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It's about national governments leading development processes, coordinating all interventions and directing funding to where it is most effective and needed.

Development partners need to support countries to define their goals and assist in achieving them and together create sustained results for social and economic development.

In relation to water, sanitation and hygiene services, this means countries coordinating all actors and their interventions to achieve safe, sustainable water services, as well as long-term behavioral changes. Currently, a weak institutional framework and lack of co-ordination mean fragmentation and duplication of investments. Strong sector leadership is needed to make effective use of the scarce resources available, and to position the water, sanitation and hygiene sector at the heart of national development.

Development effectiveness
Within the framework of development or aid effectiveness, development partners have agreed to move away from project-based aid towards a programme-based approach in support of the development of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector as one system. This means aligning aid according to nationally defined priorities. It also means using country systems for programme design and implementation, financial management, monitoring and evaluation. Thus enabling the recipient country government to be in the lead.

'Development effectiveness is about using all available resources, including aid, in an effective way.'

However in many developing countries the water and sanitation sector still has a long way to go towards recipient country governments being in the driver seat. Recent IRC studies in Burkina Faso, Honduras and Ghana on how governments are trying to strengthen their leadership position confirm this. The position of the leading government institution/ ministry is often yet not strong enough to ensure that all actors and interventions- including those of donors- take place within the framework set by the national government or the frameworks to do this are not yet in place.

For example the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing in Ghana, with support from the European Commission, IRC and other development partners, drafted the Water Sector Strategic Development Plan (WSSDP) in 2012. This was done to provide a framework around which sector interventions can unite. However since 2012 the Water Sector Strategic Development Plan has been submitted to Cabinet for approval but has not yet been approved. An approved WSSDP is essential for providing direction and improving coordination of programmes in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector as well as minimising political interference in sector spending, holding key actors to account and supporting the ministry to consolidate its leadership role in the sector.

IRC's role
In its focus countries, IRC works with national governments and other sector stakeholders to develop national capacities and leadership in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. We collaborate with government institutions in developing countries to take the lead in achieving improved sector performance.

IRC is also involved in initiatives as in the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership, to help put sanitation and water high on the political agenda. In this partnership we work towards a common vision of universal access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Through the documentation and sharing of experiences, IRC stimulates learning on how to put recipient countries in the lead.

For further reading on country leadership see links below.

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