Instilling water integrity in Sibagat, Philippines

Water is undeniably essential to life. Having a pivotal role to play in the sustainability of the environment and in human development, the demand for water has not only significantly increased but the number and types of crisis and challenges associated with it as well. Often, water shortage is not due to shortage of water resources but due to governance failures, such as institutional fragmentation, lack of coordinated decision-making, corruption and poor practices of transparency and accountability, which has undermined people’s access to water.

The achievement of universal access to water is not always due to technical issues which have left communities parched and farmlands dry. Rather, it is the underlying - and often overlooked - issues of governance that pose a more formidable challenge to water service delivery. Water governance systems are rarely able to prevent corruption, and some even provide incentives for negative bureaucratic behavior and unethical practices. Moreover, integrity issues lead to conflicts around water at local and national levels, forming a major barrier to people’s access to safe and sustainable water supply. This regrettably hinders the achievement of water access as a Millennium Development Goal and a fundamental human right.

Clearly, improving water governance clearly requires strengthening water integrity, -- where fostering the aspects of transparency, accountability and participation become crucial.

This video is a story of the commitment and dedication of the citizens of the municipality of Sibagat in the province of Agusan del Sur who rose to this challenge and organized themselves as voluntary monitors to strengthen integrity in local water governance --- where decision-making and processes are fair and inclusive, honest and transparent, accountable and free of corruption.

The monitors call themselves the Integrity-Watch for Water Anti-corruption Group or IWAG.  They attempt to mitigate corruption in water governance using participatory public finance - a framework which recognizes the responsibility of citizens to engage and monitor financial processes, so that they themselves are able to hold government officials accountable to the public interest.

IWAG President Ricardo Butao and an indigenous leader in the community succinctly captured and shared their group’s motivation. “We realized that we can make a difference and this encouraged us to participate in the processes affecting the community”.

At the end of the day, showing that citizens can affect change really makes a difference. The story of IWAG is not only about building integrity in water governance but it is a story about the empowerment of communities and citizens.   This should be seen as an invaluable outcome in its own right as it brings about a fundamental change in the way a community sees itself and relates to others.

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