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Sector Wide Approach in the Water Sector

Background and rationale for the study

A sector-wide approach (SWAp) can be defined (European Commission, see W1 in annex) as ‘a pragmatic approach to planning and management in the sector, which:

1) Identifies interrelated sector constraints and opportunities;

2)Addresses sector constraints and opportunities which require coordinated action across actors and subsectors;

3) Strengthens linkages between the sector policy, budget, activities and results’.

SWAps have been implemented in many sectors since the late 1990s, especially in health and education. The Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness advanced the principles of ownership, alignment, harmonisation, results and mutual accountability. Although not primarily an instrument for aid effectiveness, the sector approach potentially provides a framework for putting these concepts into practice.

Diffuse sectors such as water are different from more cohesive sectors, such as health and education, where a single ministry brings together the main stakeholders. As a result, the challenges, options and strategies of applying sector approaches and moving towards a range of modalities are different. Experience gained in the more cohesive sectors is not always relevant for the water sector.

While sector approaches have been attempted in the water sector in a number of countries, there is little systematic summary of actual experience in doing so. Thus, there is a need for more systematic gathering and analysis of experience on the part of the African development Bank (AfDB), European Union (EU) and other donors on how to introduce and support this type of approach for the water sector.

There is now, after some 10 years, a body of experience on water sector SWAps that has not been adequately digested. With huge resources going in to develop SWAps in many countries and their use as the foundation for an increasingly high proportion of external assistance, there is a need to gather evidence and reflect on what has worked and what has not.

This study seeks to outline strategies and to identify lessons learnt in adopting sector approaches, based on seven case studies, with a focus on Africa.

The study aims at:

  • updating best practices on supporting water sector policy programmes;
  • being a source of inspiration to those involved in moving external aid funding of water sector programmes towards more aligned sector approaches;
  • Providing a structure, tool and departure point for gathering experiences;
  • Providing an overview of options and steps for moving towards a sector approach;
  • isolating factors, conditions and criteria that favour particular options and steps.

It is hoped the study will:

  • Motivate the case study countries to improve sector performance based on the findings;
  • Encourage other countries to develop the sector approach based on the good lessons provided;
  • Inform development partners in their efforts to contribute to sector approaches in the water sector.

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Stathis Dalamangas
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28 February 2014

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