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 Workshop on Water Action Plans

Download entire report, water-plans-98.pdf (1138k)

Workshop on Water Action Plans
- Experience with Alternative Implementation Strategies.
Eigtveds Pakhus, 9 September 1998.
Arranged by:
Danida and Danish Water Resources Committee.


On 9th September 1998 Danida and Danish Water Resources Committee arranged a workshop held at Eigtveds Pakhus. The subject for this workshop was Exchange of experiences between Danish consultancy firms and Danida regarding implementation strategies of water action plans.
The workshop was arranged for an invited/selected group of companies and institutions actively working with water and environment in the developing countries.
The reasons for this workshop were amongst others that water action plans within Danida-assisted sector programming are moving in several different directions, and as a consequence of the character of the sector programming, the water action plans are now better adapted to local condition. These facts make a heavy demand on the consultants regarding knowledge of local institutional conditions, the condition between the public and private sectors, the local legislation, etc.
The exchange and reception of experiences from amongst others adaptation to the local conditions, the demands on the consultant, etc were discussed. The discussion was based on 3 selected water action plans, respective Nicaragua, Ghana and Uganda.
59 persons from 25 different companies participated in the workshop.
The workshop was arranged by a working group consisting of representatives from both Danish Water Resources Committee and Danida. The working group has also been in charge of the editing of the material for the workshop and completion of the report.

The working group consisted of the following persons:
Jan Møller Hansen, Danida
Torkil Jønch-Clausen, Global Water Partnership
Jan Hassing, VKI
Jesper Knudsen, DHI
Thorkild Thomsen, Hedeselskabet
Lonny B.K. Hansen, Hedeselskabet

Table of Contents

1. The Main Workshop Report
By Anne-Lise Klausen, Nordic Consulting Group
2. Danida-assisted Sector Programming and Integrated Water Resources Management
Prepared by Jan Møller Hansen, Danida Copenhagen
3. Case Study: Nicaragua
By David Milton and Jesper Knudsen, Danish Hydralic Institute
4. Report from working group: Nicaragua
By Svend Aage Linde, Dansk Miljø Center A/S
5. Case Study: Strengthening of Water Resources Information Services in Ghana, HSD
By Jørgen Erup and Per Møller-Jensen, Hedeselskabet
6. Report from working group: Ghana
By Lars Skov Andersen, COWIconsult A/S
7. Case Study: Capacity Development in Ugandas water sector
By Jan Hassing, VKI
8. Report from working group: Uganda
By Jens Lillebæk, Carl Bro A/S
9. Guidelines to Working Groups
By Jan Hassing, VKI
10. Agenda
11. Water Action Plans
12. List of Participants

The Main Workshop Report
By Anne-Lise Klausen, Nordic Consulting Group

1. Theme and Workshop Focus

1.1 Introduction

Exchange and synthesising experience with water action planning was the purpose of the theme day and workshop with, as principal target group, Danida and the Danish resource base. The day was divided into two parts:

  • The morning session concentrated on plenary presentations of the broader aspects of water action planning within an international context, summing up experience to date; these presentations were followed by presentations of more detailed case study experience, drawing on examples from three countries; Ghana, Nicaragua and Uganda. In all three case studies Danida (and the Danish resource base) are deeply involved in water action planning, through the provision of finance and technical expertise.
  • The afternoon session was a workshop, where the participants were divided into three groups. As starting point for the discussion each group drew on one of the case studies. The group discussions were structured according to key steps in the program cycle, i.e. identification, implementation and monitoring. Section 2 of this report summarises the findings of the workshop and section 3 presents the recommendations of the workshop.

1.2 Water Action Plans (WAP) - General Findings

A number of overall conclusions could be drawn from the day's discussions.

Firstly, technical issues and technical solutions are not the main constraints for effective water action plans, and planning. Technical solutions already exist and have been tested. Rather key constraints relate to organisations, institutions, policy and planning. In particular the human resource capacity in the recipient countries, to which these issues are addressed, is limited. This led to the conclusion that the type of assistance, which was most required in order to support water action planning, is institutional rather than technical. This links in with the fact that WAPs are, by their nature, long term programs requiring a long-term commitment of support. Within this context, hit-and-run missions by foreign technical experts are not suitable.

2. The Workshop Process and Products

The three case studies served as a basis for discussion but, in order to broaden the scope of the discussion, the organisers had chosen to assign group membership, rather than leaving this to chance. Thus, only the presenter of the case study should have experience of the particular case in the country in question; other group members were drawn based particularly on their experience in countries other than the case in question. This served to broaden the discussion and to avoid that group work centred on country-specific details.

What follows are the main conclusions from these sessions following the three main headings: identification and design; implementation; and monitoring.

2.1 Identification and Design

WAPs are complex and highly political in Nature.

It was generally observed in the groups that the issues addressed in Water Action Plans (WAP) are highly political and complex in their nature, and the identification of and design of a component or program therefore requires country knowledge, political sensitivity and preparatory studies which are not rushed. It is crucial that a momentum is created which can promote motivation, need and potential ownership. Embassy staff in the program countries has a key role to play especially in the identification phase. The Embassy staff possibly with the assistance of a process consultant, local or expatriate, will be instrumental in building up a dialogue with different stakeholders. There was, however, a general concern expressed that Embassy staff did not have the required technical competence or the time to fulfil this role.

A WAP is not a project, rather part of a process, in the same way as a Sector Programme Support (SPS). In most cases, in fact, the WAP will become a component of an SPS. Both the Danida procedures and the Logical Framework Approach (LFA) were criticised for being too rigid and not appropriate for an approach, which demands flexibility. Conclusions need to be drawn from the first experiences with WAPs and with the SPS approach to consider how to modify guidelines away from rigidity towards a flexibility, which responds to concepts of recipient ownership of the process.

Because of the complex nature of the WAPs and the long-term commitments required from donors, the donor (in this case Danida) should aim for better continuity in its use of consultants. There are several ways to do this, but the key issue will be to enhance dialogue and institutional memory, and to facilitate the process of recipient ownership through the use of "trusted" consultants involved over a longer period of time. In order to achieve this, Danida will have to develop a system of framework contracts allowing flexible input when required – rather than flexible input at pre-defined stages and on pre-defined dates.

Ownership and Motivation.

Emphasis should be on setting up a program, which is embedded in national ownership, although it is likely that different stakeholders have different and often conflicting interests. This stresses further the crucial importance of not rushing the identification and design phase, and to pay attention to the political and economic interests of water resources management and to fully understand the role and interests of different stakeholders.

WAPs seem abstract to many stakeholders. Moreover, it is not always easy to define which level is "the lowest appropriate". WAPs can be very different from one country to another and in some cases it may even be considered not to develop a WAP at national level at all, but only at regional level. In addition the WAP, by its nature, is very political and hence, will need to be a combination of bottom-up implementation strategy combined with a top-down political strategy (which also takes cognisance of regional issues).

Water Action Plans are political and institutional programs with a high degree of technical content. This combination should be exploited in the design in order to enhance ownership and motivation. Recipients need to see tangible results in terms of transfer of technical know-how and tools for management of water resources at the same time as the institutional capacity to do so is being built up. This is the combination of "walk-walk" and "talk-talk", in other words an appropriate mix of overall planning and policy interventions and some practical activities that may have high priority on the local agenda. This may also "soften" the top-down approach.

The design should be process oriented and it is therefore difficult to make a distinct separation between the phases of design, implementation and monitoring. Moreover, as process and ownership are closely linked, it is counterproductive to follow a classical blueprint approach in water action planning.

The process orientation calls for highly qualified expertise, both from Embassy staff but also from international as well as well as local consultants. Flexible time frames are crucial in order to ensure that external support is in place (particularly for design and implementation), when there are windows of opportunity and agreements to move the processes forward. This may imply deviations from previously agreed implementation schedules; therefore, if support is to focus on ownership, technical advisory support must be flexible. This has implications for how contracts with consulting firms are designed, moving away from a strict output model towards framework contracts.

2.2 Implementation and Process Management

Recipient institutional capacity.

Severe shortfalls are generally observed in the counterpart's organisational set-up and the human resource capacity of the counterpart institution. At the same time, program design is often over-optimistic with regard to local resources availability and capacity to meet the requirements and obligations contained in a Project Document. This links back to the identification and design phase, which has probably been too short and based on limited local knowledge and input.

It was widely recognised by the groups that it is mostly in the institutional part of the implementation that the greatest problems are found. This led one workshop facilitator to open the discussion with the following question: "could one imagine that the competence and experience of the experts in general did not completely match the needs of the receiving agencies?"

This statement catches a central point both in the identification, design and subsequently in the implementation and monitoring of WAPs. If too much emphasis is given to technical aspects, because planners do not recognise sufficiently that it is the political and institutional issues, which are the most difficult and which constitute the real challenge, programs are likely to fail. They will tend to end up in problems of capacity gaps and problems with institutional sustainability.

Some WAPs and other water resource management program are clearly technology driven and even their technical sustainability is questionable because technical sustainability cannot be viewed independently of institutional sustainability.

Actors in Implementation

Bilateral assistance has traditionally been oriented towards the public sector in recipient countries. However, experience has shown that this focus should shift to include customary organisations, NGOs and private sector stakeholders, in addition to the public sector. This includes building capacity also for these stakeholders.

Using multi-disciplinary teams, stakeholder analysis should be made and updated continuously during implementation

Baseline studies covering non-technical aspects are rare. Institutional baseline and clear goals for institutional development are hardly found. Yet the development of the capacity of these institutions is key to the long-term sustainability of the WAPs. Moreover, goals related to developing institutional capacity tend to be very non-specific.

Accepting that WAPs are political in nature, and need to blend top-down political commitment with bottom-up involvement and ownership, a parallel process will be required. While national involvement needs to be assured, activities involving stakeholders at all appropriate levels need to be undertaken. Moreover, it needs to be foreseen that implementation of a WAP will impact negatively on the interests of some stakeholders. Therefore stakeholders need, at an early stage, to be involved in an open dialogue to be aware of both the positive as well as the negative impacts.

This task is too great for a donor agency to shoulder - neither is it appropriate. Rather, relevant training of involved stakeholders should be considered at a very early stage. Training needs assessments should be a standard activity in every WAP preparatory process. If the recipient country is to "own" the WAP process, the capacity needs to be developed (at all levels) to carry forward the discussions and take political decisions. Within this context, the donor (and the consultants paid by the donor) should only be facilitators.

Donors administrative set-up

The administrative set-up, under which most donors operate, has been developed for a more traditional project approach. This causes difficulties in the practical implementation of sector and process oriented programs. Thus, for example, it would be difficult for the donor's administration to allow a consulting company the flexibility to "interrupt" an assistance schedule after 3 months due to unavailability or lack of input from a counterpart - and giving the go-ahead when the appropriate situation has manifested itself.

Here it becomes important to learn from Danida's first experiences with implementing the SPS approach, and use this to develop appropriate tools, which incorporate flexibility.

The issue of institutional jealousy between donors was also raised. Although it is an integral part of the SPS process that programs are built up through the recipient country institutions, many donors are still very keen to see their own projects and programs clearly identified. It is this kind of donor "ownership" that needs to be replaced by recipient country ownership. This can only be achieved where donor co-ordination and agreement is strengthened, and where it is incorporated into the recipient country's steering of the process.

2.3 Monitoring

At present, process monitoring is mostly a function carried out by an external consultant; this stands in the way of building up greater local ownership of the WAP process, which is essential for success.

  • Monitoring/Review should comprise all three actors involved: counterpart agencies, consultants and the Danish Embassy. This should already be reflected at the time of the program planning process.

In addition, due to increasing program complexity, review missions in their present form are insufficient - the expression "hit and run" missions were used in the discussion. In practice it appears to be difficult to revise/adjust the Project Document during these missions.

  • A program should be monitored on an ongoing basis by an external team appointed by the donor. The external auditor(s) should operate as a help and guidance in the process.
  • Members of the team monitoring or reviewing the WAP should not have participated in the formulation.

3. Key Recommendations

It will be found that the recommendations below are intertwined although they are presented under different headings.

3.1 Ownership

  • The donor implications of the complicated ownership issue is to allow for an extended identification and design process involving all stakeholders in order to pave the way for ownership and thereby sustainability.
  • An in depth understanding of the different stakeholder interests can only be built up if there is a close liaison between the Embassy and the recipient organisations. The Embassy is likely to need external assistance in this process either from international or national consultants. Such consultants shall be "trusted" and need to have flexible terms and have in depth knowledge of political processes, institutional and organisational issues as well as an overall technical expertise.

3.2 Program cycle

WAP is extremely complicated as it has political, economic and technical aspects and implications and there are many and often conflicting stakeholder relationships. This complicates the institutional and organisational settings.

  • This calls for an extended planning and design phase (mentioned above), but the expertise required from the donor should emphasise the political, institutional and organisational issues. The technical aspects are also important, and are often in higher demand by some stakeholders than the institutional and capacity building elements of a program. A balance between "talk-talk" and "walk-walk" should therefore be established.
  • A WAP may be national or regional in design, but it is important that it is appropriate in scope and ambition in a given country setting at a given time. A long-term commitment from donors will enable the recipient and the donor to make an appropriate and flexible design with an appropriate level of ambition.
  • Baseline studies covering non-technical aspects should be included as a planning and monitoring tool. Goals relating to developing institutional capacity should be more specific so they can refer to baseline data.
  • Donors should increasingly shift their focus from public institution orientation towards a broader range of stakeholders i.e. customary organisations, NGOs and private sector stakeholders, in addition to the public sector. This includes building capacity also for these stakeholders.
  • In order to increase flexibility in all phases of the program cycle it becomes important to learn from Danida's first experiences with implementing the SPS program approach, and to use this to develop appropriate tools, which incorporate flexibility. A revision of the contract terms and output specifications for consultants is one aspect of this, but this is an integrated part of the process management of assistance programs.
  • Monitoring/Review should comprise all three actors involved: counterpart agencies, consultants and the Danish Embassy. This should already be reflected at the time of the program planning process.

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