the same time, implementing them all is very challenging. Nevertheless, as you have seen from the historical development of WASH in Ethiopia, the situation is changing, and with the joint effort of all partners and stakeholders more improvements in this essential pillar can be made.