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Building river dialogue and governance

Posted by Patrick MacQuarrie on Tuesday, February 26 2013 06:41

Water governance demonstrations catalyse solutions for transboundary cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters.

Effective water management can bridge gaps between communities and between countries to forge agreements which protect and work sustainably with ecosystems. This depends on good water governance and the capacity of national policies, laws and the institutions respectively. It is therefore necessary to build up each of these components to enable water governance at the national, regional and local levels. National policies must be linked to a clear vision and strategic planning which is consolidated and supported by water law. Building a sound institutional mechanism is crucial to good water governance. Effectiveness over time comes from ensuring that policy continues to be updated and are dynamic to respond to changing socio-economic and environmental changes.

Good water governance is when a society can implement effective water management through transparent, coherent and cost-efficient policy, law and institutions.Water governance sets the ‘rules of the game’ for the way water is managed. It determines how, or whether, sustainable water resource management is implemented. Good water governance contains fundamental elements of policy, laws and institutions in a country or, in transboundary basins, among the countries sharing waters. Poor water governance, on the other hand, often is lacking effective policies, is based on fragmented and non-existent water law, and depends on weak institutions resulting in degradation and over-allocation of water resources, is a cause of vulnerability for poor people and leads to weaker and less resilient livelihoods. This can also impact on wider economic development and growth. A brief is now available on this platform providing access to learning resources that enable mobilising elements of policy, legal and institutional reform to the processes relevant of GEF IW Projects such as the establishment or capacity building of inter-ministerial committees and river basin commissions.

‘Water Governance Capacity’ is how well a society is able to implement good water governance and it is most effective where stakeholders participate and coordinate across local to national and transboundary levels. Implementation of international agreements is generally defined as the activities a state undertakes to fulfil its obligations and to achieve goals and objectives of the treaty, i.e., transposing agreements into national law, establishing appropriate institutions and enforcing compliance of treaty provisions. But implementation is more than simply proclaiming principles and rules. Effective implementation requires real commitment from governments and stakeholders and the technical and operational capacity to translate policy into action while developing operational modalities and adapting to changing circumstances. Water governance capacity requires that knowledge and participation be the cornerstones of implementation process. They help clarify goals, enhance effectiveness, manage potential conflicts and promote cooperative transboundary water management. Moreover, they build trust, ownership and common understanding among stakeholders thus forming the foundation of sustainable water institutions that are crucial for good water governance and effective water resource management.

In practical terms, building Water Governance Capacity takes place through integration of: i) consensus building in multi-stakeholder dialogues and forums; ii) learning, capacity building and knowledge exchange among decision-makers and stakeholders; iii) support for national policy, legal and institutional reforms; iv) demonstration of tangible benefits for local, national or river basin level priorities for development; and v) support for confidence building, cooperation, dialogue and agreements among countries sharing transboundary basins, or hydrodiplomacy. Using this framework, IUCN’s BRIDGE project specially works to enhance water governance capacity in several transboundary basins in three continents. Additionally, the Water Law and Governance Support Platform has been launched to provide legal expertise and support on water governance issues in transboundary contexts whenever specific questions and needs arise throughout the learning and implementation cycle of water governance projects thereby enhancing technical water governance capacity.

IUCN has learned from experience that water governance capacity is created through a clear set of coherent water policies, established water laws, effective water institutions, and sustainable implementation of projects at multiples scales. The strategy reflects this by focusing on demonstration projects in selected basins, clear and user-friendly training that builds technical knowledge and skills, effective dialogue that creates opportunities for change, leadership development to support water diplomacy in transboundary cooperation, and support facilities that provide expert advice, guidance, and tools to enhance, promote, and communicate transboundary water governance principles at local, national, regional, and global levels. Effective governance can only be realized if the capacities are in place, through which hydrodiplomacy can operate. Hydrodiplomacy in BRIDGE has evolved into a multi-level concept that includes not only agreements at the diplomatic level, but also those at the water-user level. Therefore, hydrodiplomacy promotes multi-stakeholder, multi-level agreements on water resource management thereby strengthening water governance and promoting greater water cooperation in transboundary basins. This is the crux of BRIDGE’s strategy and is achieving results.

More on hydrodiplomacy and BRIDGE results in a later blog this year on the occasion of the International Year of Water Cooperation!


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