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Collaboration and inclusion in M&E: a Pacific context

Collaboration and inclusion are critical to effective monitoring and evaluation processes argues International WaterCentre Senior Project Officer Kylie Milligan in this feature on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes in the Pacific and Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) theory to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.

Public and environmental health in the Pacific region is amongst the poorest in the world despite there being many projects to address poor health within the region, including many Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects (WHO & UNICEF 2015). Wanting to understand how monitoring processes could enhance project outcomes in these WASH projects, I conducted my final project research, for the International WaterCentre’s Master of Integrated Water Management in 2016, on how current monitoring processes and outputs for WASH were translating into enhanced WASH outcomes in Fijian communities. Fiji was selected as a case study to investigate how IWRM principles could be applied to WASH programs in a Pacific context and my research involved the collection of qualitative data from key informants in Suva in April 2016.

Pacific monitoring and evaluation context and IWRM theory

Effective monitoring and evaluation is important because it enhances the accountability and transparency of organisations and their projects (Crawford & Bryce 2003). From a WASH perspective, the SDGs require a new framework for monitoring and evaluating progress and improvements of projects in a different institutional context. My research provided insights into how WASH monitoring activities, from an IWRM perspective, could maximise outcomes for communities to improve their wellbeing and ultimately support the achievement of SDG 6: “Availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030” (UN 2015).

The challenge that exists between improving WASH in Fiji and the WASH monitoring data methodology represents the type of complex, multi-disciplinary situation that IWRM theory and practice seeks to address. High level institutional frameworks such as IWRM make it possible to apply contextually relevant approaches to development challenges, such as the WASH challenges experienced in Fiji. Principles of IWRM, particularly those relating to the participation and inclusion of marginalised people in decision-making processes, may help to bridge the gap between the challenges in WASH being experienced in Fiji and the way that data is being reported.

Challenges & research findings

Through my literature review I identified the following challenges for monitoring and evaluation in Fiji:

  • Fiji appears to have reached targets for the water and sanitation MDG but there is no indication that water and sanitation is available to the most vulnerable people in society.

  • Monitoring methods need to incorporate indicators that measure equity of access to WASH for all people including those in vulnerable groups.

  • Residual challenges for WASH in the SDG context are the fragmentation of monitoring efforts and delivering contextually consistent monitoring.

  • Monitoring for WASH is conducted on an ad hoc basis with no consistent implementation process.

  • Institutional fragmentation is a barrier to effective policy development for measuring the progression towards WASH access for all.

  • There is no secure or certain process for provision of WASH services to marginalised groups i.e. informal settlements in Fiji.

These findings identified through the literature review were expanded upon during my qualitative data collection in Suva where a series of key information interviews provided further insight into how these challenges are playing out in program delivery and monitoring efforts. Through these key informant interviews I identified that:

  • Crises, such as natural disasters like Cyclone Winston, act as a catalyst for action in the WASH sector, especially for those in decision-making positions - who are mostly government officials.
  • There is no communication feedback loop of WASH monitoring activities and outcomes from government to communities.  Academic institutions and CSOs are the point of communication for both government and communities.
  • There is both informal and formal monitoring present in the Suva area. A pattern emerged from the data which suggests there is both informal monitoring generating unstructured data (such as youth groups in informal settlements) and data–intensive formal monitoring (government-led monitoring under WASH policies) for WASH.

From these findings I concluded that the ad-hoc management of both formal and informal monitoring activities in Fiji was creating a fragmented approach to monitoring efforts and potentially undermining the ability of projects to achieve their objectives and ensure implementation was both collaborative and inclusive to all.

Recommendations

I developed a list of recommendations which emphasise the importance of participation and inclusion in monitoring and evaluation processes. These recommendations can be summarised as follows:

  • Encourage government stakeholders to communicate and engage with other stakeholders active in WASH activities.

  • Investigate ways to merge formal and informal methods of data collections to encourage knowledge sharing between stakeholders.

  • Explore ways to include youth in WASH monitoring activities by engaging with youth groups.

  • Support CSOs and research groups to engage with government stakeholders to build awareness of informal settlements and how to involve them in the communication and collection of data for WASH.

In order to achieve SDG6 by 2030 the organisational and adaptive capacity building of the enabling environment in Fiji will need to include the principle of participation that IWRM theory advocates. This will help to ensure that indicators for monitoring programs are capturing all Fijians, including the vulnerable groups identified. However, it is difficult at this point in time to translate these findings into indicators that incorporate the importance of participation and inclusiveness in monitoring programs in a Fijian context. Further research has been suggested to understand the perspectives of UNICEF and WHO, as executors of the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation, in conjunction with GEMI, for the SDGs, in Fiji regarding monitoring for WASH. This could provide further insight as to what these indicators should be to measure progression to the SDGsS in a way that is contextual relevant for Fiji and reportable and comparable on a global scale.

Progressing the conversation at WASH Futures 2018

The international WASH Conference hosted in Brisbane, Australia returns in 2018, 5-9 March. WASH Futures 2018 will focus on Collaboration for Universal WASH and explore how we, as actors in the WASH sector, are to achieve SDG6 by 2030. The importance of monitoring and reporting programs being inclusive, collaborative and contextual relevant will be an important element of mobilising the sector to achieve SDG6. Influencing the WASH sector to incorporate an IWRM theory and principles will also be crucial to meeting SDG6 and will form part of these conversations at WASH Futures 2018.

Acknowledgements

Kylie partnered with IWC’s ADRAS project ‘Fostering sustainable and inclusive WASH marketing systems with informal settlements of the Pacific’ to complete her Masters of Integrated Water Management in 2016. If you would like any further information or clarification on this research project please contact k.milligan@watercentre.org.


References

Crawford, P and Bryce, P 2003,’Project monitoring and evaluation: a method for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of aid project implementation’, International Journal of Project Management, Volume 21, pp: 363–373.

United Nations 2015, Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, accessed 3 March 2016, available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld/publication

World Health Organization and UNICEF 2015, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment, accessed 10 October 2015, available at http://www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-Update-report-2015_English.pdf.

 

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