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Study Session 4 Guiding Principles of the OWNP


In the first three study sessions of the Module you have learned about the background to the One WASH National Programme (OWNP) and how and why it came into existence. We now move on to the OWNP itself. In this and the following sessions we will look at the most important features of the document, starting with its Guiding Principles.

In this study session you will be introduced to the four core principles of the OWNP that guide its implementation. You will learn what the principles mean and why they are important. These Guiding Principles are applied individually as well as in a concerted manner towards the success of the programme.

In addition to the four core or Guiding Principles, you will also be introduced to the Basic Implementation Principles that are listed and defined in the OWNP Programme Operational Manual.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 4

When you have studied this session, you should be able to:

4.1  Define and use correctly all of the key words printed in bold. (SAQ 4.1)

4.2  Outline the four Guiding Principles of the OWNP. (SAQs 4.1 and 4.2)

4.3  Explain how the four Guiding Principles contribute to the success of OWNP. (SAQ 4.2)

4.4  Outline the Basic Implementation Principles of the OWNP. (SAQ 4.3)

4.1 Origins of the OWNP Guiding Principles

During the early years of the twenty-first century there were a number of major international events that were organised to improve the impact of international aid. These events brought together both the donors who gave funds for development programmes and the countries that received the funds. Their purpose was to discuss and agree ways to make more effective use of the financial aid that was being given by donors to the recipient countries.

The first significant event was the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which was held in Rome in 2003. This was followed by the Roundtable on Managing for Development Results in Marrakech in 2004, and then by the second High Level Forum (HLF) held in Paris in 2005. The output from this forum event was the influential Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (see Box 4.1). In 2008, the Paris Declaration was endorsed and strengthened by the Accra Agenda for Action from the third HLF held in Accra (OECD, n.d. 1).

These global initiatives contributed to the introduction of principles intended to enhance the achievements of development programmes throughout the world and to increase the efficient use and effectiveness of aid resources. These initiatives formed the basis for the four Guiding Principles of the OWNP.

Box 4.1 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness

The Paris Declaration was the significant output from the High Level Forum in Paris, France in 2005 (Figure 4.1). The Forum was attended by representatives from over 100 industrialised and less developed countries, including Ethiopia. Both donor and recipient countries agreed to change the way they were undertaking development programmes. In addition, about 26 aid organisations and 14 international civil society organisations were represented in the meeting.

Figure 4.1  Logo of the second High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Paris in 2005.

The Paris Declaration laid out a practical, action-oriented roadmap to improve the quality of aid and its impact on development. It put in place a series of specific measures for implementation and established performance indicators to assess progress. It also called for an international monitoring system to ensure that donors and recipients held each other accountable. The long list of partnership commitments mentioned in the Paris Declaration can be aggregated into five principles for making aid more effective (OECD, n.d. 2):

  1. Ownership: Developing countries should set their own development strategies, improve their institutions and tackle corruption.
  2. Alignment: Donor countries and organisations bring their support in line with developing countries strategies and use local systems.
  3. Harmonisation: Donor countries and organisations coordinate, simplify procedures and share information to avoid duplication.
  4. Results: Developing countries and donors focus on producing – and measuring results.
  5. Mutual accountability: Donors and developing countries are accountable for development results.

The first two principles established the importance of recipient countries determining their own priorities, and that donors should support this approach rather than imposing their own agendas. The third, harmonisation, also emphasised the need for collaboration and sharing. Harmonisation can be defined as bringing about agreement or standardisation among different people, plans or actions. It refers to the need for all stakeholders to work together, or, as you might say, to sing in harmony with each other. The fourth and fifth principles focused on the outputs, stating that aid should produce measurable results and all parties would share responsibility.

The OWNP adopted the development principles included in the Paris Declaration to guide its implementation. These principles are reflected in all related manuals, such as the WASH Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the WASH Implementation Framework (WIF) and the OWNP’s Programme Operational Manual (POM). (The POM is the main guiding document for management of funds channelled through the Consolidated WASH Account.)

  • Can you describe the main difference between the WASH MoU and WIF?

  • The WASH MoU is a formal working document that outlines the procedures, roles, responsibilities and accountability of the signing ministries. It preceded the WIF, which is a more practical document mainly focused on how the WASH programmes are going to be implemented.

The need to adopt and incorporate these principles into the programme came out of the practical lessons learned from the national WASH sector endeavour during previous years. As you have already learned in Study Session 3, prior to 2004, WASH interventions were project-based, whereby any of the three components of WASH were implemented separately. Moreover, there was no appropriate policy or legal environment that supported integration between water supply, sanitation and hygiene interventions. Similarly, other essential considerations in programme design, such as community or beneficiary participation, gender and disability-related issues were overlooked. From the equity point of view, WASH interventions were concentrated in some geographic areas when others, especially hard-to-reach areas, were deprived of the opportunity and associated benefits.

However, since that time the situation has gradually been changing. As a result of various national and international initiatives, WASH interventions have become more programme rather than project-based and have become more participatory and inclusive in terms of geographic location, gender and disability. WASH programmes have been designed to include all regional states and to deal equitably with male and female, able and disabled people.

In line with these developments, the WIF set out four significant features for the national WASH programme which, after some development, became the Guiding Principles of the OWNP. These are described in the OWNP Final Document (OWNP, 2013):

  • Integration of the water, health, education and finance sectors.
  • Alignment of [implementing] partners’ activities with those of the Ethiopian government.
  • Harmonisation of partners’ approaches and activities.
  • Partnership between implementing parties at all levels.

Each of these principles is described in more detail in the following sections.

4.2 Integration

Integration means the act of combining or linking together two or more different activities to achieve certain objectives. To integrate can variously mean to repair, make whole, unite, connect or bring things together.

The OWNP Programme Operational Manual describes this principle as (POM, 2014):

  • This principle aims at integrating safe water use with good sanitation and hygiene practices at the household level, in schools and health facilities (institutional WASH) through synergy built among the four sectoral offices: water, health, education and finance. This includes coordinated and collaborative planning, implementation, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of program results.

The term ‘integration’ is frequently associated with the word ‘synergy’. Synergy refers to the results of coordinated actions being greater than the sum of the individual actions. If activities are described as synergistic, it means they achieve more together than they would have done separately or, to put it another way, there is an additional benefit that could not have been achieved by the separate actions. The aim of successful integration, therefore, is to produce synergies and to maximise the impact, sustainability, appropriateness and effectiveness of interventions, thereby creating greater benefits for all.

The concept of integration and its application in different development programmes, including WASH, has been realised in the past few years, and nowadays its importance as a core principle is widely recognised. People are aware that a lack of integration can lead to ineffectiveness of investments and end up with poor results. Figure 4.2 shows how there can be different levels of integration and how separate interventions will probably have fewer beneficiaries than integrated programmes.

Although the benefits associated with inter-sector (between two or more different sectors) or intra-sector (within one sector) integration are well understood by many, the practical know-how about how to achieve integration may still be doubtful. In any context, effective integration relies on good communication and coordination between the actors in order to achieve the best results.

Figure 4.2  Different levels of sectoral integration.

4.3 Alignment

Alignment is the noun form of the verb to align, which literally means to arrange something in a correct position.

The POM states the aims of the principle of alignment as follows (POM, 2014):

  • The main goal of this principle is to ensure that OWNP will align with the policies, priorities, strategies and plans of the pertinent Ministries’ Sectoral Development Plans and with the administrative systems, standards and procedures of the Federal and Regional Governments of Ethiopia. The principle also ensures that WASH is recognized and affirmed as an integral, ongoing component of the Government’s broader developmental program and WaSH responsibilities are incorporated in the established process streams and mandates of the four sector agencies’ staff at all levels. The other goal is an internal alignment of structures and procedures within government, both vertically (i.e. from Federal to Kebele level) and horizontally (i.e. across the different subsectors which comprise WASH).

  • Alignment was one of the principles included in the Paris Declaration. Who and what needed to be aligned in order to make aid more effective?

  • Aid donors committed to align their support with the strategies and policies of the recipient countries.

Alignment, in the terms of the Paris Declaration, was between donors and partner countries. The OWNP took this principle and modified it to be applied within a country, i.e. Ethiopia. Alignment in the OWNP, as you can see in the extract from the POM, refers mainly to internal processes between the four ‘pertinent’ ministries (water, health, education and finance), aligning their activities with each other at all levels. Furthermore, for its full and practical implementation, the principle of alignment should be adopted by all participants of development programmes including non-governmental partners who align their activities with those of the Ethiopian government.

Alignment is an important principle to apply in practical situations at local level as well. Imagine you were an urban WASH worker in a small town. In that role you may come across many different and separate WASH plans of action prepared by different partners that were not coordinated. What steps could you take to try to align those plans of action with each other? One thing you could do is to call a meeting for all the partners involved and ask them to present their respective plans. With the principle of alignment in mind, you should try to focus the meeting on coming up with one consolidated WASH plan of action for the town. By bringing the interested parties together you are not only demonstrating alignment of activities, but also harmonisation, which is the next guiding principle to be discussed.

4.4 Harmonisation

In Box 4.1 you read a formal definition of harmonisation which was to bring about agreement or standardisation among different people, plans or actions. Harmonisation is all about applying common arrangements and simple procedures to implement development programmes. Like alignment, the inclusion of harmonisation as a principle in the OWNP followed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, but again was adapted for the different context of within country, rather than between aid donors and recipient countries.

The Paris Declaration listed many separate commitments by donors and partner countries intended to achieve the goal of harmonisation. These included, for example, commitments from donors to (adapted from OECD, 2005):

  • implement, where feasible, common financial arrangements at country level between donors and recipient countries for planning, funding and the disbursement of funds. Also to have common arrangements for monitoring, evaluating and reporting to the government on donor activities and aid flows.
  • work together to reduce the number of separate, possibly duplicating, field missions, and to promote joint training to share lessons learned and build a community of practice. (A community of practice is a group of people who share an interest in doing something and learn how to do it better by sharing their experiences.)
  • work together to harmonise separate procedures.

The OWNP adopted the spirit of these commitments and revised them to suit the particular context of the national WASH programme in Ethiopia. The POM defined the principle of harmonisation as:

  • This principle leads to One WASH Plan, One WASH Budget, One WASH Report; implying to OWNP. Harmonisation also assumes that One Consolidated WASH Account (CWA) will be opened where all Development Partners contributions are deposited from which WASH activities and investments would be supported (POM, 2014).

This reinforces the idea of a single collaborative programme and highlights the importance of joint financial arrangements. The principle establishes that development partners will pool their financial contribution into one consolidated fund for supporting WASH activities.

The principle of harmonisation is repeated in all the OWNP documents, but the wording is not exactly the same, indicating the range of applications of the principle. In the WIF (2011), harmonisation is ‘of diverse projects into a single program’. In the OWNP document (2013), it is ‘of partners’ approaches and activities’ and in the POM (2014) it is described with a focus on financial arrangements. In each case, the fundamental principle of common arrangements and simple procedures, or harmonising, is the same.

4.5 Partnership

Partnership is one of the most important development concepts to have emerged in recent years. The core concept of partnership is sharing tasks and responsibilities in any development sector (Figure 4.3). In other words, partnership is an agreement to carry out a certain task together that will benefit all involved according to their own interests, and bring results that could not be achieved individually. Good partnership reduces duplication of effort. It creates synergy, enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of resources used, promotes innovation and maximises the impact of development programmes.

Figure 4.3  Effective partnerships need good communication and sharing of ideas.

Governments have been facing the ever-growing demand from their people for basic social services such as education, health, water and sanitation, which they could not address alone. This recognition has led to the inclusion of ‘partnership’ as one of the OWNP’s Guiding Principles. In the POM (POM, 2014), the general framework of partnership across the OWNP is described as:

  • The OWNP recognizes Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Private Sector as significant partners playing an essential part in attaining OWNP target along with the four sector Ministries and Development Partners.

Let us consider a practical example of partnership in action. If you were a Health Extension Worker with an assignment to promote handwashing practice, it is possible that community members may challenge you. They might say that soap is not available at the local market or they may complain about the price. How would you solve this problem? You may not be able to find a solution to this problem on your own; you may need external support such as a private agent who is able to supply soap to local vendors or open an outlet to sell soap and other goods essential for the community. In other words, you will need a partner.

How should you go about arranging a partnership? We will continue with our example of access to soap as an illustration of the required steps:

  • Step 1: Preparation

    Preparatory work is crucial for developing a steady and effective partnership. You need to carefully examine the condition in which your partnership will be operating. You should assess whether the people are willing and economically able to buy soap or not, and if alternatives are available. Also you need to identify the right partner and list clear roles for them, the community members and yourself.

    Step 2: Draw up an agreement/contract

    A partnership is often based on a formal commitment signed as a contract or agreement. Bound by the signed contract, you and your partner will share a strategy and implement the work schedule in a coordinated and agreed manner for a specified period. For example, you would make an agreement with your partner that they would supply soap of a specified quality and quantity with an agreed price at a certain outlet accessible to users. Your side of the agreement would be to facilitate marketing by creating demand through hygiene education in the community.

    Step 3: Outline the work programme/schedule

    The work schedule should indicate the interests and targets of yourself and your partner. It should include activities and measures that will contribute to the successful accomplishment of the activities, according to the roles and responsibilities mentioned in the partnership agreement. Your partnership agreement signed with the soap supplier, for instance, should set out the frequency of soap deliveries and the duration of the scheme.

    Step 4: Implementation

    In this phase you are required to be in regular contact with your partner to coordinate implementation, to extend and supplement the working programme with new measures, and in some cases to test new approaches if necessary. You work closely with your soap-supplying partner to see whether the joint plan is working properly.

    Step 5: Monitoring

    To assess the achievements of any partnership and determine possible improvements to be made, a comprehensive monitoring system should be used. A partnership should be evaluated periodically and reports shared. For the soap example, you could assess the achievements of your partnership by evaluating the status of users’ satisfaction in terms of access, price and quality of soap, as well as whether it has encouraged people to use soap routinely, etc. You both would also want to assess the feasibility of the scheme as a business.

Partnerships can be established not only with a private agent but also with any sort of organisation. However, partnerships between governments (public sector) and private parties are very common in development endeavours, including WASH. This type of work collaboration between a public or government office with a private sector operative is known as public–private partnership (PPP) and is depicted in Figure 4.4.

Figure 4.4  Diagram representing public–private partnerships.
  • Figure 4.4 depicts public–private partnerships as three interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Why is this an appropriate image for PPP?

  • The jigsaw shows how partnerships can join public and private sectors together to build a bigger ‘picture’. Partnership enables both sectors to fill the gaps they each have. If you remove the partnership ‘piece’ of the jigsaw, both public and private will have unfilled gaps or spaces.

4.6 Basic Implementation Principles

In addition to the four Guiding Principles that have been described in the previous sections, the OWNP also has a set of Basic Implementation Principles for activities supported through the Consolidated WASH account. These principles are set out in the Programme Operational Manual (POM, 2014) and are described below:

  1. Decentralisation: Decisions should be made locally rather than centralised at higher levels. This should ensure they are more in line with local needs and give the user communities responsibility for the management of WASH service provision.
  2. Demand-responsive: User communities receive assistance in response to their demand for improved WASH services. They make informed choices on the technology options and service levels and demonstrate their readiness to participate, taking into consideration their own needs and ability to pay.
  3. Consistency: The OWNP is to be consistent with the Ethiopian Water Resources Management Policy, Water Sector Strategy and Hygiene and Sanitation Strategy, as well as the national Growth and Transformation Plan.
  4. Equity: OWNP addresses regional and social disparities in WASH coverage among and within regions, woredas and urban areas, prioritising underserved and unserved communities.
  5. Cost recovery and the right to access: Access to water is a right, however it is also recognised as an economic good, and its service must be paid for.
  6. Cost-effective design: The programme should avoid over-elaborate design in order to provide affordable and sustainable services, e.g. use appropriate WASH technologies that can be easily maintained.
  7. Transparency: The programme includes promotional activities to ensure that its implementation processes are well understood by all stakeholders.
  8. Gender: Activities and processes are designed to ensure participation by women in decision making and programme implementation.
  9. Sustainability: services provided should be sustainable, i.e. easily operated and maintained at local level.
  10. Stepped approach: Implementation is to follow a stepped approach, where towns, woredas and communities will obtain assistance based on their performance.
  11. Participatory monitoring and evaluation: Monitoring and evaluation of agreed indicators is to be carried out in a participatory manner involving all stakeholders, with results shared so that the programme can be improved through feedback.

These principles provide a foundation for the organisation and implementation of the OWNP, as you will see in following study sessions.

Summary of Study Session 4

In Study Session 4, you have learned that:

  1. The One WASH National Programme has four core Guiding Principles: integration, alignment, harmonisation and partnership.
  2. These principles were developed and adapted from global conventions and internationally agreed principles stated in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, which established clear directions on each of the principles for donors and partner countries.
  3. The Guiding Principles emerged both at global and national level because of past experience of unsuccessful projects that had not followed the principles and had failed as a result.
  4. In addition to the four Guiding Principles, there are eleven Basic Implementation Principleswhich are presented in the Programme Operational Manual (POM).

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) for Study Session 4

Now that you have completed this study session, you can assess how well you have achieved its Learning Outcomes by answering these questions.

SAQ 4.1 (tests Learning Outcomes4.1 and 4.2)

Insert the following words into the spaces in the sentences below:

alignment; harmonisation; integration; partnership; synergy.

When two or more people or organisations agree to work together, this is a ………………

……………… means combining two or more activities together to improve coordination and bring ………………

……………… means all WASH ministries ensuring their activities are in agreement with each other and with national policies.

………………means ensuring there are common procedures and arrangements shared between partners and other stakeholders so it is easier for them to work together.


When two or more people or organisations agree to work together, this is a partnership.

Integration means combining two or more activities together to improve coordination and bring synergy.

Alignment means all WASH ministries ensuring their activities are in agreement with each other and with national policies.

Harmonisation means ensuring there are common procedures and arrangements shared between partners and other stakeholders so it is easier for them to work together.

SAQ 4.2 (tests Learning Outcome 4.3)

How do the Guiding Principles of the OWNP help towards the success of the programme:

  • a.from a resource perspective?
  • b.from a project result/achievement perspective?
  • c.from a sustainability perspective?


  • a.The application of the four Guiding Principles avoids duplication of effort. This, in turn, avoids unnecessary expenses in the course of programme implementation and enables resources to be used efficiently by pooling them.
  • b.From a project achievement perspective, application of the Guiding Principles will help by pooling the financial and human resource capacity, which therefore maximises the results or achievements of the Programme.
  • c.The Guiding Principles emphasise the importance of community ownership of the Programme, which is a very important factor for sustainability of its outcomes.

SAQ 4.3 (tests Learning Outcome 4.4)

The OWNP has four Guiding Principles and the Programme Operation Manual (POM) has 11 Basic Implementation Principles. Briefly explain what they have in common and how they are different.


Both the Guiding Principles and Implementation Principles are important considerations that all professionals, government bodies, partner organisations, communities, etc. need to respect and keep in mind through all their work. The difference between them is that while the Guiding Principles are broad and general, relevant from formulation up to implementation, the Implementation Principles are considered specifically during implementation of the Programme.