The Politics of Assessment: Water and Sanitation MDGs in the Middle East
Neda Zawahri, Jeannie Sowers and Erika Weinthal
Development and Change
42(5): 1153–1177.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is generally considered to be making adequate progress towards meeting Target 10 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which calls for halving the proportion of the population with inadequate access to drinking water and sanitation. Progress towards achieving Target10 is evaluated by the Joint Monitoring Programme(JMP), run by UNICEF and WHO. This article shows that the assessment methodologies employed by the JMP significantly overstate coverage rates in the drinking water and sanitation sectors, by overlooking and ‘not count-ing’ problems of access, affordability, quality of service and pollution. The authors show that states in MENA often fail to provide safe drinking water and adequate sanitation services, particularly in densely populated informal settlements, and that many centralized water and sanitation infrastructures contribute to water pollution and contamination. Despite the glaring gap between the MDG statistics and the evidence available from national and local reports, exclusionary political regimes in the region have had few incentives to adopt more accurate assessments and improve the quality of service. While international organizations have proposed some reforms, they too lack incentives to employ adequate measures that gauge access, quality and affordability of drinking water and sanitation service.