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Published on: 14/04/2015

The Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), an agency of the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been a global frontrunner in developing ways to increase the sustainability of the water and sanitation projects it funds. DGIS developed and introduced from 2006 sustainability clauses, checks and compacts in their funding arrangements with UNICEF, WSSCC, Aqua4All and UN Habitat. These instruments address the entire project cycle, from assessment of project proposals to implementation, impact evaluations and beyond. They make executing agencies accountable for the sustainability of investments made with DGIS funding for as long as 10 years after project conclusion.

Implementing a sustainability compact and -check are now also required for all 10 projects awarded with funding from DGIS under the second round of the Sustainable Water Fund. The Sustainable Water Fund, introduced by DGIS in 2012 and managed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, uses a public-private partnership model to finance water projects in developing countries.

IRC has developed a format with guidelines for a sustainability compact and -check to be implemented by consortia awarded under the second round of the Sustainable Water Fund. The guidelines and format will also be used by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency to monitor and support consortia in the implementation of the sustainability compact and -check. To launch the documents and train both the consortia and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency on the use of the documents, IRC facilitated a half-day workshop on 9 April 2015.

'The intention of the sustainability compact and -check for the Sustainable Water Fund is not to enforce but to stimulate sustainability. The objective is to create awareness and attention for sustainability.'

The sustainability compact stipulates the roles and responsibilities of the Sustainable Water Fund consortia and other relevant parties (often including national or local governments) towards ensuring the sustainability of the project results after project completion. It aims to embed the project results in local structures and processes, create local ownership and ultimately ensure the conditions for the sustainability of the project results. Implementation of agreements made in the sustainability compact is monitored by a yearly sustainability check. This involves a self-check conducted by the consortia in which they assess, together with other stakeholders, progress made towards ensuring the necessary conditions for the sustainability of the project results and corrective action to be undertaken. Both the sustainability compact and check allow for yearly multi-stakeholder dialogue to take place on improving sustainability.

Experiences with DGIS sustainability instruments

As a basis to develop a format and guideline for the sustainability compact and check for the Sustainable Water Fund, IRC conducted a desk review of experiences with DGIS sustainability instruments. The review also includes experiences with the Sanitation and Water for All country compacts and sustainability monitoring framework of the Dutch Wash Alliance which contains the FIETS (Financial, Institutional, Environmental, Technical and Social) sustainability criteria.


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