WASH Systems Glossary

Actor

Source: IRC

A stakeholder that directly or indirectly influences the WASH system, including specific individuals or organisations (e.g., water operators, health extension workers, water committees, nongovernmental organisations and government agencies) or international entities with less direct links to the local system.

Actors and Factors

Source: IRC

A complex network of human and non-human elements that make up a system.

Agenda for Change

Source: Agenda for Change Governance Framework

Agenda for Change is a collaboration of like-minded organizations that have adopted a set of common principles and approaches. We work collectively to advocate for, and support national and local governments in, strengthening the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) systems required to deliver universal, sustained access as outlined under Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Area-Wide Approach

Source: WaterAid

An area-wide approach focuses on the local administrative entity with the appropriate level of responsibility for the planning, delivery and operation of lasting, inclusive and universal WASH.

Bankable Projects

Source: IRC and water.org

Those which a financial institution deems to be within its tolerance for risk over the term of a financing intervention (e.g. loan).

Blended finance

Source: IRC and water.org

Defined by the OECD and WEF (2015) as “the strategic use of development finance and philanthropic funds to mobilize private capital flows to emerging and frontier markets.” According to Goksu et al. (2017), blended finance is the strategic use of public taxes, development grants and concessional loans to mobilise private capital flows to developing markets.

Bonds

Source: IRC and water.org

A debt instrument bought by investors. When buying a bond, an investor lends money to the borrowing entity (which can be a government, a municipality, or a corporation) for a defined period of time at a variable or a fixed interest rate (World Bank, 2015).

Boundary

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

The borders of the system, determined by the observer(s) that define where control action can be taken; a particular area of responsibility to achieve system purposes.

Building Blocks

Source: WaterAid

A term used to refer to the component parts of a well-functioning WASH system.

Building Blocks

Source: Agenda for Change

WASH service delivery takes place in a complex socio-technical system and includes sub-systems that can be applied at all administrative levels.

Agenda for Change building blocks

Building Blocks

Source: SSI

The conceptualisation of a WASH system into nine building blocks to reduce complexity to a manageable level.

Building Blocks

Source: IRC

Building blocks are the fundamental components that make up something larger and more complex, in this case the WASH system.

Capital Expenditure (CapEx)

Source: Agenda for Change Roadmap

The capital invested in constructing water facilities such as boreholes, pumps, reservoirs and pipes. It includes the first time the system is built, extension of the system, enhancement and augmentation. CapEx software includes one-off work with stakeholders prior to construction or implementation, extension, enhancement and augmentation.

Capital Maintenance Expenditure (CapManEx)

Source: Agenda for Change Roadmap

Expenditure on asset renewal, replacement and rehabilitation costs. Capital maintenance expenditure is typically more ‘lumpy’ than operational and minor maintenance, with infrequent but relatively large items of expenditure on large items (e.g. replacing generators, pumps of storage tanks or occasional emptying of latrines).

Collective Action

Source: Agenda for Change Governance Framework

Collective action is a means to an end and a way of achieving strong WASH systems, at all levels. It is based on the assumption that to achieve positive change in any complex system will require many independent actors and the incentives that drive them to align to produce different and more positive outcomes; in this case more sustainable, better and more universal WASH services. It does however have a more explicit and intentional focus on building coalitions, partnerships or movements that are dedicated to driving long lasting systems change. Such collective action can be established at local, national and global levels and indeed it is a core element of collective action to have “vertical” linkages and flows of interaction and learning between these levels, as well as “horizontal” interactions. Collective action involves different stakeholders, at times with differing opinions and perspectives, interacting and collaborating to address and solve common or shared challenges. Collective action should include all stakeholders or at least account for their perspective/position and usually includes a platform or mechanism for coordination and learning, sometimes referred to as a Learning Alliance supported by a hub or a backbone organization. Collective Impact is a branded version of collective action, which was developed by the US-based group FSG.

Commercial Finance

Source: IRC and water.org

Repayable finance (commonly a loan) with an interest rate determined by capital markets rather than by governments and other regulatory bodies. Commercial banks are the most common lenders of commercial financing. Commercial bank finance is less attractive than bonds as it typically has a shorter maturity (typically 5-10 years) and higher and more volatile interest.

Community

Source: Collective Impact Forum

A group of people living in the same place. You can define communities at different geographic scales: neighborhood, city, county, province, state, nation, or even internationally.

Community-Based Management

Source: Aguaconsult

The service delivery model where communities have been delegated responsibility to operate and manage water facilities. This option includes many variations from purely voluntary committees, to those with systematic support, to those outsourcing tasks to individuals and even private companies, but where the community retains governance and oversight.

Concessional Finance/Loans

Source: IRC and water.org

Loans with lower interest rates compared to loans available in the capital market. This type of loan comes with longer maturity periods than the ones offered by commercial loans and a grace period up to 10 years until the loan needs to start being paid back (IMF, 2003).

Connectivity

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

(Interrelationships): The relationships between components or elements (including subsystems) within a system based on factors such as influence and logical dependence.

Cost of Capital (Capital Costs)

Source: Agenda for Change Roadmap

Cost of borrowing or otherwise acquiring the resources to provide the assets needed for a service. This is made up of interest payments on debt and dividend payment to equity providers.

Cost of Capital (Capital Costs)

Source: IRC

The cost of financing a programme or project, taking into account loan repayments and the cost of tying up capital. In the case of private sector investment, the cost of capital will include an element distributed as dividends.

Credit Guarantees

Source: IRC and water.org

Encourage lending by reducing the losses a lender experiences when a borrower defaults or by reducing the risk of default on a loan. They are designed to give commercial lenders greater comfort in lending to new sectors and can encourage more lending, extend loan tenors, and reduce collateral requirements. Guarantees usually cover part of the risk (partial credit guarantee) and often require a fee and certain project requirements or commitments (WSP, 2015).

Credit Rating

Source: IRC and water.org

A formal assessment by an independent agency of a potential borrower’s relative creditworthiness that indicates the borrower’s ability, capacity, and willingness to repay its debt. A shadow rating is a non-public assessment rating that provides an internal estimate of what a company or company’s bond would be rated. Creditworthiness indexes depend only on ratio analysis to benchmark the financial strength and credit risk of the market players (WSP, 2015).

Development Cooperation Grants

Source: IRC and water.org

Financing of development projects and programmes by international organisations, NGOs, national and local governmental agencies and development banks with the purpose of promoting economic cooperation with developing countries (OECD, 2008).

District

Source: Agenda for Change Roadmap

The principal local government area where WASH services are planned and delivered. The name varies between countries (district, commune, county, municipality, prefecture) but describes in each case the administrative service area for WASH.

District-Wide Approach

Source: Agenda for Change Roadmap

The approach ensures a comprehensive plan for assessing need, planning and delivering WASH services and monitoring performance in such a way that no communities or people are excluded. It is an approach to ensure universal and sustained access to water, sanitation and good hygiene. It demands clear lines of responsibility, effective partnerships, sustainable financing arrangements and mechanisms for accountability.

Empowerment

Source: WaterAid

Measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. Empowerment as action refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognize and use their resources.

Enabling Environment

Source: UN Water

The set of interrelated conditions such as legal, governance and monitoring frameworks, political financing and human capital that are able to promote the delivery of WASH services.

Environment

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

That which is outside the system boundary and coupled with, or affects and is affected by, the behavior of the system; alternately, the “context” for a system of interest.

Expenditure on Direct Support (ExpDS)

Source: IRC

Expenditure on support to local-level service providers, users or user groups. The costs of ensuring that local government staff have the capacities and resources to carry out planning and monitoring, to help communities when systems break down, to audit community management structures, to monitor private sector performance, to carry out regular hygiene awareness raising and so on.

Expenditure on Indirect Support

Source: IRC

Expenditure on government macro-level planning and policymaking, developing and maintaining frameworks and institutional arrangements, capacity-building for professionals and technicians through university course, technical schools etc.

Factor

Source: IRC

A non-human element, aspect, or component of a system that directly or indirectly influences system functioning or outcomes. Together with actors, factors are part of the complex network of human and non-human elements that make up a system.

Finance

Source: IRC

Identifying the costs of service delivery, the sources of funding, the roles of different actors in providing finance, effective mechanisms for long-term financial procurement and channels for getting the money to where it is needed.

Financial Systems

Source: IRC

The mechanisms for forecasting and projecting the costs of WASH service delivery; for allocating responsibility for cost recovery; and for identifying and channeling finance to the sector.

Hygiene

Source: SSI

In the SDG definition, hygiene is subsumed under sanitation with a dedicated indicator referring to use / availability of a handwashing facility on premises with soap and water. Hygiene, however, includes a wider set of behaviours and measures that are able to reduce the burden of infectious diseases at home and in the community. It includes e.g. hand hygiene, personal hygiene, safe excreta disposal, ensuring safe water at the point-of-use, menstrual hygiene, general hygiene (laundry, surfaces, baths, sinks), food hygiene (cooking, storing, preventing cross-contamination), animal excreta management and solid waste management. In order to achieve better health outcomes, improved hygiene behaviours, cultural and social sensitivity, hygiene education, behaviour change and increased awareness at all levels of society are required.

Infrastructure

Source: IRC

The hardware that underpins the services and developing, maintaining and managing [them] over time. It is the essential physical component that actually delivers the service and comprises not only hardware but also the mechanisms and processes for developing new infrastructure and maintaining existing facilities.

Institutions

Source: IRC

The formal organizational arrangements in a country and its WASH sector; the capacity and resources that each organization has to perform its role, and the coordination mechanisms amongst the organizations.

Learning and Adaptation

Source: IRC

The face of change to maintain progress towards a vision. This presumes inclusive platforms for regular sharing of information and the use of data for critical analysis, with insights from multiple stakeholders, including civil society. The stakeholders then respond to the learning through adaptation, changing their policies and practices accordingly. They are willing to address failure and work with others to do things differently.

Leverage Point

Source: IRC

A conceptual place in a system where a small action or change can be expected to trigger a major shift.

Life Cycle Costs

Source: IRC

The disaggregated costs of ensuring the delivery of an adequate, equitable and sustainable WASH service level to a population in a specified area, including capital expenditure, operational and minor maintenance expenditure, capital maintenance expenditure, cost of capital, expenditure on direct support and expenditure on indirect support.

Monitoring

Source: IRC

The capture, management and dissemination of the information required to effectively manage WASH services at all levels. Monitoring is the basis for the information feedback loops that ensure effectiveness and allow adaptive change. It should be both systematic and reliable so that it is accepted by different sector actors and can be used for decision making.

Networks

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

An assemblage of entities in relationship, e.g., organisms in an ecosystem; networked entities may be totally parallel, embedded, or partially embedded (structurally intersected).

Perspective

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

A way of experiencing that is shaped by our current state and circumstances, as these are influenced by our unique personal and social histories, where experiencing is a cognitive act.

Planning

Source: IRC

The foundation for implementing policies to achieve universal access to sustainable services. Plans must include costs and details on financing and may involve multiple phases. WASH systems require three types of planning: strategic, annual, and project planning for infrastructure development.

Policy and Legislation

Source: IRC

Vision (policy) for the sector [that] determines the legal framework (legislation) for achieving that vision. To address the SDGs, national policy must identify targets for improving WASH services and then create the institutional arrangement and strategies to achieve these targets. Legislation needs to be linked to and supportive of policy and establish a clear framework for actors to interact in the WASH institutional setting.

Political Economy

Source: IRC

The driving forces and power dynamics within which a system operates. The term emphasises the fundamental link between politics and economics in determining what is possible in a given context. Of course, the political economy of a country is itself a system.

Political Economy Analysis

Source: WaterAid

An analytical approach to understand the underlying reasons — political, economic, social and cultural — for why things work the way they do. By helping identify the incentives, institutions and ideas that impact the behaviour of actors in a system, PEA supports a more politically informed approach to working.

Public Finance

Source: IRC and water.org

Refers to government finance which comprises expenditures of public entities including the central bank, taxes, public debt and borrowing at the national, regional and local level (districts and municipalities) (OECD, 2014).

Regulations and Accountability

Source: IRC

Formal regulatory mechanisms, enforcement processes and other mechanisms to hold decision makers, service providers and users to account and ensure that the interests of each group of actors are respected. Accountability goes beyond formal mechanisms to include the behavior of different actors and their obligations in civil society. Governments are accountable for their formal commitments under their signed human rights accords, which include a process of systematic follow-up and review of implementation.

Resources

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Elements (e.g., matter, energy, or information) that are available either within the system boundary or present outside the system in a manner the system can access and that enable a desired transformation.

Sanitation

Source: SSI

The targets under SDG 6 address sanitation beyond toilets, including aspects of safe excreta management and reuse. According to SDG definition, safely managed sanitation refers to the use of improved facilities (e.g. flush / pour flush to piped sewer systems, septic tanks, pit latrines, ventilated improved pits or composting toilets) that are not shared with other households and where excreta are safely disposed of in situ or transported and treated offsite, while basic sanitation refers to the use of improved facilities that are not shared. Sanitation facilities need to be continuously used with a sustained absence of OD and all facilities equipped with a handwashing facility (including evidence of use). Service delivery models range from self-supply and community managed to direct local government and utility managed, with different types of ownership (public, private, public-private). Key criteria for sanitation include accessibility, use, reliability and environmental protection.

Scale

Source: IRC

The temporal or spatial boundaries within which decisions are made. For example, a river basin, a country, a district and the coverage area of a water supply scheme are all different (and overlapping) spatial and administrative scales.

Scaling

Source: IRC

The horizontal or vertical expansion or application of an idea, programme, solution or concept.

Scheme

Source: IRC

A combination of facilities and their management. For examples, a water supply scheme may consist of pumps, pipes and taps managed by a board and an operator.

Sector

Source: WaterAid

The arena in which the collective endeavours of governments, donors, the private sector and civil society collaborate to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Sector

Source: Collective Impact Forum

A group of organizational actors that are similar in a society, e.g., philanthropy, business, government, nonprofits, etc.

Sector Strengthening

Source: Agenda for Change Governance Framework

Sector strengthening is a means to an end and is the process of improving the capability of national and local systems, led by government, to deliver sustained services for all segments of the population in accordance with agreed standards. A strong national WASH sector is one where all of the requisite constituent systems are in place to plan, finance, deliver, monitor and regulate WASH services, ensuring appropriate accountability mechanisms in place and to guarantee services for all. A strong national system is also one that is able to continually reflect, learn and innovate in response to sector evolution and external shocks.

Service Authorities

Source: WaterAid

The institution(s) with the legal mandate to ensure that water services are planned and delivered. Service authorities are usually, but not always, equated with local government, and not necessarily involved in direct service delivery themselves (although they may in some cases).

Service Authority

Source: IRC

The entity legally responsible for WASH services in a defined area. A service authority must ensure the quality of the service and the performance of the service provider; it may hold delegated functions of regulatory power.

Service Delivery Model

Source: Aguaconsult

The combination of management model at service delivery level (e.g., community-based organizations, private, public utility, etc.) and the necessary vertical legal, policy, institutional, regulatory and financing frameworks which support these management structures and allows them to function effectively.

Service Delivery Model

Source: IRC

The legal and institutional setup for the provision of WASH services. A service delivery model includes all links in the value chain, the method of provision, the end use of services and the level of service delivered. Examples include a community water supply, a utility’s sewerage service, and water kiosks managed by a small private provider.

Service Level

Source: IRC

The quality or standard of service, measured by criteria set by national standards and/or the norms for Sustainable Development Goal 6. The criteria for water include quantity, quality, reliability and accessibility; for sanitation, they are accessibility, use, reliability and environmental protection. service provider the entity responsible for day-to-day management of WASH services, including operation and maintenance.

Service Levels

Source: WaterAid

Definitions and agreed norms regarding expected service levels, typically expressed as minimum quantity, by quality parameters, and aspects such as reliability, accessibility and in some cases affordability.

Service Provider

Source: IRC

The entity responsible for the day-to-day management of WASH services, including operation and maintenance.

Service Providers

Source: WaterAid

The actor(s) (which could be an individual, community committee, local government, public utility or private operator) that is /are responsible for performing day-to-day operations of a rural water supply scheme or an aspect of the operation of the scheme.

Shadow Credit Rating

Source: IRC and water.org

An unofficial rating given to a bond or an issuing party by a credit agency, but without any public announcement of the rating. It can serve as a rough guide for issues or issuers that have not been formally rated by a credit agency.

Socio-Technical System

Source: IRC

Includes technical resources embedded in a social network, and/or social resources embedded in a technical system. For example, a water supply scheme has technical components (e.g. pumps and pipes) and social aspects (e.g. citizen demand, competing priorities of different users).

Stakeholders

Source: Collective Impact Forum

Individuals or organizations with the ability to influence the social issue. They may represent public, private, nonprofit, or philanthropic sectors, or the population targeted for change.

Sub-System

Source: IRC

A small system that is part of a larger system.

System

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

An integrated whole, distinguished by an observer, whose essential properties arise from the relationships among its parts; from the Greek word for “to place together.”

System

Source: Collective Impact Forum

The group of interdependent, interconnected, and interrelated actors and factors, both formal and informal, that comprise a complex social problem. No one person or organization has the ability to influence the entire system, but by working together, the group can move towards systems change.

System of Interest

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

The product of distinguishing a system in a situation in relation to an articulated purpose, in which an individual or a group has an interest (a stake); a constructed or formulated system of interest to one or more people, used in a process of inquiry.

System Strengthening

Source: WaterAid

Understanding that WASH exists in complex systems with many component parts and within different social, economic, political and environmental contexts. It involves identifying and working to address the barriers in behaviours, policies, processes, resources, interactions and institutions that block achievement of inclusive, lasting, universal access to WASH.

System Strengthening

Source: Agenda for Change Governance Framework

Part of taking a “systems approach” and is a means to an end. It involves taking actions and supporting interventions that are considered likely to strengthen one or more elements of a whole system – both the factors (technology, financing, regulation, coordination, service delivery, learning, accountability mechanisms, etc. ), as well as the capacity of actors and their inter-relationships (i.e., the political economy of decision – making, incentives and dynamics) that can improve the quality and sustainability of WASH services and in ensuring that all populations are served.

System Strengthening

Source: SSI

Taking actions and supporting interventions that are likely to strengthen one or more elements of a system, including systems’ actors and factors, as well as their inter-relationships (i.e., political economy of decision-making, incentives and dynamics) to improve the quality and sustainability of WASH services and to ensure that all populations are served.

Systemic Thinking

Source: Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Refers to the understanding of a phenomenon within the context of a larger whole; to understand things systemically is to put them in a context, to establish the nature of their relationships.

Systems Approach

Source: Agenda for Change Governance Framework

Modern societies are, by definition, made up of complex and interlinked systems of people, laws, political and financial institutions, private companies, technologies, markets all constantly interacting, both formally and informally and responding to different sets of incentives, sanctions and influences. This is how they work, and this is how they provide services to their citizens. This is as true for the water and sanitation “sector” and the services they deliver as any other part of a modern economy. A starting premise for taking a systems approach is the understanding that any given WASH System is a complex adaptive system. Adopting a “systems approach” therefore means recognizing and understanding that any strong national system for WASH service delivery will require all of the elements (factors to be in place and at all institutional levels and include different actors – from households and communities to local government and national ministries to private companies and aid agencies to politicians – being able to work together effectively and at scale.

Systems Change

Source: Agenda for Change Governance Framework

A variation – positive or negative – in the strength of factors (i.e., technology, financing, regulation, coordination, service delivery, learning, accountability mechanisms, etc.) and actors (i.e. the capacity of institutions, organizations and individuals) that make up a system. System change also reflects variations in the dynamics and inter – relationships among actors (i.e. improved access to information or participation in decision – making). There has been significant progress in our collective ability to measure systems change in the WASH sector in terms of factors and actors (“the what”), but much less progress in assessing changes in the dynamics among actors (“the how”). Systems strengthening is a deliberate effort to effect systems change, but systems change is a result of both intended and unintended changes within the WASH sector and the broader political economy.

Systems Change

Source: Co-Impact

Realigning the underlying relationships, functions, incentives, and motivations to a higher (outcome-focused) equilibrium such that millions of people experience meaningful and sustained improvements in their lives.

Systems Change

Source: London Funders

Addressing the root causes of social problems, which are often intractable and embedded in networks of cause and effect. It is an intentional process designed to fundamentally alter the components and structures that cause the system to behave in a certain way.

Systems Thinking

Source: IRC

Seeing and understanding systems as wholes, paying attention to the complex and dynamic interactions and interdependencies of its parts. Systems thinking is an alternative to reductionist approaches that focus on individual components of a system.

Systems Thinking

Source: WaterAid

An understanding of the complex, interconnected relationships which make up the system, and the incentives, ideas, norms, and power which sustain it.

Tariffs

Source: WaterAid

Funds contributed by users of WASH services for obtaining the services. In the OECD 3T typology, tariffs include two types of funding: Tariffs for services provided and households’ out of-pocket expenditure for self-supply.

Tariffs

Source: UN Water

Money paid by users of WASH services and payment in kind (the value of labour and material investments made by households who manage their own water supply).

Taxes

Source: WaterAid

Funds originating from domestic taxes which are channelled to the sector via transfers from all levels of government, including national, regional or local. Such funds would typically be provided as subsidies, for capital investment or operations. “Hidden” forms of subsidies may include tax rebates, concessionary loans (i.e. at a subsidised interest rate) or subsidised services (such as subsidised electricity).

Taxes

Source: UN Water

Funds from taxes that are channeled to the sector by the central, regional and local governments.

Transfers

Source: WaterAid

Funds from international donors and international charitable foundations (including NGOs, decentralised cooperation or local civil society organisations) that typically come from other countries. These funds can be contributed either in the form of grants, concessionary loans (i.e. through the grant element included in a concessionary loan, in the form of a subsidised interest rate or a grace period) or guarantees.

Transfers

Source: UN Water

Funds from international donors and charitable foundations, including grants and concessional loans, such as those given by the World Bank, which include a grant element in the form of subsidized interest rate or grace period.

Transformational Change

Source: WaterAid

The emergence of an entirely new state prompted by a shift in what is considered possible or necessary which results in a profoundly different structure, culture or level of performance.

WASH Service Level & Service Delivery Mechanisms

Source: SSI (Adapted from JMP 2017 & German WASH Network 2018)

WASH service level refers to the quality or standard of service, measured by criteria set by national standards and/or norms for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. With SDG 6, the global community has set targets to achieve universal and equitable access to ‘safely managed drinking water` (SDG 6.1) and ‘safely managed sanitation and hygiene’ for all (SDG 6.2), by 2030, while the poverty goal (SDG target 1.4) calls for universal access to ‘basic services’.

WASH System

Source: IRC

All the social, technical, institutional, environmental and financial factors, actors, motivations and interactions that influence WASH service delivery in a given context.

WASH System

Source: WaterAid

All the behaviours, policies, processes, resources, interactions and institutions necessary for delivery of inclusive, lasting, universal access to WASH.

Water Resource Management

Source: IRC

Refers to the coordination and control of how water is allocated to different sectors. A strong system includes methods or protocols for addressing conflicts and encouraging cooperation. Both the abstraction of freshwater and the disposal of used water should be controlled, managed, monitored and enforced.

Water Security

Source: UN Water

The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to an adequate quantity and acceptable quality of water to sustain livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development; ensure protection from water borne pollution and water related diseases; and preserve ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.

Water Supply

Source: SSI

According to the SDG definition, safely managed drinking water services refer to water from an improved water source (e.g. piped water, boreholes or tube wells, protected dug wells, springs, rainwater, and packaged or delivered water) that is located on premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination. Basic drinking water services in contrast refer to drinking water from an improved source, but with a collection time of not more than 30 minutes for a round trip, including queuing. Service delivery models range from self-supply and community managed to direct local government and utility managed, with different types of ownership (public, private, public-private). Key criteria for water supply include quantity, quality, reliability and accessibility.

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