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Relationships between water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service delivery and peace-building and state-building: a review of the literature

Working paper

Written by Nathaniel Mason

Working paper

This literature review explores the potential contribution of water, sanitation and hygiene service delivery towards peace-building and state-building in conflict-affected and fragile states.

The review considers how different service delivery modalities – namely who delivers what services, for whom, and how – can help or hinder state-building and peace-building goals.

The review is the first output of a research project conducted by the Overseas Development Institute on behalf of Tearfund with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The project seeks to enhance the evidence base with case studies from the field in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The links between service delivery and peace- and state-building are increasingly  asserted by major donors and intergovernmental agencies, including DFID, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the World Bank. A reciprocal relationship with services is commonly assumed: among their many negative impacts, conflict and fragility disrupt services. Reinstating them, in the right way, can enhance the prospects for peaceful, stable societies and states.

A number of routes are identified for services to contribute to peace- and state-building. The causal pathways are recognised to be highly complex, but links are often asserted on the basis of common-sense or a limited number of case studies.

The scarcity of evidence intensifies when moving from generalities about service delivery, to the particular contribution of social services (understood for this review to include health, education and WASH) and then again, in moving from social services to WASH in isolation.

This review therefore investigates the underlying concepts and theory, maps the links as they are asserted in the literature, and considers the extent of empirical evidence for each –as a first step towards constructing a conceptual framework for the case study research.

Nathaniel Mason