IUCN supported reform of water governance needed for equitable water resources development that integrates ecosystem services and drives implementation of IWRM. At community, basin, national and transboundary level, multi-stakeholder platforms empower stakeholders to agree on rights, roles and responsibilities, and to negotiate effective water policies, laws and institutions.
Poor water governance results in degradation and often the over-allocation of water resources. Poor water governance can result in increasing the water vulnerability of poor people and leads to weaker and less resilient livelihoods. This can also impact on wider economic growth. Good water governance is when a society can implement effective water management through transparent, coherent and cost efficient policy, law and institutions. Building reform strategies around water governance capacity ensures that changes in policy, law and institutions are coordinated, internally consistent and able to catalyse progress on safe water supply and sanitation, implementation of IWRM, and a transition to sustainable water management. Transformation of water policy and management comes from consensus building in multi-stakeholder platforms.
In El Salvador, micro-watershed councils negotiated management plans that resulted in coordination of local priorities for social and economic development with watershed management for the first time. This was made possible by giving legal status to watershed committees that in turn enabled management of projects and mobilised funding. The creation of the Cara Sucia - San Pedro Basin Association provided the interested actors of this watershed with a coordination mechanism to meet and make water management decisions.
In the Guatemalan Department of San Marcos , government agencies and nongovernmental organizations connected by the theme of natural resources management joined forces to develop an inter-institutional coordination entity (CORNASAM). The main purpose was to establish a framework for utilising micro-watersheds as the unit for planning and common action. Water resources management and disaster planning are now integrated through joint plans and projects that span the jurisdiction of the three watershed member commissions.
East and Southern Africa
In Botswana, the Okavango Delta Management Plan used stakeholder participation to build consensus among groups who would otherwise compete for control of the Delta’s resources. Widespread ownership by stakeholders led to adoption of the management plan into national economic planning and created a precedent for the entire Okavango River. Stakeholder groups at the district level could identify themselves with the management plan for the Delta owing to the appointment of community focal persons for local representation.
In the Pangani Basin (Tanzania), conflict has been resolved as pastoralists and farmers were helped in negotiating access to water for their cattle. Water Users Associations at upstream and downstream sites were formed alongside apex associations that were already bringing stakeholders together. Additionally, IUCN supported formation and operationalisation of the Lake Tanganyika Management Authority amongst Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia.
In the Mekong, region-wide and national dialogues were convened to help build multi-stakeholder participation in water decisions. In a region used to centralised decision making over water, civil society, governments, the Mekong River Commission and multi-lateral development banks joined to review strategies for hydropower and water resources development. The process built understanding of rights and responsibilities and increased stakeholder consultation.
In the Volta River Basin, new, multi-stakeholder institutions formed to coordinate transboundary IWRM at sub-basin, national and basin-wide scales. At the community level, participation and inclusion of marginalised groups such as women and migrant farmers was instrumental to sharing prioritisation of problems and immediate needs such as the lack of potable water with local government administrations.
Transboundary community forums led to resolution of local water conflicts across the Ghana-Burkina Faso border and resulted in the negotiation of a transboundary Code of Conduct. WANI supported the agreement by all six Volta-basin states of a Water Charter to guide the newly-formed Volta Basin Authority. These successes were mirrored in the Komadugu Yobe River (Nigeria) in the Lake Chad Basin, where a Water Charter was negotiated among water users.
Water policies and laws should enable transparent definition of rights, roles and responsibilities, including sufficient allocation of water to sustain healthy ecosystems. Multi-stakeholder platforms help to build consensus and to coordinate water resources development and ecosystem management, encouraging benefit sharing at local, basin, national and transboundary levels.