The first International Water Integrity Forum ended in Delft, Netherlands last weekend with participants calling on National governments across the world, as well as water and sanitation stakeholders to promote water integrity.
Defining the elements of integrity to include: ‘free public access to relevant, reliable and consistent data and information, including legal documents; as well as clear and comprehensive results frameworks, transparency, accountability, and stakeholder participation’ the forum urged all stakeholders to take action on water integrity as the ’costs of inaction are too high to remain passive’.
Organised by the Water Integrity Network (WIN), UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and the Water Governance Centre (WGC), the first International Water Integrity Forum http://www.waterintegrityforum.com took stock of progress in addressing corruption issues in the water sector, shared knowledge, approaches and experiences in fighting corruption in the water sector, and also provided an opportunity to build alliances to address integrity challenges in the water sector.
It was attended by more than 100 water and integrity experts from over 60 organizations across the world.
In its closing statement, delegates at the forum noted that ‘building integrity and overcoming corruption are global concerns’, adding: ‘water management is complex, capital-intense and often involves monopolies, providing systemic incentives for corruption. Decision making is dispersed across policy domains and jurisdictions, allowing rampant exploitation of loopholes. These characteristics create the need to actively promote integrity across all levels, local, national, regional and global’.
It is widely believed that corruption is at the core of the governance crisis in the water sector, though its scope varies substantially across the sector and between different countries and governance systems.
The World Bank suggest that 20% to 40% of water sector ﬁnances are being lost to dishonest and corrupt practices. Corruption watchdog- Transparency International estimated in its 2008 Global Corruption Report that in developing countries water sector corruption increases household connection costs by up to 30 percent and costs the industry $48 billion in annual losses.
The first International Water Integrity Forum which focused on a more broader issue of integrity, believes ‘fighting corruption is an essential first steps, but not sufficient. We need to facilitate the recommended transformational shifts, and start changing attitudes and behaviour, personal and institutional’.
According to the Delft forum:
‘Water Integrity includes, but extends beyond, control of corruption. It encompasses the integrity of water resources, as well as the integrity of people, institutions, and processes. Integrity challenges come in many forms, involving financial transactions, manipulation of knowledge and information, gender discrimination, illegal or irresponsible water abstraction and waste discharge, as well as biased institutions, rules and processes that favour power and short-term interests over equity, fairness, societal welfare and long-term sustainability’.
The closing statement also outlined several action steps by the delegates and their partners to promote integrity, including:
- Using and expanding existing networks and building new alliances to develop a broad consensus on water integrity, and using multiple communication channels to raise awareness for the issues;
- Advocating in international fora for the integration of water-related integrity into the post-2015 development goals as a core component of good governance and water security, including in the Budapest Water Summit 2013 and the 7th World Water Forum;
- Encouraging organizations, to consider water integrity in the development of organizational policies, strategies and action plans:
- Investing in inclusive multi-stakeholder processes to address water integrity challenges and foster collaboration between water sector stakeholders and core governance institutions at country level to join reform agendas;
- Make more data that is relevant to enable informed decision-making by citizen available in the public domain, freely accessible and easy to understand;
- Move decisively towards a universal code of conduct for individual and institutional behaviour based on ethical principles, values and competence; and
- Incorporate issues of water integrity, including standards to effectively manage integrity, into capacity development, professional training and teaching.
To put the declaration into practice, the forum mandated two leading participants – the Ugandan Minister of State for Water Resources, Ms Betty Bigombe along with Ms Kitty van der Heijden, Director of the Department for Climate, Environment, Energy and Water and the Ambassador for Sustainable Development, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to jointly take the lead in putting water integrity in the global development agenda, especially in ongoing processes like the Post-2015 Development Agenda.