Monitoring project interventions may undermine efforts towards supporting and developing comprehensive and well-functioning national monitoring systems

Posted on 02/10/2014 by Sophie Pollak

Development partners of all shapes and sizes – from small charities to large international non-governmental organisations and bi-lateral donors – support interventions which aim to increase coverage and provide sustainable services. Although there is an increasing push for aligning national planning priorities (and even in some cases financing mechanisms), much of the funding today is still diverted towards stand-alone projects, which can often be de-linked from broader sector frameworks. Despite this problem, we also know that these types of externally financed projects can act as testing grounds for new and innovative approaches that are flexible and responsive to quick learning cycles. Development partners also tend to be strongly accountable to their constituents and donors – whether these are individual sponsors or large organisational financiers – for monitoring and reporting on how money is spent and the impact of these projects.

Alignment with and strengthening national monitoring

In the last five to seven years, the WASH sector has focused on trying to improve development aid through better alignment of development partners' efforts. We now accept that development aid should coincide with government priorities, agendas, and delivery mechanisms. In theory, we should establish new, or strengthen existing national WASH monitoring systems. The reality, however, is that we are challenged by the disjointedness created by different development partners who monitor their 'own' interventions and use their 'own' monitoring systems. Doing so may undermine efforts towards supporting and developing comprehensive and well-functioning national monitoring systems.

The best of two worlds

It is crucial to acknowledge a diverse reality of national and project monitoring systems and explore both sides of the equation. What are new and innovative aspects brought on by 'project' monitoring, including the move towards monitoring service levels and sustainability of services provided over time? How could development partners contribute to strengthening country-led monitoring? At the heart of this is the question of accountability for monitoring—ultimately, all players should be accountable to consumers and users of WASH services.

This blog is based on a stream of the IRC convened monitoring conference in Addis Ababa in April 2013; access the abstract here; this paper will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming book of proceedings.

Posted on 02/10/2014