Effective water research can play an important role in supporting developing nations to meet the challenge of providing poor people with access to safe water supplies and improved sanitation. Previous research in the water sector has been programmed and managed in isolation by different donors such that overlap and duplication has occurred, and specific gaps and issues may not have been addressed.
SPLASH is a practical example of international efforts to improve aid effectiveness as enshrined in the Paris Declaration, endorsed on 2 March 2005. This is an international agreement to which over one hundred ministers, heads of agencies and other senior officials subscribed, committing their countries and organizations to continue to increase efforts in harmonization, alignment and managing aid for results by monitoring actions and indicators.
"In 2005, poverty and development are the issues of the year. Aid flows to developing countries are on the increase after a sustained drop for many years. So we must demonstrate that we are using that aid effectively. This will give people the confidence that aid helps the poorest people in the world, and that more aid is a sound investment in all our futures."
Richard Manning, Chair of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee
At a regional level, a driver for improved coordination of European water research in developing countries has been the EU Water Initiative Research and Technological Development (RTD) Working Group.
The coordination of European development activities has been increasing for many years. Often this has meant that different donor organizations have taken responsibility for large and complex development programmes and projects.
The last decade has seen greater coordination between donors active in particular countries, heightened by support being conditional upon the preparation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). PRSPs now provide a framework within which all donors can coordinate activities. Despite these advances, there is little collaboration between international development ministries in the area of research.
Multilateral research collaboration in the area of international basic scientific research has been practised for some time, but there is still little directly managed coordination, with programmes informally implemented when national research communities secure programme level funds.
The concept of SPLASH represents state of the art practice relating to the coordination of European research on water in developing countries. In particular, it was selected as it provides a gradual approach to building the necessary consensus, before specific research coordination actions are initiated.
In parallel with the PRSP process, the OECD-DAC and World Bank are involved in a process of "harmonization". Harmonization means that donor agencies coordinate activities closely, share information, unify practice and policies, and in this way, reduce costs. Much of this activity relates to development projects, programmes, strategies and policies.
Although to date, there is little evidence of the influence of harmonization on research activities across all donors, the actions of the EUWI and the emergence of SPLASH can be seen as a contribution to this process.
A second key aspect of the donor PRSP process is "alignment" of harmonized donor programmes with the priorities set by the developing countries themselves. This means fitting donor policies and procedures to national strategies, processes and budgeting systems.
The concept of alignment is integral to SPLASH's programme and processes and will be achieved through strong participatory involvement of developing country partners, and linkages with mainstream harmonized donor programmes with PRSPs.