This article is a summary of the CSO Review on Country Level Mapping of Accountability Mechanisms for SDG6, Maldives Country Report, developed by Watercare in March 2020. The full document can be downloaded here.
What Are Accountability Mechanisms, And How Can They Help Us Achieve SDG6?
Claude Ake defines accountability as follows: “…equal access to the decision-making process rather than the approval of the substantive decision by everyone, which satisfies the right to self-government”.
Why do we need accountability mechanisms to achieve SDG6?
- They hold governments accountable, by keeping track of the progress of implementation of national sector activities for achieving the targets of SDG6
- They assure sustainability of water and sewerage infrastructure and projects, for instance through review of WASH schemes for operational efficacy, environmental performance and technological fit for intended purposes
- They can be a tool for fighting against corruption in public procurement; the development of WASH schemes requires the procurement of heavy infrastructure and investment
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have an important role in assuring accountability. They have the power to set and influence the agenda of platforms and systems. Hence, CSOs need to be aware of the importance of accountability for achieving SDGs, the characteristics of an appropriate accountability system, and how to go about developing one.
Steps Taken Towards the SDG Agenda
The Maldivian government has made numerous steps towards the achievement of SDGs in the Maldives, including the following:
- 2016: Establishment of an institutional mechanism to coordinate SDGs, currently under the Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (MNPHI)
- Establishment of the National Ministerial Coordination Committee (NMCC), constituted of cabinet ministers and chaired by the MNPHI, to oversee the implementation of SDGs and having the authority to make final policy decisions
- 2017: Development of the National Water and Sewerage Policy by the Ministry of Environment, for implementing SDG6. This policy has been followed up with an SDG communication strategy
- 2017: Submission of a Voluntary National Review to the UN High-Level Political Forum for SDG
- 2018: Participation of the Ministry of Environment in the Sector Ministers Meeting organised by Sanitation and Water for All (SWA)
- 2020: Ratification of the Water and Sewerage Act and development of the Water and Sewerage Strategic Action Plan
- 2020: Ratification of the Utility Regulatory Authority Act and establishment of the Utility Regulatory Authority
Additionally, Watercare, the Maldives national CSO focal point of SWA, has tabled their commitments to achieving SDG6 at the Sector Ministers Meeting.
What Are Some Existing Accountability Mechanisms in The Maldives?
According to government representatives, the following efforts have been made to assure accountability in the Maldives:
- Government establishment of an independent procurement review committee to oversee public procurement
- Stakeholder consultations at the commencement and construction stage of all WASH infrastructure schemes being built in inhabited islands
- The formation of a National Coordination Committee for WASH, including all sector players including Watercare as a CSO representative
- Efforts made to include CSO participation, including inviting CSOs in stakeholder consultation meetings and being open to CSO monitoring of government progress and publishing shadow reports
- Establishment of plans and policies as mechanisms for SDG goals, including the Strategic Action Plan for the Government of the Maldives and National Water and Sewerage Policy.
- Ratification of the Water and Sewerage Act and the Utility Regulation Act, which not only give civil society and other stakeholders a window for advocacy but also strengthen the accountability process and allow for regulation of the sector
- Close monitoring of WASH in islands by the Parliament, who have been holding ministers accountable to answer in sessions open to the public
What Are the Limitations of The Current Practices?
- Existing government accountability mechanisms on SDG6 progress tend to be government-centric. As increasing opportunities are provided to the community in the provision of water and sewerage services, this needs to be expanded.
- Aside from demands for better infrastructure and access to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), there is limited awareness and/or interest in the more significant issues that exist within the sector, such as efficient operation and maintenance, water security, quality assurance, governance-related issues and financial sustainability
- Limited community and CSO participation in accountability mechanisms, including potential reluctance from CSOs to do so
- Lack of CSO awareness on WASH issues, which is needed to attract and incentivise the community to demand improvements in the sector
- CSO perception of limited opportunities for engagement in supporting the government. For instance, in this review, it was found that 43.16% did not believe that CSOs are given adequate opportunities, while 73% stated that there are no platforms or opportunities for influencing the government on SDG accountability, and 73% believed that CSOs are not being involved in steering committees or other meetings related to SDG6
- CSOs in the review reported that even when opportunities were given for participation, this did not necessarily mean the acceptance of all ideas from diverse groups
- Inaccessibility to data and information on WASH, due to the existence of different institutions and organisations in silos
While there is no fully-fledged accountability platform in the Maldives, it is apparent that there are signs that the country is improving and establishing good practices in accountability in general. These can be adapted or joined to the WASH sector.
The following are some recommendations made by Watercare, to improve accountability mechanisms in the Maldives:
- Empowering CSOs and communities to engage in presenting justified and strong cases for accountability on government progress, including involvement in the provision and collection of data and research-based solution orientation
- Enhancing CSO awareness and engagement of wash issues with the support of the government and development partners to ensure necessary funding and strategies
- Improved multi-stakeholder collaboration to bring about equitable solutions in the WASH sector. For instance, through the formation of an accountability mechanism for monitoring government progress, generation and management of WASH information and data, integration of awareness and capacity building plans to water strategy planning and the promotion of inter-sectoral collaboration in integrated water resources management
- Enhancing collaboration amongst CSOs to advance SDG6 implementation agenda
- Increased transparency of implementation of policy strategies and achievements and WASH-related information and data
- Combining local and intellectual knowledge in a respectful manner which allows for collaborative decision-making between stakeholders – including project implementors, consultants, contractors, service providers, regulators and the community. This can build ownership and foster successful progress of SDG6 activities while avoiding confusion and deadlock in various stages of system delivery.