Government monitoring of water and sanitation services is a critical step in realising the human rights to water and sanitation (HRWS). In this study we investigated the national water and sanitation policies of 13 Pacific island countries (PICs) to understand how they envision monitoring the water and sanitation service delivery dimensions put forth by the HRWS framework. In particular, we analysed the policies for fundamental aspects of good monitoring governance and sought to learn how strongly monitoring of each service delivery dimension was represented in the policies. We found that delineation of roles and responsibilities and defined information flows are generally underdeveloped, and that the policies tend to give precedence to monitoring the service delivery dimensions of availability, quality, and sustainability over accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and equality. Donors have considerable influence on which dimensions receive the most emphasis in the policies. If realisation of the HRWS is to be effectively supported in PICs, PIC governments and supporting donors must continue to refine national policy to clarify aspects of good monitoring governance and to be more inclusive of monitoring a wider range of service delivery dimensions.

Introduction

In 2010, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council each declared in separate resolutions1 that safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights and essential for enjoyment of all other human rights. These resolutions impose obligations on governments to respect, protect, and fulfil rights to water and sanitation services that are safe, sufficient, accessible, affordable, and acceptable to everyone. Among specific obligations, governments are expected to take progressive, incremental steps towards realising the human rights to water and sanitation (HRWS) using the maximum available resources.

National policy and monitoring systems are crucial for establishing and developing these progressive steps. Monitoring is required for governments to assess and demonstrate to the public and the international community the extent to which rights are being met, and to collect data for informing themselves and donors on future planning and resource allocation (de Albuquerque, 2014). Setting of service delivery standards and targets to monitor is needed to provide guidance to local service providers to implement action on realising rights (Meier et al., 2014). Further, it is the state's responsibility to enable users to claim and exercise their rights to water and sanitation by providing information on service delivery to the public and establishing mechanisms to receive and redress complaints regarding violations of rights (Kiefer et al., 2012). Policy, in addition to being a critical link between translating human rights law into water and sanitation outcomes on the ground (Meier et al., 2013), helps to form the basis for monitoring the HRWS (Kiefer et al., 2012). Research on how monitoring is conceptualised in national policy is needed to understand if and how countries are seeking to support the realisation of the HRWS through collection and use of relevant information.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate what steps have been taken in Pacific island countries (PICs) to envision the monitoring of the HRWS from a national policy perspective. Specifically, we focused on how relevant policies in PICs dictate the monitoring of water and sanitation service delivery dimensions necessary for realising human rights. Through investigating these policies we determine which outcomes are given precedence over others and why. To understand if the policies support the effective use of collected data, we also analysed them for aspects of good governance. Particularly, we investigated how clearly roles and responsibilities are delineated and how information is planned to flow between stakeholders. This analysis is important for highlighting and describing areas in monitoring the HRWS that require focused attention, and for identifying positive examples to draw inspiration from in the PIC region. Findings from this paper can contribute to developing more targeted support from government and development agencies for realising the HRWS.

Government-led monitoring

The UN resolutions on the HRWS and the subsequent need for monitoring coincide with a recent shift in emphasis in the aid industry from piecemeal project-based and donor-driven monitoring processes to monitoring owned and led by developing countries themselves. This sentiment is captured in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action which emphasise ownership of development priorities by developing countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2008). The push for government-led monitoring stems from concerns that donor-driven monitoring reflects the information needs, beliefs, and values of donors rather than those of the beneficiary countries. This may result in knowledge generated having limited relevance for local stakeholders, weak ownership and limited use of findings by countries, collected data becoming unavailable in-country after project implementers leave, and a lack of accountability from governments on how donor and taxpayer money is spent (Segone, 2009; Schouten & Smits, 2015).

While there is growing consensus on a need for governments to develop and implement their own monitoring systems, this is known to be challenging in practice. In the water and sanitation sector, governance of monitoring is frequently a major challenge (Schouten & Smits, 2015). Monitoring processes are often fragmented with different agencies creating parallel monitoring systems, unclear responsibilities, and poor communication between implementing agencies and decision-makers (Danert, 2015). Consequently, monitoring efforts may be duplicated, certain aspects of water and sanitation services overlooked, conflicting information presented, and opportunities to integrate complementary datasets missed. These governance issues can be addressed in part by identifying stakeholder roles and responsibilities, defining how information will flow from data collectors, through relevant agencies, up to decision-makers, and out to relevant stakeholders, and describing what types of data are to be collected (Cross, 2015; Danert, 2015). Policy is a key tool for articulating appropriate governance of monitoring to ensure that data are not just collected, but disseminated and used effectively.

Recognition of HRWS in the Pacific island region

In this paper, we included countries that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF, 2013) categorises as developing PICs: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Numerous frameworks for monitoring water and sanitation exist (Moriarty et al., 2011; Potter et al., 2011; Kayser et al., 2013), but we focus on the HRWS framework here because all PICs have shown recognition of the HRWS and are obligated under international law to pursue them. Of the 12 PICs that are member states of the UN2, only Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu voted in favour of the 2010 UN General Assembly resolution while the remaining countries were absent from the vote. However, Fiji and PNG were co-sponsors to the General Assembly resolution 68/157 in 2013 and the UN Human Rights Council resolution 27/7 in 2014 respectively, which each reaffirmed the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation (Gonzalez et al., 2014). All PICs approved the 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) resolution WHA64.24 on drinking-water, sanitation, and health which urges states to support the progressive realisation of the HRWS through national health strategies (WHO, 2011). Each PIC that attended the first Asia-Pacific Summit in 2007 (Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu did not attend) was signatory to the Message from Beppu which recognised safe drinking water and basic sanitation as basic human rights and fundamental aspects of human security (Gonzalez et al., 2014). Finally, in the 2014 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-water report, Cook Islands, Fiji, and Tonga responded in surveys that the HRWS are recognised in their national legislation (UN-Water & WHO, 2014).

Methodology

In order to identify areas in monitoring the HRWS that require further attention as well as good examples of monitoring, this paper sought to answer the following research questions in the context of national policies across the PIC region:

  • Which service delivery dimensions of the HRWS framework are most and least strongly represented in policies and what may be reasons for this?

  • How are roles and responsibilities assigned for monitoring service delivery?

  • How are information flows between water and sanitation users, data collecting agencies, decision-makers, and other stakeholders planned?

  • Which policies stand out as relatively strong examples of how monitoring the HRWS may be envisioned?

To identify relevant documents, we drew on our own knowledge, searched online government and non-governmental organisation websites and press releases, and enquired with relevant government and non-governmental organisations. We received copies of documents through open-access online downloads or through personal correspondence. In addition to policies, we searched for similar visionary documents that do not have the legal force of a law such as government-led strategies, plans, and programmes that were approved or are under consideration for approval by national government. This included any documents that were explicitly referenced by the policies in regard to monitoring.

To frame the analysis of policies for good governance, we referred to literature for good practices on governing monitoring processes (Segone, 2009; Schouten & Smits, 2015), and did a preliminary review of the policies to see which practices we could reasonably expect to be detailed in policy. We found that it would be sensible to analyse the policy documents for language on delineating roles and responsibilities, and for planning information flows between different government authorities and other stakeholders. These aspects are included in our analytical framework alongside the service delivery dimensions described below.

We then defined our parameters of analysis for service delivery dimensions with guidance from the framework put forth in the UN Special Rapporteur's handbook on realising the HRWS (de Albuquerque, 2014). Our analytical framework included availability, accessibility, quality, affordability, and acceptability outcomes or service delivery dimensions, plus two related general human rights principles that the monitoring chapter of the handbook makes special mention of: equality and sustainability. Equality and sustainability are also important because they are reflected in monitoring requirements for the Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015). Definitions of these dimensions and some examples of how they may relate to water and sanitation services as described in the UN Special Rapporteur's handbook on realising the HRWS are listed in Table 1 below (de Albuquerque, 2014).

Table 1.

Service delivery dimensions of the HRWS framework.

Dimension Description 
Availability Presence of functional water and sanitation facilities that meet the needs of users; Adequate flow rates and volume from water supplies; Collection, transport, treatment, and disposal services available for human excreta 
Accessibility Physical accessibility of water and sanitation facilities; Facilities usable by children, elderly, people with disabilities, etc.; Time and distance taken to access facilities are not too long 
Quality Safety from health risks while using water and sanitation facilities; Drinking water free from dangerous levels of contamination; Sanitation facilities adequately separate excreta from users 
Affordability The ability of users to pay for water and sanitation services such as tariffs, connection fees, and minor and major operation and maintenance costs 
Acceptability The social and cultural acceptability of water and sanitation services; Drinking water and latrines are aesthetically acceptable; Privacy is provided where needed 
Equality Inequalities in services between different groups of people are progressively eliminated; Special effort is made to extend services to disadvantaged groups 
Sustainability Factors that affect ongoing delivery of services over the long-term; Water resources are managed sustainably; Financial mechanisms in place to pay for long-term rehabilitation of assets 
Dimension Description 
Availability Presence of functional water and sanitation facilities that meet the needs of users; Adequate flow rates and volume from water supplies; Collection, transport, treatment, and disposal services available for human excreta 
Accessibility Physical accessibility of water and sanitation facilities; Facilities usable by children, elderly, people with disabilities, etc.; Time and distance taken to access facilities are not too long 
Quality Safety from health risks while using water and sanitation facilities; Drinking water free from dangerous levels of contamination; Sanitation facilities adequately separate excreta from users 
Affordability The ability of users to pay for water and sanitation services such as tariffs, connection fees, and minor and major operation and maintenance costs 
Acceptability The social and cultural acceptability of water and sanitation services; Drinking water and latrines are aesthetically acceptable; Privacy is provided where needed 
Equality Inequalities in services between different groups of people are progressively eliminated; Special effort is made to extend services to disadvantaged groups 
Sustainability Factors that affect ongoing delivery of services over the long-term; Water resources are managed sustainably; Financial mechanisms in place to pay for long-term rehabilitation of assets 

This table does not provide an exhaustive list of examples of each service delivery dimension, but rather provides qualitative guidance for identifying in the policies which dimensions are explicitly stated to be monitored. We did not seek specific measurable indicators because the policies typically do not go down to this level of detail.

We delimited our analysis on service delivery dimensions in a few ways. We did not analyse goals, objectives, tasks, visions, or mission statements about service delivery in-depth if there was no accompanying language about monitoring them. Next, monitoring the HRWS ideally includes the involvement of government, civil society organisations, international agencies, and non-governmental organisations, but we limited our analysis to monitoring frameworks set by national government. Finally, we limited our analysis to the monitoring of service delivery dimensions and did not include monitoring of structural and process indicators (i.e. indicators for measuring the inputs and enabling environment for realising the HRWS) which are less well defined.

Data were extracted and analysed using thematic coding and grouping techniques. Portions of text from each document were coded by category based on the above service delivery dimensions and governance aspects of interest. Portions of text were then grouped together by their codes and analysed in the context of the rest of the document for language on monitoring. This approach drew from the qualitative document analysis method (Bowen, 2009; Altheide & Schneider, 2013) which was especially appropriate for our purposes because it provides a systematic approach to extracting, analysing, and interpreting data from written documents.

In this paper we present qualitative data through quoting positive examples of monitoring the HRWS from the policy documents. We also count and present the number of countries that have at least one policy document that makes mention of monitoring for each service delivery dimension. Finally, we present a table making qualitative judgements of each country to allow for comparison and follow with a discussion and conclusions of the findings.

This paper presents a comprehensive, but not necessarily exhaustive, review of national policies commenting on water and sanitation in the PIC region. Current and relevant policy documents were located for all PICs except Niue. The documents reviewed for this paper are listed in Table 2 below.

Table 2.

Water and sanitation policies of PICs.

Country Document title Year Reference 
Cook Islands National Integrated Water Resources Management Policy 2014 GoC (2014)  
Cook Islands Sanitation Policy 2013 GoC (2013)  
Cook Islands Draft National Water Policy 2015 GoC (2015)  
FSM Framework National Water and Sanitation Policy 2011 GoFe (2011)  
Fiji Rural Water and Sanitation Policy 2012 GoFi (2012)  
Kiribati National Water Resources Policy 2008 GoK (2008b)  
Kiribati National Water Resources Implementation Plan 2008 GoK (2008a)  
Kiribati National Sanitation Policy 2010 GoK (2010b)  
Kiribati National Sanitation Implementation Plan 2010 GoK (2010a)  
Nauru National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2012 GoN (2012b)  
Nauru National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Implementation Plan 2012 GoN (2012a)  
Palau Water Policy 2012 GoPal (2012)  
PNG National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2015 GoPap (2015)  
RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy 2014 GoR (2014)  
Samoa Water for Life – Water and Sanitation Sector Plan* 2012 GoSa (2012)  
Solomon Islands Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2014 GoSo (2014)  
Solomon Islands Draft National Water Resources and Sanitation Policy 2013 GoSo (2013)  
Tonga National Water Policy 2011 GoTo (2011)  
Tuvalu Sustainable and Integrated Water and Sanitation Policy 2012 GoTu (2012)  
Vanuatu National Water Strategy 2008 GoV (2008)  
Country Document title Year Reference 
Cook Islands National Integrated Water Resources Management Policy 2014 GoC (2014)  
Cook Islands Sanitation Policy 2013 GoC (2013)  
Cook Islands Draft National Water Policy 2015 GoC (2015)  
FSM Framework National Water and Sanitation Policy 2011 GoFe (2011)  
Fiji Rural Water and Sanitation Policy 2012 GoFi (2012)  
Kiribati National Water Resources Policy 2008 GoK (2008b)  
Kiribati National Water Resources Implementation Plan 2008 GoK (2008a)  
Kiribati National Sanitation Policy 2010 GoK (2010b)  
Kiribati National Sanitation Implementation Plan 2010 GoK (2010a)  
Nauru National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2012 GoN (2012b)  
Nauru National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Implementation Plan 2012 GoN (2012a)  
Palau Water Policy 2012 GoPal (2012)  
PNG National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2015 GoPap (2015)  
RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy 2014 GoR (2014)  
Samoa Water for Life – Water and Sanitation Sector Plan* 2012 GoSa (2012)  
Solomon Islands Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2014 GoSo (2014)  
Solomon Islands Draft National Water Resources and Sanitation Policy 2013 GoSo (2013)  
Tonga National Water Policy 2011 GoTo (2011)  
Tuvalu Sustainable and Integrated Water and Sanitation Policy 2012 GoTu (2012)  
Vanuatu National Water Strategy 2008 GoV (2008)  

*Covers implementation of the Samoa 2009 National Sanitation Policy, 2010 National Water Services Policy, and 2010 National Water Resources Policy.

This approach to understanding the development of national monitoring systems comes with limitations. First, while policies may express an intent or desire of the government to monitor certain dimensions of service delivery, government authorities are often unable to actually monitor them in practice (Moriarty et al., 2013). Conversely, it is possible that government authorities regularly collect relevant data even if there are no provisions for it in national policy. Thus policy cannot provide a picture of reality on the ground, but rather a reflection on the priorities of national government. Next, while some policies provided context or background on their formation, we cannot see the complete thought process or drivers behind each statement. Instead, we had to draw on our experience in the region and our best judgement for interpreting why certain aspects were or were not included. Finally, although our aim was to cover all existing relevant national policies, some documents, especially those still being drafted, are not easily accessible to the public. While it is possible that relevant policies were missed during this study, we believe the collection of documents here provides adequate insight for our research questions.

Results

All policies referred to monitoring at least one of the service delivery dimensions. Table 3 below lists how many countries have policy that made mention of monitoring each dimension.

Table 3.

Countries with policy that mention monitoring each service delivery dimension.

Service delivery dimension No. of countries (n = 13) 
Availability 10 
Accessibility 
Quality 12 
Affordability 
Acceptability 
Equality 
Sustainability 12 
Service delivery dimension No. of countries (n = 13) 
Availability 10 
Accessibility 
Quality 12 
Affordability 
Acceptability 
Equality 
Sustainability 12 

In the following sections, we first present aspects of monitoring governance followed by the content on monitoring each service delivery dimension as described in the policies.

Governance

The level of detail that the policies provide on who is responsible for monitoring which service delivery dimensions varied widely. Most of the reviewed policies identified a government body that is responsible for coordinating monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of policy objectives or their implementation. For example, the Kiribati National Sanitation Implementation Plan stated: ‘At the sector level NWSCC will provide the focal point for coordinating this monitoring and evaluation of the water and sanitation sector.’

In the policies of six of 13 countries, the responsibility for monitoring multiple service delivery dimensions was broadly assigned to a single agency or collectively to a group of agencies (e.g. to a newly formed task force comprising members from several government departments). In the latter case, there was no delineation of which departments are responsible for monitoring which service delivery dimensions. The Cook Islands Draft National Water Policy presented this case, but addressed it by stating: ‘The agencies responsible for testing … will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding detailing … clarification on who does what tests across the water monitoring regime.’ Where all monitoring responsibilities are given to a single agency, it was often not clear if they were being tasked with collecting all data by themselves or if they were expected to centrally coordinate monitoring carried out by other yet to be named departments.

In the policies of five countries, individual service delivery dimensions to be monitored were assigned to a respective agency. However, the manner in which this was done was not always complete or coherent. The Samoa Water and Sanitation Sector Plan stood out as an example of where responsibilities were clearly delineated. The Plan explicitly stated which agencies are responsible for monitoring individual service delivery dimensions in a clear tabular format.

It was seldom that information flows described within the policies reviewed could be mapped completely from a data collection level, up to a centralised level, and reported to decision-makers and other stakeholders. The results of data aggregated at a central level were to be reported to stakeholders in formats such as quarterly reports or annual reviews in the policies of eight of 13 countries. However, of these eight countries, only two explicitly named agencies for monitoring individual service delivery dimensions and thus they are the only two where information flows of individual dimensions could be mapped from users to decision-makers. Some policies made provisions for maintaining a central database to hold all relevant information such as in the Fiji Rural Water and Sanitation Policy: ‘WSD will also set up a rural water and sanitation database as part of its monitoring processes.’

Information flows described in the policies were predominantly one-directional, moving vertically and solely to increasingly centralised levels, although some policies made statements about sharing information more widely. The Tuvalu Sustainable and Integrated Water and Sanitation Policy also called for feeding information back to a community level: ‘Ensure the water and sanitation information is presented and promulgated in a way that enables communities and households to make informed decisions.' A few policies also supported sharing information horizontally between different government departments or sectors such as in the Vanuatu National Water Strategy which stated: ‘The proposed Public Relations Unit with the DoW should prepare a communications strategy to formalise information flows for disseminating information to all levels. This could include cross-sectoral information gathering to support the role of the section.’

Availability

Monitoring of availability was represented in various forms in the policies of 10 of 13 countries. The most common form of availability referred to in the policies was the presence of an improved or adequate water supply or sanitation facility for households. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) definition of an improved water or sanitation facility, a type of technology that is predetermined by the JMP to be generally safe to use, was sometimes cited for this, but often policy documents did not provide any explicit definition. Some policies on sanitation referred to monitoring the presence of systems for appropriately treating and disposing of human waste. For example, the Solomon Islands draft National Water Resources and Sanitation Policy referred to monitoring ‘sewerage outfalls and waste disposal sites in all urban centres constructed to minimise off-site pollution’ and the Nauru National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Implementation Plan included ‘sludge removal’ under its sanitation monitoring activities. Policies in six of 13 countries made reference to monitoring the presence of adequate infrastructure beyond households. An example of this was seen in the Kiribati National Water Resources Policy which referred to monitoring ‘better water supply for schools, hospitals and clinics’.

There was little mention of monitoring forms of availability aside from the presence of infrastructure. Adequate reliability or available quantity of water was mentioned as a policy principle in nearly all countries, but only expected to be monitored at a user level in four countries. One instance was the PNG National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy which called for monitoring convenient water supplies which must include ‘150 litres per capita per day (l/c/d) continuous supply with a service pressure of 60 Kpa’ for household piped water and ‘50 l/c/d with a maximum of 50 users per water point’ for standpipes and hand pumps as minimum service delivery standards.

Accessibility

Monitoring of the physical accessibility of water or sanitation facilities appeared in the policies of only three of 13 countries. While access to water and sanitation was frequently referred to, it was often not clearly defined or referred to the availability of infrastructure as described above. A relatively good example of monitoring accessibility could be seen in the PNG Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy. Convenient water and sanitation facilities were to be monitored where a convenient water supply is ‘no further than 150 m from the household’ for standpipes, hand pumps, and rain catchments and a convenient sanitation facility is ‘easily and safely accessible for all household members’. The Solomon Islands Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy and the RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy referred to monitoring the construction of new sanitation facilities to ensure they are accessible to people living with disabilities (as well as the elderly, very young, and pregnant women in the case of RMI) where appropriate, but stopped short of supporting monitoring of whether people can physically access the facilities they already have.

Quality

Monitoring quality in regard to water supplies was referenced in the policies of 12 of 13 countries. Water quality monitoring was mentioned for ground and surface water resources, drinking water, or both. This could be seen in the Solomon Islands draft National Water Resources and Sanitation Policy which referred to ‘monitoring, assessment, storing, and reporting of yield, hydropower potential, and water quality data for surface and groundwater sources’ and ‘assessment of microbiological quality of water supplies for human consumption’. No policies referred to monitoring aspects of household water treatment and safe storage.

Monitoring quality in regard to sanitation was mentioned in the policies of only five of 13 countries. Four of these countries had policy that calls for monitoring awareness or knowledge on maintaining clean sanitation facilities or hygienic practices. For example, the Samoa Water and Sanitation Sector Plan called for monitoring of the ‘percentage of targeted households with improved awareness on sanitation including wastewater management and good hygiene practice’. Three countries had policies that referred to monitoring the sanitary condition of sanitation facilities such as the Solomon Islands draft National Water Resources and Sanitation Policy which called for ‘monitoring, storing and reporting of data on and [sic] condition of rural WATSAN systems’ and the ‘assessment of the public health safety of sanitation systems’.

Affordability

Affordable water services, and to a lesser extent affordable sanitation services, were frequently mentioned as a principle, but only two of 13 countries had policies that referred to monitoring it. Affordability of water consumption was addressed by Kiribati in its National Water Resources Implementation Plan which included an expected output of ‘completed surveys and a summary report of case studies of water consumption, water sources and capacity to pay in a range of urban and outer Island households’. The Kiribati National Sanitation Implementation Plan listed an activity for ‘provision of affordable sewerage and sanitation based on the … detailed feasibility study’, which may imply information is collected on the ability of users to pay for sanitation services. Meanwhile, the RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy commented that government will regulate municipal water and sanitation tariffs that ‘must be simple, transparent, reflect the ability of the poor to pay and recover the cost of operation and maintenance’.

Acceptability

Monitoring of the acceptability of services was referenced in the policies of only three of 13 countries. The Fiji Rural Water and Sanitation Policy listed a ‘decrease in the number of complaints received from rural communities’ as a performance indicator which could capture issues with acceptability provided an effective mechanism for communities to communicate with government was put in place. The Solomon Islands Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy included used sanitation facilities as a component of its monitoring approach. The fact that facilities are being used would imply a level of acceptance from users. Finally, the draft Cook Islands National Water Policy referred to monitoring drinking water that ‘should be free of tastes and odours that would be objectionable to the majority of consumers'.

Equality

Policies in only two of 13 countries committed to monitoring rates of inequality or progress in reaching disadvantaged groups. One monitored objective of the RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy was to target the disadvantaged, defined as ‘those living in or with: extreme poverty, severe disability due to age, disease, injury or other causes, disaster or conflict-affected households, significantly adverse ground conditions (necessitating expensive construction), or lack of space for private facilities’. However, the performance indicator for this criterion is an overall increase in water and sanitation coverage for the total population. Meanwhile, the PNG National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy set separate targets for coverage of adequate water and sanitation facilities for urban and rural areas which were to be monitored to demonstrate increased equality of services.

Sustainability

Monitoring of aspects related to sustainability was referenced in the policies of 12 of 13 countries. This predominantly pertained to environmental sustainability through monitoring water resources to ensure adequate quantity or quality is being maintained. For example, the FSM Framework National Water and Sanitation Policy prioritised the collection of data on ‘overall volume of water supplied by rainwater and accessible via other known sources (i.e. groundwater and surface water)’ and the Cook Islands draft National Water Policy stated: ‘We will develop appropriate water quality standards for streams, rivers and creeks …’ Monitoring of demand-side water use sustainability was also covered in some policies such as the Palau Water Policy: ‘Monitor and promote water use efficiency. Establish measures to quantify and track water use efficiency. Set targets and report on water use efficiency rates.’

Monitoring of other forms of sustainability appeared less frequently, but some examples could be seen. Monitoring of the financial sustainability of services was addressed in a few documents including the Kiribati National Water Resources and Sanitation Implementation Plans which set targets to recover 80–100% of operation and maintenance costs of water and sanitation systems in urban and rural contexts. Sustainable management arrangements were considered in the Solomon Islands Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy which included ‘sustained and effective management and maintenance of schemes by the communities’ under its ‘key components of monitoring and evaluation’ section. The PNG National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy included ‘WaSH resource capacity within the sector, including human resources and skills and spare parts providers’ as data required to be included in its management information system. These data could help to track aspects of institutional sustainability of water and sanitation services.

Country policy summaries

Based on our findings, Table 4 below provides a brief summary of some highlights, strengths, and potential areas for improvement for the reviewed policies of each country.

Table 4.

Highlight summaries of national policies.

Cook Islands Water resources management, water supply, and sanitation each had separate policies. Emphasis on sharing information with the public was commendable. Specific monitoring responsibilities and information flows could be improved. Strong on monitoring environmental sustainability, water quality, and infrastructure availability. 
Fiji Section on ‘Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities' clearly lists agencies with monitoring roles. A body for coordinating monitoring and maintaining a database was helpfully described. Specific responsibilities and processes for sharing/reporting information could be clarified. Monitoring criteria were at times vague, but cover availability, quality, and acceptability. 
FSM A specific position was described as having the responsibility for reporting monitoring results to a national task force. Independent impact evaluations to complement monitoring were described. Roles and responsibilities for data collection were unclear. Monitoring is focused on sustainable management of water resources. 
Kiribati The implementation plans attached to the policies provided highly detailed tables of activities, indicators, and agencies responsible for implementation. However, indicators mostly focused on implementation rather than service delivery monitoring. A central body for coordinating monitoring and reporting to the national level was identified. Monitoring affordability of services was addressed, along with availability, quality, and sustainability. 
Nauru Agencies responsible for monitoring, along with implementing other activities, were listed clearly in a tabular format. A central body for coordinating monitoring was identified and a helpful diagram illustrated information flows. Monitoring was mostly limited to drinking-water quality and sustainable management of water resources. Monitoring of sanitation systems was identified, but not described in detail. 
Palau Monitoring roles were assigned to several agencies, but responsibilities were not delineated. Information flows were not readily described. The policy had an explicit focus on management of water resources, thus monitoring was centred on sustainability of water resources and drinking-water quality. 
PNG A plan for a service delivery database was articulated and monitoring roles were assigned to various groups including service providers. Specific responsibilities on who monitors what were vague. Minimum standards and targets relating to monitoring availability, accessibility, quality, equality, and sustainability for both water and sanitation were explicitly laid out. 
RMI Monitoring roles and responsibilities were identified, although not all criteria appeared to have a responsible agency named for monitoring them. Information flows were unclear. Monitoring criteria covered both basin and user levels, included targeting disadvantaged groups, and addressed all HRWS dimensions except acceptability. 
Samoa Agencies responsible for collecting data were clearly identified for each listed indicator. Other monitoring roles and responsibilities were also detailed. Information flows and the timing of reporting to stakeholders were clearly described. The list of indicators to be monitored was expansive, but was mostly limited in scope to the availability, quality, and sustainability of water and sanitation. 
Solomon Islands An information management plan was detailed with reporting requirements and a statement that the data should be available to all users. Some monitoring responsibilities were vaguely described. Monitoring criteria mostly focused on availability, water quality, and sustainability. 
Tonga Improving data collection, storage, management, and analysis was listed as an objective for the water sector. A statement that the data should be made available to the general public was included. Previous legislation that mandates an agency to monitor the condition of water resources was reaffirmed, but no further guidance on what data to collect was provided. 
Tuvalu Monitoring of the success of water and sanitation awareness and education programmes was called for, along with monitoring drinking-water quality and water reserve levels. Aspects of monitoring governance were scantily addressed. 
Vanuatu Monitoring roles and responsibilities and information flows were addressed, but not presented coherently which made interpreting them difficult. Information flows were planned to be shared horizontally and vertically. Monitoring of service delivery focused on availability of water supplies, drinking-water quality, and sustainability of water resources. 
Cook Islands Water resources management, water supply, and sanitation each had separate policies. Emphasis on sharing information with the public was commendable. Specific monitoring responsibilities and information flows could be improved. Strong on monitoring environmental sustainability, water quality, and infrastructure availability. 
Fiji Section on ‘Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities' clearly lists agencies with monitoring roles. A body for coordinating monitoring and maintaining a database was helpfully described. Specific responsibilities and processes for sharing/reporting information could be clarified. Monitoring criteria were at times vague, but cover availability, quality, and acceptability. 
FSM A specific position was described as having the responsibility for reporting monitoring results to a national task force. Independent impact evaluations to complement monitoring were described. Roles and responsibilities for data collection were unclear. Monitoring is focused on sustainable management of water resources. 
Kiribati The implementation plans attached to the policies provided highly detailed tables of activities, indicators, and agencies responsible for implementation. However, indicators mostly focused on implementation rather than service delivery monitoring. A central body for coordinating monitoring and reporting to the national level was identified. Monitoring affordability of services was addressed, along with availability, quality, and sustainability. 
Nauru Agencies responsible for monitoring, along with implementing other activities, were listed clearly in a tabular format. A central body for coordinating monitoring was identified and a helpful diagram illustrated information flows. Monitoring was mostly limited to drinking-water quality and sustainable management of water resources. Monitoring of sanitation systems was identified, but not described in detail. 
Palau Monitoring roles were assigned to several agencies, but responsibilities were not delineated. Information flows were not readily described. The policy had an explicit focus on management of water resources, thus monitoring was centred on sustainability of water resources and drinking-water quality. 
PNG A plan for a service delivery database was articulated and monitoring roles were assigned to various groups including service providers. Specific responsibilities on who monitors what were vague. Minimum standards and targets relating to monitoring availability, accessibility, quality, equality, and sustainability for both water and sanitation were explicitly laid out. 
RMI Monitoring roles and responsibilities were identified, although not all criteria appeared to have a responsible agency named for monitoring them. Information flows were unclear. Monitoring criteria covered both basin and user levels, included targeting disadvantaged groups, and addressed all HRWS dimensions except acceptability. 
Samoa Agencies responsible for collecting data were clearly identified for each listed indicator. Other monitoring roles and responsibilities were also detailed. Information flows and the timing of reporting to stakeholders were clearly described. The list of indicators to be monitored was expansive, but was mostly limited in scope to the availability, quality, and sustainability of water and sanitation. 
Solomon Islands An information management plan was detailed with reporting requirements and a statement that the data should be available to all users. Some monitoring responsibilities were vaguely described. Monitoring criteria mostly focused on availability, water quality, and sustainability. 
Tonga Improving data collection, storage, management, and analysis was listed as an objective for the water sector. A statement that the data should be made available to the general public was included. Previous legislation that mandates an agency to monitor the condition of water resources was reaffirmed, but no further guidance on what data to collect was provided. 
Tuvalu Monitoring of the success of water and sanitation awareness and education programmes was called for, along with monitoring drinking-water quality and water reserve levels. Aspects of monitoring governance were scantily addressed. 
Vanuatu Monitoring roles and responsibilities and information flows were addressed, but not presented coherently which made interpreting them difficult. Information flows were planned to be shared horizontally and vertically. Monitoring of service delivery focused on availability of water supplies, drinking-water quality, and sustainability of water resources. 

Discussion

By analysing documents for fundamental components of good monitoring governance and monitoring of service delivery dimensions under the HRWS framework, this research revealed that water and sanitation policies in the PIC region generally articulated important governance aspects weakly and gave precedence to monitoring availability, quality, and environmental sustainability of services over other dimensions. Overall, these findings are not likely to be unique to the PIC region and similar issues may be found in other developing-country contexts. In this section we first discuss the implications of the findings on governance followed by a discussion on service delivery dimensions in PICs.

Governance

Generally, there is a need for monitoring roles and responsibilities at the data collection level to be more clearly delineated to ensure accountability and avoid overlap of responsibilities. Most policies did well to identify a body responsible for coordinating overall monitoring, consolidating data, and reporting upward to specific decision-makers. However, they were less clear about who does what exactly at a data collection level. Without clarifying roles at this level, it is difficult to hold any agencies accountable for ensuring particular policy objectives are being met. Naming responsible agencies is also important for establishing ownership of data collection activities, developing appropriate incentives, and assessing and developing the capacity of each agency to fulfil their duties. Where policies gave data collection responsibilities to a collective group of agencies without specifying individual roles, there is a risk of multiple agencies taking on the same roles and presenting conflicting information.

Accountability issues may arise where information flows cannot be completely mapped from users to an aggregation point to stakeholders, as is the case with the majority of policies analysed in this study. If it is not clear where the information is meant to go and whom it is meant to be used by, there is an increased likelihood that it will not be used at all. Delineating roles and responsibilities would make information flows clearer at a local level. Some policies, such as those in Fiji and Solomon Islands, made specific provisions for maintaining a central database which is a crucial step to ensuring coherency of monitoring systems. National governments and donors should seek to support and develop these systems. However, information cannot be collected just to be simply stored at a central location. Policies in five of 13 countries did not articulate how the processed data are to be reported to stakeholders and this is crucial for gaining the maximum use of the data.

It is important that information flows are designed to serve the information needs of a range of stakeholders, and not just flow in one direction towards national government, as was often the case in the reviewed policies. Ideally, monitoring processes should be designed so that information also fulfils local level needs where water and sanitation service delivery is actually occurring. This can help to ensure that the collected information is put to good use, promotes ownership of data among collectors which can aid in continuing data collection compliance, and enables learning at a local level (Welle et al., 2012). Further, the HRWS framework compels governments to share information with the public in an accessible and understandable way (de Albuquerque, 2014) which is critical for enabling users to claim and exercise their rights. Some policies, for example in Cook Islands and Vanuatu, demonstrated good examples of sharing information more widely and other PICs could seek inspiration from these.

While it is difficult to directly transfer or compare approaches between countries due to the widely varying contexts that PICs live under, Table 4 shows various aspects of good monitoring governance in policy that we can learn from and build on can be found throughout the region. Countries that had implementation plans accompanying their policies, such as in Kiribati, Nauru, and Samoa, tended to describe roles, responsibilities, and information flows more clearly. In the cases of Kiribati and Nauru, these plans appear to have been driven by donors (White & Falkland, 2012). Policies that do not address monitoring governance should do so coherently in dedicated sections in future revisions. PICs seeking guidance on delineating roles and responsibilities and defining information flows could turn to the Samoa Water and Sanitation Sector Plan, which explicitly listed agencies responsible for individual data collection activities and identified a central body for coordinating and reporting, for inspiration.

Service delivery dimensions

In this section we discuss our findings on how monitoring of the service delivery dimensions of the HRWS framework was envisioned in the reviewed policies. We argue that conventional approaches to monitoring have likely contributed to a relatively strong representation of monitoring the availability of infrastructure and water quality. Monitoring of accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and equality are less well known, but have important implications. We also argue that the preferences of donors were likely influential on the emphasis of monitoring aspects related to environmental sustainability.

The precedence given to monitoring availability and quality of services is likely, in part, due to conventional approaches to monitoring. The decision of most policy-makers to use the presence of infrastructure as a criterion for monitoring availability is not surprising because technology type is the most commonly used water and sanitation service indicator globally (Norman, 2013) and has been used to report internationally on the Millennium Development Goals. This criterion is attractive because of its international recognition and relative simplicity in measuring. It will likely remain an important criterion as it is included in reporting for the international Sustainable Development Goals.

Monitoring quality was usually in reference to water supplies rather than sanitation. Adequate drinking water quality is often highly demanded and scrutinised by the general public which may have led to its widespread inclusion in the policies. Further, the international community has been assisting developing countries in monitoring water quality since as early as 1976 when WHO released its first guidelines on drinking-water quality surveillance for developing countries (WHO, 1976). Meanwhile, public demand for improved sanitation is often less than that for improved water supplies in rural areas of developing countries (Waterkeyn & Cairncross, 2005) and national spending on sanitation tends to be less than that for drinking-water (UN-Water & WHO, 2014). Public prioritisation of drinking-water quality may have contributed to it receiving comparatively more attention in the policies, despite knowledge that both have critical impacts on public health (Bartram & Cairncross, 2010).

In fact, across all service delivery dimensions investigated during this study, much more attention was paid toward monitoring water supplies than sanitation in the reviewed policies. In addition to the above reasons, this may be also in part due to practical reasons because non-sewerage based sanitation in PICs is usually on-site and operation and maintenance is viewed as the private responsibility of individual households whereas water supplies are often viewed as more of a public service. In any case, it is just as important from a human rights perspective that government is able to monitor and demonstrate that rights to sanitation as well as water are being realised. Monitoring sanitation service delivery should receive special attention in future revisions of policy.

While monitoring water quality and the availability of infrastructure have received substantial recognition internationally, monitoring accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and equality are relatively new ideas which may contribute to their limited inclusion in the reviewed policies. It is possible that PIC governments are generally unaware or do not see these dimensions as highly important, especially considering guidance on monitoring these dimensions is still emerging. However, there are consequences if these dimensions are not monitored.

The lack of references to physical accessibility in the policies, let alone statements on monitoring them, is concerning. The proportions of people living with disabilities in PICs have been estimated to range from 1.2% in Samoa to 12.0% in Vanuatu (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), 2012). Furthermore, people, especially women, facing threats of injury or sexual violence while accessing water and sanitation facilities located in distant or precarious spots has been documented in Solomon Islands (Amnesty International, 2011) and this likely occurs in other PICs. The limited attention toward monitoring physical accessibility may reflect a lack of consultation with people living with disabilities or living in informal settlements who often struggle the most with accessibility to water and sanitation services in PICs.

Affordable services were frequently mentioned as a principle in the reviewed policies, but there was little language on monitoring affordability which may indicate a lack of clarity on how this dimension can actually be monitored. Indeed, developing indicators for measuring affordability is particularly challenging (Hutton, 2012). PIC governments may follow the lead of Kiribati and draft policy to call for the use of surveys and case studies to determine the ability of users to pay for water and sanitation services.

Monitoring acceptability was also infrequently mentioned. In two of the three policies where it did appear, only a single specific indicator was listed. This does not come as a surprise since acceptability may be the most challenging service dimension of the HRWS framework to monitor because definitions can vary widely between groups and individuals (de Albuquerque, 2014). The criterion for tracking complaints as used in the Fiji Rural Water and Sanitation Policy provides a useful example of how general issues with acceptability can be monitored. However, a more nuanced look at acceptability based on wide consultation with diverse groups will likely be necessary.

Inequalities in water and sanitation service delivery worldwide are well documented and human rights law compels states to address these (Satterthwaite, 2012), but the reviewed policies of PICs generally do not provide much guidance on monitoring them. The RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy identified several disadvantaged groups to be monitored, but uses total water and sanitation coverage as an indicator for success which does not necessarily ensure that inequalities are being eliminated. There are few statements in the reviewed policies regarding distinguishing between groups for monitoring or disaggregation of data aside from rural and urban areas. Without additional data on disadvantaged groups it is difficult for PICs to design and evaluate policies and programmes for benefiting the most in need.

The preferences of donors active in the PIC region appear to be a factor in the precedence given to monitoring sustainability, specifically environmental sustainability. Several policies explicitly stated they were supported by the Global Environment Facility and/or the SOPAC division (since renamed the Geoscience division) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community who are both active in tackling national level water and sanitation issues and promoting Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the PIC region. IWRM was designed as a means of achieving water use efficiency, equity in allocating water resources across different social and economic groups, and protecting water resources and associated ecosystems (Global Water Partnership (GWP), 2013). Support from SOPAC has come through its IWRM programme which has the overall objectives:

To improve water resource and wastewater management and water use efficiency in Pacific Island Countries in order to balance overuse and conflicting uses of scarce freshwater resources through policy and legislative reform and implementation of applicable and effective Integrated Water Resource Management and Water Use Efficiency plans’ (SOPAC, 2009).

These objectives are strongly reflected in the monitoring approaches in many of the policies which tended to have more of a basin-level than user-level focus. Monitoring of the quantity and quality of water resources was more common across the policy documents than any other criteria related to the HRWS dimensions. Monitoring of sanitation more frequently focused on the risk of wastewater polluting water resources and ecosystems than on the risk of excreta coming into contact with people. It can be argued that monitoring of sanitation provision should prioritise issues of human health over issues of environmental protection (Kvarnström et al., 2011), but this sentiment is generally not demonstrated across the reviewed policies. The principles of IWRM can be interpreted in a number of ways, but it appears in these cases that the effect of taking an IWRM lens has been to steer the focus of monitoring toward water management over meeting user needs.

This is not to stay that monitoring environmental sustainability is not useful for realising the HRWS. Water resources and ecosystems in PICs are uniquely fragile (WHO, 2008) and efforts to monitor and address issues of over-abstraction, contamination, and competing demands of water are necessary for ensuring the sustainability of the HRWS. Rather than replacing this approach, it needs to be complemented by other approaches to better include monitoring of services at a more localised level.

Donor influence was also apparent in the PNG National Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Policy which was supported by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank. This policy provided highly specific targets relating to the availability of water supplies and sanitation facilities that align with the WSP's expectations about what constitutes basic service. It was also the only policy to mention monitoring of minimum water quantity or reliability standards at a household level which reflects the WSP's pro-poor focus as opposed to the water resources focus of other policies supported by donors with an IWRM agenda.

These examples suggest that, for better or worse, donors wield considerable influence in PICs on what dimensions of service delivery should be monitored according to national policy. Overall, only four countries have policies that explicitly make mention of the HRWS even though all of them, except for those from Kiribati and Vanuatu, were drafted or approved after the 2010 UN General Resolution. Aside from visits from the UN Special Rapporteur on the HRWS to Tuvalu and Kiribati in 2012, there has been very little high profile advocacy on the HRWS in the PIC region compared to the rest of the developing world. This limited advocacy, compared to other agendas, likely has contributed to the poor overall representation of the accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and equality service dimensions in national policies.

As with governance, no one country is perfect, but examples of monitoring each dimension of the HRWS can be found across the region. In general, countries with polices based on the principles of IWRM tended to be strong on monitoring at a basin-level and weak at a user-level, while the inverse was true for policies not based on IWRM. In future revisions of policy, PIC governments would do well to draw on monitoring approaches from their neighbours and to think critically how each HRWS dimension fits within their country's context. In particular, the PNG National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy and the RMI National Water and Sanitation Policy are relatively strong in reflecting the normative monitoring criteria of the HRWS framework. While each has room for improvement in addressing the monitoring of all service delivery dimensions, they provide regional examples of how HRWS criteria can be included in monitoring processes as envisioned by policy.

Conclusions

Developing a national monitoring system to capture the service delivery dimensions laid out in the HRWS framework is not easy and will take time. While envisioning a monitoring system in policy does not necessarily mean any action will be taken out on the ground, it provides an important first step for developing a coherent and comprehensive system. Most PICs have done well to draft and approve new or updated policies on water and sanitation and include steps for monitoring their objectives. This proactive behaviour to contribute to creating an enabling environment for addressing water and sanitation issues is increasingly necessary, especially as emerging forces in PICs such as population growth, urbanisation, changing land use patterns, and climate change threaten to impact how they are handled (UNICEF, 2013).

Donors have an important role to play in providing support to PICs in developing monitoring systems and should advocate for wider inclusion of service delivery dimensions and good monitoring governance. However, PICs must take the lead in further developing their policies and making final decisions on what needs to be monitored and how. This will help to ensure that the policies appropriately reflect the values and information needs of the country rather than those of the donor.

There are yet other obstacles to national monitoring that need to be considered alongside the issues discussed in this paper. Developing nationally and locally relevant indicators that are feasible to measure and cover all aspects of the HRWS that are important to each country is a significant challenge that must be overcome. And how data collected on these indicators will be translated into action must be planned. Good governance needs to go beyond the fundamentals investigated here. For example, responsible government authorities need to be incentivised to continually collect data and use them to improve service delivery without developing perverse incentives to achieve high indicator scores that do little to actually improve services on the ground. Stakeholders must be engaged when deciding who will monitor, what will be monitored, and how, in order to consider multiple perspectives on service delivery and avoid a narrow framing that privileges the viewpoints of some groups over others. Finally, monitoring of structural and process indicators, for instance those that demonstrate the ability of users to exercise and claim their rights, warrant further attention. The service delivery dimensions and aspects of governance addressed in this paper, then, are only a few of numerous building blocks toward constructing a robust national monitoring system.

Going forward, it is critical for PICs to recognise their international, regional, and national obligations to progressively realise and monitor the HRWS, in particular the accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and equality dimensions we have identified here as being neglected the most. PICs must also continue to clarify aspects of good governance in policy so that relevant government authorities may be held accountable. A failure to do so risks failing to uphold the rights of citizens to pursue and maintain good health and an adequate standard of living.

1

Resolutions A/RES/64/292 and A/HRC/RES/15/9 respectively.

2

Cook Islands and Niue are not member states of the UN.

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