Efficient, equitable and sustainable water management is essential for social equity, economic development and the avoidance of political unrest. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has worked with 80+ partner organizations across the world to develop water management partnerships through its Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) with the aim of helping organizations improve water governance programs. IUCN has developed a tool kit that consists of several documents that:
- support learning on how to mainstream an ecosystems approach in water resource management;
- are aimed at practitioners, policy-makers and students from NGOs, governments and academia; and
- build on practical case studies to show how key principles of sustainable water management are implemented in river basins.
The first WANI toolkit document that I would like to discuss is Rule: Reforming Water Governance. It discusses and presents the benefits of the following principles of good water governance:
- depends on political will and government's capacity to develop, maintain and enforce its governance program,
- needs policies, laws, institutions, regulations and enforcement mechanisms, and
- should be built on the process principles of: transparency, certainty, accountability and public participation.
A government's ability to create and implement an effective water governance program depends on its capacity to do so. It must have strong leadership from authoritative bodies, adequate resources, established mechanisms (e.g. judicial process, incentives) and allow for continuous improvement as the needs, beneficiaries and other conditions change over time.
A policy is a living blue print that sets forth it purpose, vision, scope and the responsibilities and rights of the policy's stewards and beneficiaries. To support the policy, laws should be developed to create predictability and flexibility with respect to regional boundaries, stakeholders, and implementing mechanisms - whether penalties and incentives. These elements should be develop transparently and should promote inclusion of key stakeholders such as water users and community members. The legal framework should provide clear direction on requirements or expectations and ensure accountability among responsible parties.
Water is best governed at the watershed level but must also align with national and regional frameworks while still protecting the rights of individual beneficiaries.
Rule: Reforming Water Governance identifies international treaties and types of water policy arrangements (e.g. authoritative, pluralistic-liberal, decentralized-communitarian) as well as discuss basic principles of good water governance and how they work together to work within different realities and settings. It presents case studies to illustrate how water governance capacity, policies, laws, institutions and mechanisms (regulations contracts, etc.) work together and can be adjusted to become effective in different realities.