In a recent interview, Bai-Mass Taal, executive-secretary of the African Council of Ministers (AMCOW), said that improving the coordination at the country-level was the most important contribution that UN-Water could make. Would you like to comment?
“Bai-Mass Taal’s comment really addresses the entire rationale for UN-Water. UN-Water was created to strengthen the joint impact of the UN toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We work on global policy, advocacy and coordinated actions at the regional level, but ultimately it is concrete actions carried out at the country-level by national governments themselves that will determine whether these targets are met.”
“As UN-Water’s terms of reference make clear, the coherence of UN System actions at the country level is crucial to achieving the overall objectives underlying the establishment of UN-Water.”
“I can understand that for Bai-Mass Taal, someone representing African countries, many of which are struggling to reach these goals, country-level coordination is a core interest. The UN-Water Task Force on Country-level coordination focuses on this particular issue, but its work is meant to strengthen UN-Water as a whole and improve its member’s capacity to scale up the delivery of services at the country level.”
What are the difficulties involved in improving country-level coordination?
"Coordination at the country level is a complex task because every country is unique. Priorities and capacities differ from country to country. There’s no cookie-cutter approach we can take to improving coordination. It requires patience and careful in-country analysis."
"However, I think we can point to several recurrent challenges that need to be faced. First, governments and other stakeholders are often simply unaware of the problems and potentials of developing the water sector. The water sector tends to be under-prioritized and under-funded. So the need for increased coordination is not always perceived."
"Even in countries like Tanzania and Mozambique, which have a number of coordinating instruments in operation and bilateral donors in place, their relative success in coordination in the water sector is mainly limited to rural water supply and sanitation. For other sub-sectors, such as water resources management, adaptive responses to climate change, agricultural land and water use and pollution, cross-sectoral coordination is still largely absent."
"Because of this general lack of understanding for the need for cross-sectoral coordination, there is often no clear counterpart for UN-Water teams to meet when discussing coordination issues. This complicates the process."
"Also, there is often a lack of financing and capacity for improving in-country coordination. For example, in China, hydropower development receives lots of financing, but hardly any funding is available for other water-related sectors and for coordination. Cambodia provided a clear example of a country where there was a lack of capacity to work in a coordinated way."