Embrace Water as Politics

The involvement of all stakeholders in a political process ensures representation and better decision making based on more complete information. Even though multi-stakeholder processes are inevitably messy and confusing, in the end they provide a stronger platform for success.

Embrace water as politics

Because everyone has an interest in water, water decisions are always political. Thus, decision making should incorporate political processes. Democratic legitimacy then replaces technocratic pretence. Conventional approaches to integrated water resource management have placed heavy emphasis on technical planning, with limited progress on implementation. 

WANI’s experience demonstrates that an ecosystem-based approach that gives priority to implementation creates social, economic, and environmental benefits that can gain political support for good water management.  Politicians begin to recognize that political goals of maintaining economic growth, developing wealth and sustainable livelihoods, and protecting the environment can be achieved through better management of water resources. 

Projects: Himal – Hindu Kush, Huong River Basin, Pangani River, Senegal River Basin

Stories from the field:

  • Mekong dialogues – IUCN stepped out of its conservationist role to sponsor a series of facilitated meetings for dialogues among governments, development banks, nongovernmental organizations, and citizen groups about the development of the Mekong River. Some actors reported changed thinking as a result.
  • Coordination of river basin management across multiple scales, sectors and stakeholders – Botswana’s Okavango Delta Management Plan tries a pilot project to put fisheries stakeholders in charge of managing the resource “for the Delta and by the Delta.” The plan needs to balance stakeholder interests while maintaining the resource.
  • Balancing urban and rural water needs in times of water stress – In the basin of southern Zimbabwe’s Umzingwane River, water users decide who gets allocations through a system of sub-catchment and catchment committees. Zimbabwe’s second largest city also draws from the river. The councils must decide on trade-offs between industry, agriculture, and domestic uses, even in the face of a drought.
  • Challenge and vision of river basin management in the Okavango Delta – Botswana’s 17,000 square kilometer Okavango Delta is a natual wonder –a refuge for wildlife , a tourist attraction, and a source of livlihood for its inhabitants. But upstream lie the countries of Angola and Namibia emerging from conflict and thirsty for development. The three countries have formed a Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (Okacom), under the banner of: “Three Countries, One River,”  that hopes not only to oversee fair distribution of water but also to maintain the ecosystem of the river and the delta.

Related WANI Toolkits:

FLOW: Chapter 6 - Generating Political Momentum, Chapter 7 - Building capacity for Design and Implementation
NEGOTIATE: All chapters
PAY: Chapter 4 - Roadmap towards Agreement
RULE: All chapters
SHARE: All chapters
VALUE: Chapter 3 - Valuing Ecosystems as Water Infrastructure, Chapter 4 - Using Ecosystem Values in Water Decisions, Chapter 5 - Moving from Case Studies to Standard Practice