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IWC to conduct research on social contracts in Indonesia

IWC has been contracted, in Round 2 of the Australia-Indonesia Infrastructure Research Awards (AIIRA), to assess the potential of ‘social contracts’ (agreements between stakeholders outlining expected actions by all parties) to stimulate trust for improved water governance and service delivery in Indonesia.
IWC to conduct research on social contracts in Indonesia

The urban trends of access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Indonesia (BPS as quoted by BAPPENAS, 2012)

In its MDGs achievements report 2011, Indonesia highlighted that the development of sustainable access to safe drinking water, especially in urban areas in the country, is decreasing. Rapid urbanisation and increasing demand in urban areas has resulted in a decline in the percentage of people with improved water. In the better performing provinces one in three houses still do not have access to safe water, and in the poorer performing provinces two out of every three households lack access to safe water. 

Deteriorating water supply services in urban areas in Indonesia occur due to numerous combined factors and complexities. Water supply infrastructure requires significant investment: in maintenance, rehabilitation, and to build new facilities and expand networks. Governance issues have led to distrust among key actors, i.e. water utility (PDAM) and local government and customers, hindering investment and cost recovery.

This in-depth research will explore the social capital (strength of relationships and trust) between water utilities (PDAMs), local government and customers. It will also investigate the longer-term impacts of social contracts on social capital, helping to determine the potential for these to become a widespread policy tool, and contribute to a growing global evidence-base on effective water governance decentralisation.

Research questions

The project will answer the core research questions:

  • Can social contracts contribute to improved water governance?
  • And what evidence can be gained to support this?

To answer these questions, IWC will conduct three in-depth comparative case studies, involving two PDAMs of the previous IndII pilot studies (Sumba Timur and Ende) and one high performing PDAM without a formal social contract (Palembang).

Research Team

The research team brings together international experts at The University of Queensland and International WaterCentre, and local researchers who better understand the context, customs and protocols in Indonesia.


Increased social capital can build trust and bring actors to the table to discuss collectively the challenges and do-able actions to improve performance in water service delivery. This creates a supportive environment for genuine dialogue on the roles and contribution each actor needs to contribute.

The research process will facilitate a two-way learning process for the water industry as a whole, and feed results into policy design and long term capacity building strategy. This collaboration will also build stronger partnerships among research partners as a modality for further collaboration in the future.


Australia-Indonesia Infrastructure Research Awards (AIIRA) program

The AIIRA program, an Australian Aid initiative, is based on the premise that by enhancing the skills and informed roles of academic and civil society organisations in Indonesia’s infrastructure policy and planning processes, the quality of outputs from work commissioned by Government of Indonesia agencies will improve.

The main AIIRA program outputs will be a series of high-quality demonstration research products, which will have the additional benefit of providing opportunities for learning by doing, and effective and sustainable knowledge transfer. In this way, a further, long-term outcome will be the increased capacity of the participating institutions and agencies to undertake and complete action and applied research, independently.


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