Interview with keynote speakers at the Water Integrity Forum

Aziza Akhmouch is leading the Water Governance Programme of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Her field of expertise covers a wide range of governance topics including multi-level governance, capacity building, stakeholder engagement, river/groundwater governance, water security and integrity. She has developed policy tools to diagnose major governance gaps in the water sector and provide policy guidance to decision-makers at different levels to bridge them. She is the author of several OECD water governance (country and cross-country) reports and working papers in the OECD, Latin America and Mediterranean region.

Aziza Akhmouch has led the Good Governance Core Group up to the 6th World Water Forum and has recently created the OECD Water Governance Initiative, a multi-stakeholder network of public, private and not-for-profit actors gathering twice a year in a Policy Forum to foster experience sharing and bench-learning. She has been leading several water governance policy dialogues with selected countries (Mexico, Netherlands, Italy) to provide evidence-based assessment and policy recommendations on critical areas and drivers for reform. She is now in the process of designing OECD Principles on Water Governance. Aziza Akhmouch holds a PhD in Geopolitics and a MS in International Business. 

1.       This First Water Integrity Forum will be a possibility to share experiences on improving integrity in the water sector.  What are some of your own experiences?

Since its 1997 Anti-Bribery Convention, the OECD has been a global leader in the fight against corruption. Along with other intergovernmental organisations, OECD has helped create a set of international instruments that seek to limit corruption.  Only to name a few, the OECD conducts Anti-bribery reviews and Procurement reviews, including recently in Brazil, Mexico and the United States; organises workshops and high-level conferences such as “Joining Forces against Corruption: G20 Business and Government (28 April 2011 OECD Headquarters, Paris); develops guiding tools such as the Principles for enhancing integrity in public procurement; and contributes to international efforts, such as the G20 Seoul Anti-corruption Action Plan 2013-2014. Furthermore, in 2010, the 34 OECD member countries and leading partners, including Brazil and Russia, agreed to a Declaration on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency in the conduct of international business and finance. In 2011, the OECD also launched a new initiative – clean.gov.biz – to help governments reinforce their fight against corruption and engage with civil society and the private sector promote real change towards integrity.

In the water sector, the OECD has taken an active role in the field of integrity and transparency: As part of the OECD-led thematic governance core group of the 6th World Water Forum (12-17 March 2012, Marseille, France), 6 “good governance” targets were designed to be achieved in the next decade, including two targets oni)  integrity and anti-corruption policies and ii) information, accountability and transparency, respectively co-ordinated by WIN, and SIWI/TI. To support their implementation up to the 7th WWF in Korea, the OECD launched an Initiative on Water Governance (27-28 March, OECD Headquarters, Paris), a multi-stakeholder network gathering delegates from different geographic and institutional backgrounds in member and non-member countries. The core group of official members include key partners working working integrity and transparency issues, among others WIN, SIWI, TI, and UNDP. The Initiative will have a taskforce/thematic working group on anti-corruption, transparency and integrity led by WIN, TI and SIWI/UNDP with the objective to foster peer-learning and experience.

2.       What are your expectations from this Forum?

 Over a year ago, coordinators of the 6th WWF “Good Governance” core groups committed to shift from discussion to action in the field of water governance. We see the 1st meeting of the Water Integrity Forum as a concrete step in that direction. By gathering a wide range of stakeholders, the Water Integrity Forum offers a good opportunity to share experiences. And beyond peer-learning, we would call upon the Water Integrity Forum to encourage concrete integrity commitments from actors within and outside the “water box”, and to develop pragmatic steps to foster accountability, ethics, co-operation, anti-corruption measures, integrity risks assessments and transparent practices in the water sector.

 3.       How do you think that this Forum can help increase water integrity?

 First, through the identification of what works well, what does not, and critical governance obstacles hindering integrity and transparency in the water sector;  Second, through the scaling up of good practices that exist on the ground; third through networking across a wide range of stakeholders to identify synergies, complementarities and build solid partnerships.

4.       Which specific actions do you think could promote participation and transparency in the water sector?

OECD’s work is policy-driven. We produce evidence-based assessments, analytical frameworks and tools, and international comparisons to help guide decision-making and support reform processes. We have access to high profile policymakers, at different levels, in different countries and we provide a neutral and independent platform to build consensus on needed reforms and take active role.

Concrete actions carried out by OECD to promote participation and transparency in the water sector include:

  • Carrying out specific country reviews (Mexico, Netherlands, and soon Brazil).
  • Hosting policy fora to share experience, good practices and ways to address challenges. The OECD Water Governance Initiative launched on 27-28 March 2013 plays this role as a multi-stakeholder network gathering public, private and not for profit actors.
  • Developing benchmarks across countries, cities based on statistical data and evidence-based analysis such as the OECD 2011 and 2023 reports on Water Governance (across 17 OECD and 13 LAC countries).
  • Developing policy tools and soft law (guidelines, principles, codes of conduct, checklists) and supporting their implementation.

  5.  What current and future challenges do you see to reducing corruption in this sector?

Despite a variety of hydrological and institutional settings, a majority of countries share similar governance obstacles to water integrity and transparency. They include, but are not limited, to weak economic regulation and poorly drafted legislations which do not provide the necessary incentives or specific rules to encourage responsibility and ethics; a lack of information sharing and insufficient performance measurements that prevent integrity risks evaluations; and a lack of public concern and citizen involvement in water issues which hinder accountability and transparency.

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