Building Blocks

SWA’s strategy is focused on the development of strong systems and adequate sector capacity to achieve transformational change, through which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the partnership’s vision of sanitation, water and hygiene for all, always and everywhere can be achieved.

 The Building Blocks capture the key elements that the sector must have in place to be able to deliver sustainable services and progressively eliminate inequalities in access. At the Sector Ministers’ Meeting in March 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, SWA partners recognized these five elements are the critical Building Blocks of a well-functioning WASH sector

Key documents and resources

policy institutional financing planning capacity


1. Sector Policy Strategy policy

  • Sector policies and strategies that identify sector goals and pathways, giving direction to sector investments
  • Strategies for implementation, including agreement on implementation models/sustainable service delivery approaches
  • Policies/strategies covering:

                          – All sub-sectors (urban, rural, drinking water and sanitation)

                          – Sub-national levels


2. Institutional Arrangements institutional

  • Identification and allocation of institutional roles and responsibilities, including decentralization commitments
  • Country-driven and inclusive coordination mechanisms that allow for participation of a broad range of stakeholders in dialogue, communication, and identification of mutual interest around service delivery and sector learning
  • Legal and regulatory frameworks to underpin the desired targets and reinforce roles and allocation of resources


3. Sector Financing financing

  • Medium-term expenditure framework which matches government priorities with available resources
  • Realistic and transparent sector budget with identifiable funding streams
  • Availability and use of data on financing streams including the 3Ts (taxes, tariffs and transfers) and comparable, realistic estimates for all sector cost categories for sustainable service deliver

4. Planning Monitoring and Review planning

  • Effective, inclusive and systematic planning, monitoring and evaluation of sector performance to ensure the most effective route to achieve goals
  • Mid- and longer-term review of sector performance through multi-stakeholder platforms and mechanisms for sector dialogue and learning
  • Clearly defined accountability mechanisms
  • Data transparency and public access to information

5. Capacity Development

Capacity building and development plans addressing: capacity

  • The capacity of institutions to fulfill sector roles and responsibilities for sustainable service delivery at scale, including the availability of necessary structures, tools, training, and incentives
  • The capacity of individuals to effectively engage in the sector through sector institutions or as educated consumers
  • The capacity of sector stakeholders to adapt and innovate by engaging in (collective) sector learning

The governments lead in – and are accountable for – ensuring that the Building Blocks are functioning and are given the necessary attention according to country priorities. SWA provides a platform for governments to coordinate support from development partners around the Building Blocks, as well as opportunities to learn and exchange with other governments around the world and among partners.


Integrating the Building Blocks and the Collaborative Behaviours into existing and ongoing national processes


 Based on eight country case studies, regional and global monitoring reports as well as learning from other sectors, SWA partners have identified Four Collaborative Behaviours that, if adopted by countries and their partners, can improve the way that they work together to improve the long-term sector performance needed to deliver sanitation, hygiene and water for all, everywhere and forever.

Various tools and mechanisms are available to integrate the Building Blocks and Collaborative Behaviours into existing and ongoing national processes:

How the Building Blocks and the Collaborative Behaviours mutually reinforce sector development 


The Collaborative Behaviours outline how partners need to work together in order to develop and strengthen the Building Blocks. Together they provide a common framework that SWA partners can use to catalyze joint action towards strong WASH systems. In simple terms, the Building Blocks are the ‘what’ of a well-functioning sector while the Collaborative Behaviours are the ‘how’ of developing and maintaining a well-functioning sector.