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Strengthening mutual accountability in WASH through multi-stakeholder platforms

A global study on mutual accountability was conducted in six Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partner countries, highlighting the importance of strengthening multi-stakeholder platforms at national level.

George Njoroge / Published on 21 March 2022
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George Njoroge /

Stream of water pouring into children’s hands in Leo, southern Burkina Faso.

Stream of water pouring into children’s hands in Leo, southern Burkina Faso. Photo: Jadwiga Figula  / Moment / Getty Images.

Study background

The Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership commissioned a study in 2020 to examine the use of mutual accountability mechanisms within the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector and how they can be strengthened. This study aimed to inform the evolution and refinement of the SWA Mutual Accountability Mechanism (MAM) geared towards strengthening country processes and contributing to the three objectives1 of SWA’s strategic framework (2020–2030). In the SWA context, mutual accountability refers to the process by which partners:

  • work together to build robust, transparent and responsive accountability systems
  • agree to be held responsible for commitments they make to each other.

Part 1 of the research was a literature review to develop a conceptual understanding of mutual accountability in other sectors led by the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and SEI. Drawing on this review, Part 2 consisted of country case studies to examine multi-stakeholder partnerships and mutual accountability. The case studies were led by research organizations in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru and Somalia. SEI led the Kenya case and co-led the Peru case study with Avina Foundation.


Research activities were undertaken across these six selected case study countries covering a wide range of different contexts. Graphic: SWA MAM Study.

Study outputs

Part 1 of the study provided an overview of mutual accountability mechanisms used in other global platforms, from which the key elements in an effective cycle of mutual accountability between stakeholders were identified and are described in this report. Part 2 of the study generated country briefs for the case studies in SWA partner countries (see the Kenya and Peru country briefs). A synthesis report of the six case studies was also compiled.

Summary of case study findings in Kenya and Peru

In Peru, the Mesa de Concertación de Lucha Contra la Pobreza (MCLCP) was identified as a multi-stakeholder platform, a joint initiative by the Peruvian government and civil society, which deals with poverty alleviation and addresses WASH issues in the process. This platform enabled sector coordination. For example, the MCLCP provided recommendations on the provision of drinking water targeting vulnerable population during the Covid-19 pandemic to the Ministry for Housing, Construction and Rural Sanitation, and other government institutions through its working group on rural water and sanitation. However, the Peru case illustrated that functioning multi-stakeholder platforms are not enough to establish mutual accountability alone, as accountability mechanisms with this platform are limited to government policy. The SWA MAM was seen as a potential means to enable the government to open up accountability processes in the WASH sector to multiple actors.

In Kenya, government-led multi-stakeholder platforms such as the Joint Sector Working Group that involve a number of actors were found to be either ad hoc or dormant, posing significant challenges to effective sector leadership and coordination. This effectively slows down progress in the realization of sustainable and equitable access to WASH in line with national and global goals.  Instead of multi-stakeholder platforms, a number of stakeholder partnerships involving specific groups of stakeholders that include a platform for civil society organizations (KEWASNET), water service providers (WASPA) and donors (Water and Sanitation Development Partners Group) are active in coordinating their members as well as in engaging in other partnership processes in the sector. While sharing strategic plans or performance reports by stakeholders is a common practice, mutual accountability among stakeholders on agreed objectives, commitments or outputs was found to be weak. 

Insights from the research will help the SWA Steering Committee further develop the Mutual Accountability Mechanism (MAM) design and more proactively and strategically support the MAM based on what is required for effective national implementation, including securing resources for continued research and learning to improve the MAM.

Next steps

In November 2021, SEI participated in a periodic review of progress made by stakeholders in meeting their commitments. Insights from this study helped the stakeholders refine the specific actions that each group of stakeholders will take to achieve specific targets. The aligned government-led SMART MAM commitments have now been submitted to the SWA partnership. The collaboration of a team representing research and learning (R&L) partners in Kenya (whose contribution to the sector has not been well-coordinated in Kenya due to lack of a multi-stakeholder platform) and the submission of research and learning commitments from this group was yet another key outcome of this stakeholder engagement and dissemination activity. It was observed that uptake of the MAM is slowly taking shape, with stakeholders both individually and in their SWA constituencies beginning to align their projects and activities to their respective commitments.

SEI will continue to collaborate with stakeholders in Kenya in strengthening multi-stakeholder platforms  and their engagement with the SWA MAM. It is expected that the stakeholders will collectively be bound by the SWA MAM commitments, which have the potential to make a significant impact in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) targets.

Through a grant for “catalytic support for multi-stakeholder platforms and the Mutual Accountability Mechanism” provided by SWA, the Kenya R&L constituency will assess barriers to stakeholder collaboration in the sector with a view to draw lessons and insights that can be used to strengthen the multi-stakeholder partnerships. A key commitment made by the Kenya R&L constituency is to support other constituencies to keep track of their commitments through a monitoring and review system for assessing the methodologies used and progress made by stakeholders towards achieving their commitments.

Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) is a global partnership of governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners working together to coordinate high-level action, improve accountability and use scarce resources more effectively.


George Njoroge is a Research Fellow at SEI Africa.
George Njoroge

Research Fellow

SEI Africa

Carla Liera
Carla Liera

Research Associate

SEI Headquarters


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