Seven such principles are introduced here to provide aspirational direction for managing integrity in WSIs. The operating principles are ordered to correlate with tackling those integrity risks identified as most hazardous as well as most likely.
Principle 1: Seek to align with, support, and strengthen public policy that advances sustainable water management; be careful not to undermine public institutions or water governance.
First and foremost, the WSI should ensure that its scope and objectives support and strengthen public policy relating to SWM. In some instances public policy, laws, and regulations may be weak, ambiguous, inconsistent, or may not be geared toward delivering SWM. In such cases reforms and review, rather than alignment, may be the priority for a WSI. Where this is the case, it will be important for the WSI to develop a constructive relationship with the government and its agencies, and to engage an appropriate range of stakeholders.
However, in many instances government policy and legal provision are well aligned with the goal of SWM, and implementation is lacking. In addressing this scenario, a WSI should respect the unique roles that government institutions play in serving the public interests and ensure that the initiative’s activities complement rather than usurp or undermine ongoing public policy or Water governance processes.
- Are public policy priorities in the basin area well defined with regard to water? Are water policies consistent with other public policy priorities?
- Are government roles clearly defined in relation to achieving water-related public policy objectives?
- Do public institutions have the capacity and resources to deliver on these stated objectives (e.g., to enforce the regulatory framework)?
- Have public sector stakeholders’ mandates been respected, and have those stakeholders been actively involved in setting the objectives and activities of the WSI?
- Are the WSI’s objectives and activities aligned with public policy goals and objectives, and do they structurally support the development of the public sector’s ability to manage water resources? Have public interest benefits been explicitly
- Have risks of capturing organizational or public resources, regulatory action, policy processes, and water access been identified? Have such risks been assessed? How effectively are they being addressed?
Principle 2: Ensure appropriate and balanced representation of interests throughout the course of the WSI.
The integrity of a WSI hinges upon ensuring that the voices, needs, and perspectives of affected stakeholders are heard and taken into account during establishment, design, and implementation. At a pragmatic level, balanced representation of stakeholders (including governments, communities, and businesses) also ensures that decision making is well informed by those who best understand the resource and its challenges, brings additional resources to the WSI, reduces the risk of undue influence by any one party, and is therefore vital for the effectiveness of the WSI.
The WSI should strive to ensure that participants in WSI decision making and governance adequately reflect the range of affected stakeholders, through legitimate proxies if necessary. Proxies for stakeholder groups such as community members or businesses need to be genuine, and have the necessary capacity and mandate from those they represent. This can be challenging where institutions are weak or prone to manipulation by the powerful. Other challenges to this principle include intentional or unintentional barriers to engagement such as language or a requirement for financial contributions.
- Have stakeholders with a significant ability to influence the outcomes of the WSI been identified? Have affected stakeholders influenced by the WSI been identified?
- Where proxies are used, are they representative, legitimate, and capable of representing the stakeholders’ interests?
- Are affected stakeholders contributing to the design and implementation of the WSI?
- Are there any barriers to participation and balanced representation, and how can they be overcome?
- How open and effective are communications among participants?
- How equitable is the decision-making process?
- How are the quality of the representation and engagement of stakeholders monitored? Are actions taken to balance various interests where needed?
Principle 3: Be clear and transparent about the roles and responsibilities of WSI participants, and ensure that their capabilities are adequate (or are sufficiently developed) to fulfill them.
WSI participants should be able to fulfill their roles and responsibilities, and the WSI needs to develop internal mechanisms to hold participants accountable against these defined roles and responsibilities. This requires a clear understanding of the needs, motivations, and intent of WSI participants, and the assignment of clear, suitable roles for each member.
Understanding participants’ intentions and any constraints they face, and establishing clear roles and responsibilities can help to avoid potential conflicts of interest (where intentions may not be aligned with the goals of the initiative) and integrity risks associated with participant capabilities. WSIs that fail to do so are at risk of pursuing activities that privilege individual participants and enable private gain over the public interest.
- Have WSI participants’ track records, incentives, and intentions been sufficiently analyzed?
- Have the capabilities and constraints of each participant been properly assessed, and a needs assessment conducted? How will the WSI deal with capacity deficits?
- Have roles and responsibilities for all activities and coordination tasks been appropriately shared?
- What measures ensure effective oversight?
Principle 4: Be clear and transparent about the water challenge(s) being addressed by the WSI, as well as the agreed scope and intended benefits.
Ensuring that WSIs serve the public interest requires being transparent about the water-related challenges that the WSI is striving to address, its long-term objectives, the activities that will be undertaken, the intended benefits, and intended beneficiaries. This information must be communicated not only among WSI participants but also among affected stakeholders on a regular basis.
A proper understanding of the challenges and opportunities for action requires engagement with affected stakeholders through an ongoing process that tracks and reports demonstrable progress toward positive outcomes and WSI objectives.
Poor initial problem analysis with insufficient diagnosis of underlying water-related or institutional challenges leads to inappropriate objectives and activities. This could undermine WSI impact and efficiency, or may privilege vested interests. Transparency allows the public and affected stakeholders to monitor how well the WSI serves public interests and guards against those WSIs that serve a few vested interests.
- Has the problem analysis sufficiently clarified the root causes and nature of the challenges that the WSI seeks to address? Have the opportunities for progress and the risks facing the WSI in delivering these outcomes been properly understood?
- Have participants clearly defined the scope and objectives of the WSI, as well as its benefits for the public interest and for each participant?
- Has the justification for the WSI been effectively communicated to all participants and affected stakeholders? Do feedback channels exist?
- Have the changes that the WSI seeks to achieve in improving water resource management been effectively specified and communicated to all relevant stakeholders?
- Have participants had the opportunity to discuss, challenge, and improve the logic behind how the WSI will contribute to more SWM?
Principle 5: Be clear and transparent about how the WSI is to be governed.
WSIs need to establish internal governance mechanisms to ensure that decision making, financial management, and communications meet expectations and are fit for the intended purpose. Decision-making processes should be clear and ensure that all participants are able to engage in the process, and that participants providing resources and funding are not given undue influence or special rights. Sharing relevant information in a timely manner is essential to ensuring informed participation. Financial arrangements and systems, including expectations around remuneration and funding flows, should be specified and understood by all WSI participants. Internal audit systems should be established as necessary, and ideally financial arrangements should be disclosed publicly.
- Have participants agreed on management (e.g., timing, tasks, workplan, oversight, conflict resolution structures, budget reporting structures) and decision making processes (including feedback mechanisms), and how to handle communications and financial issues?
- Have they all clearly expressed at the outset their expectations about remuneration and flows of funding? Were they properly informed about financial commitments and disbursement procedures?
- How is adherence to agreed procedures being effectively monitored? Are shortcomings properly addressed?
Principle 6: Track outcomes against the stated objectives of the WSI.
Leading WSIs implement robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems that allow participants to determine the effectiveness of the initiative and to understand when unexpected outcomes occur or when new integrity risks arise. An exit strategy that explicitly clarifies when the WSI has met its objectives, or when circumstances demonstrate that entrenched integrity conditions render the WSI no longer viable, also holds WSIs accountable to specified conditions. Leading WSIs that pursue such accountability mechanisms communicate to affected stakeholders the outcomes of these evaluations (preferably third-party evaluations, where possible) and any consequent decisions about the course of the WSI.
The absence of an effective M&E mechanism may place a higher integrity risk on the WSI as participants may not be able to efficiently identify (new) threats facing the initiative or malpractice within the initiative.
- Are decision-making processes sufficiently informed by the goals of the WSI?
- Has an appropriate exit strategy been designed?
- Is an M&E system in place to track the progress of the WSI and readjust the course of the program as needed?
- Have agreed M&E mechanisms led to effective tracking of new integrity risks?
- Do communication mechanisms provide sufficient information on the performance of the WSI?
Principle 7: Foster an ethos of trust, and establish expectations for behavior of WSI participants.
WSIs should strive to create an environment that leads to trust and honesty among WSI participants and affected stakeholders. In doing so, WSIs can ensure that participants strive to meet their agreed roles and responsibilities, and that their behavior leads to positive reputational outcomes for the WSI. Appropriate behavior ensures that issues of misconduct that may lead to integrity risks do not become endemic to the WSI.
- Have expectations about the behavior of WSI participants been clarified?
- How does the WSI explicitly value honesty? Are agreed procedures held as a standard of behavior (such as a code of conduct)?
- How have issues of noncompliance with WSI agreements been addressed?