For people to unlock their potential, they need clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. Aid has a crucial role to play, by strengthening governments in developing countries so they can deliver these services sustainably.

WaterAid and aid effectiveness

When aid is delivered effectively, it spurs progress and helps people live healthy, dignified lives. It is a vital resource for countries often struggling with huge challenges – but it is not always used as effectively as it should be. 

Fragmentation and inefficiency occur when the various sources of investment do not collaborate. Too often, finance is channelled into short-term projects that are not part of a common plan, or it bypasses country processes and systems that are essential for financing, implementing and monitoring water and sanitation services in the long term. This slows down progress, and undermines the sustainability of the services people receive.

We are determined that aid has the biggest impact possible. Through the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership, governments, development partners and civil society organisations have agreed four collaborative behaviours. These are aimed at ensuring investments are as effective as possible in strengthening the processes, systems and institutions needed to deliver sustainable water and sanitation services: 

  1. Enhance government leadership of sector planning processes
  2. Strengthen and use country systems 
  3. Use one information and mutual accountability platform
  4. Build sustainable water and sanitation sector financing strategies

Improving the effectiveness of aid, so that governments in developing countries can ensure clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene over the long term, will have a positive impact on what’s normal for millions of people.

Creating an Agenda for Change

Improving sector performance requires a system-wide approach that tackles all dimensions of the WASH sector. In partnership with Water for People, IRC and Aguaconsult, WaterAid has produced joint principles to guide reform at the district, national and global levels.

Women from the management committee meet with community members to discuss hygiene and sanitation education, Kalshi Takar Baa slum, Dhaka, Bangladesh. WaterAid/ GMB Akash/ Panos

Our approach

We advocate improving the effectiveness of aid across the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Through our work at national and global levels we strengthen understanding of the factors that ensure aid is effective, and work to change the incentives and practices that can undermine effectiveness. We have played a leading role in identifying and agreeing the SWA collaborative behaviours, and we now work to ensure they are put into practice by monitoring progress and holding donors accountable for the way money is spent.

Together with three other leading international WASH organisations – IRC, Aguaconsult, and Water for People – we have drawn up a set of shared principles to translate the ambition of the SWA collaborative behaviours and guide our engagement at district, national and global levels. This is our Agenda for Change. We actively promote understanding of these principles and monitor the extent to which they are implemented.

We strive to maximise our own work’s effectiveness. Our programmatic approach brings about transformational change through policy, practice and advocacy activities. By supporting governments and service providers to strengthen the systems and capabilities required to deliver sustainable services, we catalyse development of the country-led processes and institutions needed to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere.


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