No more fairy tales

In the third of three blog posts, CEO of IRC Patrick Moriarty explains why “government leadership” is critical to tackle inequality, poverty and to create sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services – and why we need to stop believing in fairy tales be they about self-supporting communities or scrappy social entrepreneurs.

This blog was originally published on www.ircwash.org on 16 July 2014.

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The elephant in the room

“The 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of true WASH service delivery is entirely within our reach,” argues CEO of IRC Patrick Moriarty in this second of three blog posts. “We’re ready. What’s to stop us? Two big scary words: Government and Money.”

This blog was originally published on www.ircwash.org on 8 July 2014.

The heart of the keynote that I gave at the 2014 WASH Sustainability Forum (as explained in the first blog of this series) revolved around the twin issues of government leadership and government money – which I defined as an elephant in the room – and Harold Lockwood translated into an 800 pound gorilla – for the benefit of transatlantic guests.

I think we can say that the water, sanitation and hygiene sector is ready – possibly for the first time ever – to seriously engage with its aim of achieving universal coverage with services that last for more than 2 billion people. We’re fired up about service delivery, we’ve got the tools and attitudes we need. What’s to stop us? In two words: government leadership and money – or the lack of both. Continue Reading »


Tools for life

In the first of three blog posts, IRC CEO Patrick Moriarty addresses the next big challenge: the critical role of public finance and government leadership.

This blog was originally published on www.ircwash.org on 1 July 2014.

I’ve hugely enjoyed meeting friends, old and new, at the 2014 WASH Sustainability Forum. This is the fifth sustainability Forum, the fourth that I’ve attended. With a nice manageable group of committed and passionate people from the full range of sector actors, it’s a nice barometer of how we’re doing on sustainability. Which I’d have to say is rather well.

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Sustainability tools for hygiene, sanitation and water

This week, the 2014 WASH Sustainability Forum brought together representatives from civil society, government, universities and the private sector eager to share ideas on how to make our investments and efforts in water sanitation and hygiene have sustainable results.

During the Forum, IRC’s Carmen da Silva Wells hopped between tracks and interviewed the Forum track leads to learn more about the different tools that are out there – resulting in three blogs, originally published on www.ircwash.org. Continue Reading »


Cautiously optimistic

What will it take to create WASH sectors that work? 

By Patrick Moriarty, Harold Lockwood, and Sarah Carriger

Over the past few months in a series of posts we’ve been advocating for a change in the goal of the WASH sector – from increasing coverage to delivering a service over the long haul; from simply building infrastructure to building infrastructure and managing it into the future to provide services worthy of the name.

And we’ve been calling for a change in approach — from piecemeal projects to strengthening the whole system that delivers services.

We’ve shown how we’ve gone about supporting this type of change in Ghana together with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, and we’ll continue posting examples from other countries where we’re working.

For now, in the final post in this series, we’d like to talk more about what committing to this change calls for from governments and their partners in development – and to highlight what we see as some positive signs of progress. Continue Reading »

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Fifth WASH Sustainability Forum, tipping point in the sustainability debate?

Sustainability is a hot topic in the development sector at large. In the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, there have been a range of events, partnerships and websites dedicated to collectively recognising, understanding and addressing sustainability challenges. In March this year, for example, the Australian WASH sector hosted the ‘WASH for everyone, everywhere‘ conference in Brisbane exploring the topic in light of the post-2015 development agenda.

On June 30th and July 1st, over 160 professionals working on WASH for the world’s poorest will gather in Amsterdam for the fifth WASH Sustainability Forum.  This is part of a series of international WASH sustainability events organised by a coalition of organisations. IRC, Aguaconsult, Global Water Challenge and WASH Advocates have been core driving members behind the WASH Sustainability Forum series. This year’s event is also supported by UNICEF, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program.

Exploring sustainability tools 

According to Harold Lockwood of Aguaconsult, one of the organisations behind the fifth edition, there is a definite shift in mind-sets since the first one in 2010: “There is a collective recognition, as well as growing momentum and support around moving towards a service delivery approach. We seem to be at a tipping point, where discussions initially focused on why we need to focus on sustainability, but are now moving to the ‘how to’ part of the equation for different actors”.

The 5th WASH Sustainability Forum aims to move donors, civil society and governments towards application of sustainability principles and tools. One of the significant inputs to the event is a study of WASH sustainability tools conducted by Aguaconsult as part of Sustainable Services at Scale, or Triple-S, an IRC-led initiative. Triple-S Working Paper, ‘Mapping of WASH sustainability tools‘ contains the findings of the mapping, as well as the outcomes of online survey looking into demand for sustainability tools and a 2-part webinar series.

The good news is that there are plenty of tools out there for understanding, measuring, or predicting sustainability.The assessment included a review of over 220 tools, and the 25 tools with clear content and methodology for understanding, measuring, or predicting sustainability have been presented as 1-page practical summaries in the Working Paper. Altogether these 25 sustainability tools have been applied 92 times in 52 countries, with most addressing the technical, institutional, and management areas that affect sustainability.

There are also notable gaps, such as tools that can be applied across all stages of the service life-cycle, tools that address sanitation and hygiene interventions and that focus can be applied urban or peri-urban areas.

According to Ryan Schweitzer, Claire Grayson and Harold Lockwood, authors of the Working Paper, the emergence of cluster of similar sustainability assessment tools is a positive signal that a new paradigm is emerging in the sector. However, most tools are driven by external development partner organisations. Therefore, they conclude that much more effort needs to be made to align tools with country monitoring systems and country sector capacities  and to use the data that these tools generate in order to improve services.

Word cloud from 4th WASH sustainability Forum

Word cloud from 4th WASH Sustainability Forum


This challenge of linking tools with national systems – and indeed showcasing some national government tools – will be one of the core topics at the Forum. Representatives from government, private sector, donors and NGOs will engage in a panel debate to talk about how to improve the application and alignment of tools so that investments in the sector deliver services that last.

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Aftermath of the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting

By Erma Uytewaal -

Promising commitments, shallow discussions but a great depth of optimism for the sector 

Last week Friday 11 April 2014, the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) took place in Washington DC. This third HLM hosted by the World Bank, gathered more than sixty delegations from developing countries and donors, including a new record number of finance ministers from SWA partner countries. The HLM was preceded by a sector minister’s dialogue on 10 April 2014, in which ministers for water and sanitation from more than fifty developing countries reviewed progress against the 2012 commitments; presented the new commitments for the HLM 2014; and drew-up key messages for the HLM the following day. In my view, both events were an unprecedented success. But, as mentioned in an earlier blog, both events are just the most visible happenings of the SWA partnership, the ‘cherry on the cake’ if you like.  In this case, the ‘cake’ consists of the High Level Country Dialogues (HLCDs) that run up to the HLM and a donor preparatory process. The ultimate test for the strengthened SWA partnership is sustaining and institutionalising the results of these two events in national country sector processes.

In this blog post, I reflect on the main results of both events, and the challenges faced going forward. Continue Reading »