Non-governmental Organisations Major Group - 2nd World Water Forum

Background paper for the workshop 'GOVERNANCE & PARTICIPATION

Institutions, Governance and Participation

Shailaja Annamraju - WaterAid

27-29 Albert Embankment, Prince Consort House, London SE1 7UE

The looming water crisis has been referred to by many as a crisis of governance and a lack of political will. Governance, in the water resources sense, could be defined as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of the water resource. While good governance is where the management of the resource yields equitable, transparent and accountable institutions.

This paper asserts that discussions around governance and integrated water resources management do not adequately recognise community management structures as an appropriate institutional scale for water resources management.

It is the contention of WaterAid if stakeholder participation is as critical to water resources management as it is claimed to be in the Framework for Action and World Water Vision, then capacity building should begin in partnerships at the community level.



Good governance has two objectives - one is encouraging greater transparency, accountability and administrative efficiency, the other related concern is with human rights and participation. Specifically, good governance is concerned with the appropriate scale for planning and management of the resource; defining the costs and charges to be included in pricing water; and the ownership of the process.

Appropriate level of resource planning and management

The World Water Vision acknowledges that a governance transformation "will always be necessary to proceed with a logically linked scheme of reformsmanagement of the resource should begin at the catchment level and move to that of the river basins." Stakeholder participation in integrated water resource lies at the heart of changes in governance structures.

Stakeholder participation and the involvement of communities in water resources management requires the emphasis of actions to shift to empowering communities to manage their own resources, for decisions on pricing water at an affordable level to be made with effective participation of the community especially to poorer sections, for farmers to understand the concept of more crop per drop, and for communities and farmers to understand the concept of demand management and conservation.

The community management structures for water and sanitation services and farmer associations are the structures where capacity building first needs to take place in logical sequence towards integrated water resources management. The complementary components of good governance of participation and human rights and accountability, transparency and administrative efficiency can only be achieved with communities in partnership.

Community level planning and management

WaterAid's experience of the provision of safe, drinking water and effective sanitation to the poor communities in 15 countries in Africa and Asia demonstrate that where the communities are in control of the decision-making over the services and facilities at all levels, of operations and maintenance, and of funds for repairs and spare parts results in a high level of empowerment and ownership, administrative efficiency, and sustainability of service.

Strong working examples of sustainable community management are visible in domestic water supply provision in the shape of water user associations. Inter-sectoral allocation by users is seen in the management of village tanks (ponds) or other local water sources used for domestic water, irrigation, and even livestock watering. There are also examples of inter-sectoral community management structures within catchments.

Advantages of community management structures include the potential flexibility to adapt water delivery patterns to meet local needs in an equitable manner both in terms of cost recovery and subsidies, to achieve administrative feasibility and sustainability, to balance gender representation and to obtain political acceptability as a resource allocation mechanism. Additionally, a central concept of community management is sustainability through ownership of the process. Ownership comes in partnerships with stakeholders, through community and involvement at every stage of the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation process.

Community management is also firmly based on a belief in participation and democracy. A culture of democratic governance will strongly influence the effectiveness of community participation and management in water resources management at the local level and at the catchment level.

Capacity Building and Institution building of community management structures

Community management requires community management structures with authority to make decisions on design, implementation and operations of a water or sanitation point. These institutions can develop spontaneously or get mobilised by an external catalyst, and can be strong enough to allocate water efficiently within appropriate conditions.

At present, many of these institutions can easily organise collectively for distributing the water amongst themselves and with increased knowledge and awareness can promote efficient use and create incentives for conservation and effective water resource management. Community management institutional structures such as water user associations could become both resource allocators as well as overall resource managers through institutional support building mechanisms.

Capacity building should focus on community mobilisation to increase ownership and empowerment, in institution building to organise community management structures and build alliances to engage in macro-level river basin management, and on increasing awareness and knowledge of ecosystems and water-use conservation for water resources management.

Capacity building through Partnerships

Capacity building and building appropriate community management structures for water resources management can only be achieved in partnerships; partnerships with local NGOs, local government and local communities. Partnerships utilise the inherent strengths of the different organisations in order to achieve a common goal: integrated water resource management at the community or catchment level, for example.

Partnerships in WaterAid's experience have been the pillar for sustainable projects where partnerships with local governments, local NGOs, local private sector, and local communities have recognised the comparative advantages and limitations of each of the organisations for providing safe water and effective sanitation.

Partnerships can only work in an environment of trust, long-termism, mutual understanding of the common objective and a recognition of each other's contributions to the partnership within a clear framework of each other's roles and responsibilities.

Only through partnerships, which promote capacity building and issues awareness, can one achieve the objectives of water resources management and the indicative targets for the sector:
promoting the involvement of communities and local governments in participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation
enhancing community bargaining power in water resource issues through organisation and representation
Maintaining water quality through source and ecosystem protection and improved use.
Promoting pricing mechanisms that are equitable and realistic.
Providing sustainable delivery of water and sanitation services.

If the starting point for governance of the water resource is in partnerships with communities and capacity building of community management structures, then more action oriented discussions need to take place to initiate mechanisms to involve communities in water resources management at community, or catchment level than that which has already taken place. The question remains how community management structures can effectively participate in decision-making and management of river basin management structures in achieving integrated water resources management?

The history of water sector development is replete with chains of complex solutions, the only solution lies in proper understanding and partnership between governments, local NGOs and the communities.