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Raising Voice for Water Security: The Dynamics of Citizenship, Engagement and Volunteerism in Accountability Processes in Africa

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  • Full or part time
    Prof N Laurie
    Dr N Hepworth
    Dr Athanas Ngalawa
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted

Project Description

“Under certain conditions some social accountability initiatives contribute to improved service delivery, better budget utilisation, greater state responsiveness, citizen empowerment and system change”. McGee and Gaventa, 2011
The scale and immediacy of water-related challenges, their significance for social and economic progress, and the inconsistent performance of interventions in the water sector, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, suggest that fresh tactics and stronger evidence of what works are needed . There is consensus that better governance and effective water institutions are at the crux of improving water security for the poor, and that accountability monitoring and advocacy by citizens and civil society offer promising routes towards stimulating these , .
A growing community of practice are applying accountability approaches across the water sector to empower citizens, improve service delivery, and drive better governance to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: sustainable access to safe water and sanitation for all. Approaches used are diverse, as are the topics and geographies of focus. What unites this work is the facilitation of citizen demand for accountability and collaborative advocacy to unlock improved institutional performance for water security . In March 2018, Water Witness International, a Scottish based NGO supported by the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund convened 84 practitioners, researchers, and policy makers from 22 countries to share lessons and agree the priority knowledge and research needs to strengthen this practice and its impact.
As an outcome of this effort and the new co-operation it has stimulated, WWI and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research, WaterAid, Oxfam, the Water Integrity Network and Shahidi wa Maji are developing a programme of knowledge generation, sharing and management to address the sector’s collective priorities. Understanding the drivers, incentives, and barriers for people, particularly women and the marginalised to raise their voices to demand change from the status quo is a key priority for practitioners and policy makers around the world. The impact and sustainability of all accountability monitoring and advocacy efforts on water are dependent on proactive and voluntary engagement by citizens affected by water problems. However, very little is understood about the determinants of active citizenship on water problems and opportunities.
Aims and objectives: This research aims to contribute to the overarching goal of: Enduring water security for vulnerable communities through strengthening citizen voice, accountability and advocacy. Specifically, the work will help unlock global progress on water security through generating and sharing new understanding on the dynamics of citizenship, engagement and volunteerism in accountability processes. Specifically, its aims and objectives are:
To provide a practical and theoretical understanding of the triggers and routes through which citizens and communities become engaged in activating statutory rights, demanding accountability and advocating for progress on water, and the determinants of autonomous, sustained and inclusive action.
The purpose of this is to assist in the design and delivery of interventions, by governments, NGOs, the private sector and donors which are genuinely equitable and sustainable across a wide range of socio-economic and cultural settings. To do so the HydroNation scholar will address the following research questions/objectives:
a. What factors stimulate and sustain, or subdue and constrain action by citizens and communities to activate rights, raise their voices, demand accountability and advocate on water? How contextually variable are these?
b. How inclusive are social accountability initiatives on water, and their outcomes, in terms of engagement with women, youth, and marginalised people? How can equity and inclusion best be enhanced in different settings?
c. How can ICT best be harnessed to support community engagement?
d. How do socio-cultural, religious and customary institutions interact with accountability processes on water, and what can be learned from ‘autonomous’ action for accountability?

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.
Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees.
Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in February 2019. A more detailed plan of the studentship is available to candidates upon application.


JMP/UNICEF 2017 figures show how SSA still lags way behind the progress seen elsewhere. 93M people still collect water from unprotected surface water sources; only 28% of the population has access to even basic sanitation.
UNDP Human Development Report of 2006; SIWI 2007; UN-Water 2009
See McGee and Gaventa 2011, WWI 2016, ITAD/DFID 2016
defined as the reliable availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for production, livelihoods, health and ecosystems, coupled with an acceptable level of risk from hazards including droughts, floods, pollution and conflicts Grey and Sadoff, 2005

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