Evidence based identification of socially excluded groups as a tool for multi-sectoral planning

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As a part of strengthened inclusion of the citizens in the participative municipal governance of water access, creation of multi-sectoral Municipal management boards (MMBs) was applied from the very beginning of the programme. The standard approach would generally include an assessment of the local economic and infrastructural needs in the water sector, where the inclusion of citizens and different relevant institutions provided a unique angle to the programme. These multi-sectoral boards were established in each partner municipality (regardless of size and level of development) and they generally consisted of the following sectors/institutions: education, social protection, health, non-governmental sector, water utility company, municipality, and representative of the vulnerable (socially excluded) group(s).

Challenge or Opportunity Addressed and Short Background

There is no systematic approach to the identification of the needs of the socially vulnerable population. Hence, a socio-economic analysis was completed as the basis for the action plan and referral model, as well as to serve as an evidence based document with both quantity and quality data on marginalized groups. At the same time, the water utility companies recognize the reason why 20 % of the consumers are not capable to regularly pay water bills due to lack of finances. In spite of all this, water utility companies are maintaining the flat rate for all individual costumers and basically neglecting identified socially vulnerable groups.

The primary goal of the MMBs is the development and implementation of action plans, founded on a socio-economic analysis which identifies the primary/main socially excluded group, within the local community. In parallel, technical water supply assessments are conducted in each municipality to complement and address specific priorities from the action plans. Programme interventions will address the implementation of the action plans. For the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the above mentioned institutions are included in the development of the "referral documents" (referral model of social inclusion and protection), which specifically identifies activities for each of these institutions in order to establish joint coordination and planning, in order to better address the needs of the identified vulnerable groups with respect to water supply.

On the other hand, during the technical capacity assessment of the water utility companies in the partner municipalities it was identified that more than 80% of the current tariff structures does not recognize subsidized water tariff for vulnerable groups. According to common practice in BiH, the water tariff is proposed by the water utility companies and approved and adopted by the municipal council. Almost in all cases the water tariff increase has been requested by the water utility companies based on accounting data and required funds for system maintenance and management. However, the municipal councils generally declines such request based on the political agenda. By doing so, the municipal council neglects evidence based identification of socially vulnerable groups on one side, as well as economic viability of the water utility companies on the other side.

Strategy or Approach Chosen

In order to overcome this situation, MDG-F DEG introduced several steps, to address the needs for categorizing existing water tariff structures. As introductory step was to have MMBs meeting regularly. In parallel, MDG-F DEG provided MMB members with capacity development in using a human-rights based approach in social protection assessments, action planning and M&E. All these trainings for MMB members were aimed to assist them to develop action plans addressing social gaps in a systematic manner and it supported them to help create evidence based policies. Furthermore, government policy groups would develop recommendations to address these gaps in a social protection system of BiH. Also, one of the roles of the MMBs is to advocate and mobilize the municipal councils for increase in municipal budgets to cover the full range of social protection needs for vulnerable citizens in the water supply sector.

On the technical side of the programme, a thorough water tariff assessment was conducted as a segment of the capacity assessment of the water utility companies (in-depth analysis of the status of collection fees, including current water tariffs per category, rate of revenue collection per category, water tariff structure, billing procedures, relations with consumers, compliance with realistic tariff rates, as well as practices of putting water tariffs into effect). Based on the analytical results, including a set of recommendation actions presented to water utility companies and municipalities, MDG-F DEG facilitated a discussion exercise between the water utility companies and municipalities.

Results and Impacts

The main result of the multi-sector approach in the water supply sector was the creation of referral models of socio protection planning. These referral models are linking all sectors participating in the MMB structure and provide a tool for sector exchange of information. The referral model sets a protocol on cooperation and communication between the relevant institutions and organizations with a goal of improvement of the multi-sectoral approach to social/children protection and inclusion in the water supply sector. It is proposed to ensure clearer communication channels and more efficient work of the relevant institutions on a municipal level and helps to provide these institutions with specific activities in how to better address the needs of socially identified categories. Throughout these activities the institutions pledge to respect and implement the following principles: partnership, equality, transparency and better professional approach to joint efforts.

Insights and Continuation

  • Most of the existing development strategies at the municipal level are almost exclusively addressing local economic needs neglecting the social sector as part of a larger development policy. Therefore, proper identification of socially excluded population provided evidence based foundation for development of a proper referral model which in turn fed into the whole socio-economic analysis of the local community. Hence the multi-sectoral approach to local development is necessary to achieve sustainable and integrated local development.

1. The MMBs will become permanent municipal commissions that will continue to meet regularly beyond the life of this programme; 2. Relevant ministries are actively participating in the creation of referral documents and policy documents for revision of the water tariff structures (introduction of vulnerable-groups category and setting realistic economic water fee).

Potential for Replication and Scale up

Most of the time the municipal councils approve and adopt lower prices than requested by the water utility company, serving the political agenda and overlooking the economical need of the water utility companies on one side and the needs of vulnerable groups on the other side. This innovative approach provides a useful tool to negotiate more realistic water tariff which will recognize vulnerable groups as a special category of the beneficiaries, providing subventions for them only, while setting the realistic prices that reflect the economic sustainable needs.

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School children presenting findings in socio-economic assessment to their peers in regards to water access.

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