Thematic Scope: Water Cooperation – building partnerships
2013 has by the UN General Assembly been declared the "International Year of Water Cooperation". The questions to be addressed in 2013 include: why do we need to cooperate, on what, for what aim, at what level, with whom and, not least, how?
With an expected world population of more than 9 billion people by 2050, basically depending on the same finite and vulnerable water resource as today for sustaining life and wellbeing, our inter-dependence is growing every day. In 2015 we shall take stock of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and a process of developing a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has been initiated as an outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, "Rio +20", in June 2012. The Rio +20 outcome document clearly states water as one key area for achieving sustainable development and thus on important part of the upcoming SGDs and post 2015 development framework.
We need to understand how 'my water use' effect everybody else's, and enter into meaningful and informed dialogues with other people and communities of practice, inside and outside the "water box", engaged in using, or wasting or polluting, our common and shared water resource. In this endeavour we need to engage with groups of people who can help us understand the very essence of cooperation: what is cooperation? What drives people, states and organisations to "cooperate" rather than "defect"? What determines the direct and indirect reciprocities that make us cooperate, and the mechanisms of selection of those with whom we want to do so? And how do we identify and measure the quality, aim, benefits and barriers to cooperation, and create an enabling environment for cooperation? How can more effective cooperation enable us to reach future-oriented decisions and force implementation, and how can we best build partnerships among actors to achieve common goals?
In the following thematic scope of the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm in is formulated from the perspective of the "what's and who's"; but in developing the workshops, seminars and other events the "how" questions must be central. Each workshop will also review the progress made in water cooperation.
Perspectives for building partnerships, advance future water cooperation and find solutions to the world’s water related challenges will be explored.
Cooperation between actors in different sectors - optimising benefits to water
Cooperation between actors in different sectors is essential for proper water development and management, and water managers need to reach out and work closely with actors in most of sectors of society. Water as an important driver of economic and social development needs to be addressed by people both 'inside and outside of the water box'.
With renewed global focus on the 'green economy', and the challenge of meeting the sharply increasing food and energy demands, the need to address water, energy and food security as a particularly important 'nexus' has been highlighted. This calls for increased cooperation between these fields, with an ecosystems services perspective, sharing water benefits, costs and risks, and cooperating with the stakeholders concerned. A shared understanding and analysis of the economic and financing aspects is a prerequisite for meaningful cooperation.
Ensuring adequate domestic water supply and sanitation, not least in the rapidly growing urban centres, and satisfying the need of other strongly water dependent sectors, such as industry, tourism/recreation and transport, also calls for cross-sectoral collaboration.
Cooperation between stakeholder groups - recognising water as a common good
The right to safe drinking water and sanitation has been recognised as a human right by the UN; for all other uses government has a responsibility to ensure the optimum allocation and management of the water resource for the whole of society. This calls for the involvement of all relevant stakeholder groups, and for getting central and local governments, civil society organisations, private sector, academia and practitioners to the same table.
Taking this involvement 'outside the water box' to a broader group of stakeholders requires working with all actors in the supply chain, referred to as 'field-to-fork', 'field-to-fuel tank', 'cradle-to-grave' etc.
In this process, involvement of civil society organisations, and the general public, is not only a question of information; transparency and inclusiveness in decision-making requires early identification, consultation and involvement of those who will share the benefits, those who 'lose', bear the costs and run the risks. In this context it is important to recognise that cooperation needs to involve all people and cultures, ensure gender equality, work with and build on youth as the foundation of our future, and respect cultural values while bridging to ethnic and tribal groups.
An increasingly important stakeholder group for effective water development and management is the private sector. This includes both large-scale and small-scale enterprises for whom safe access to water, and water efficient production, is important in the face of the challenges of increased water scarcity. Private infrastructure investors and developers share similar concerns, and are faced with increasing demands for achieving environmental and social sustainability of infrastructure developments. Effective public-private-civic partnerships to ensure dialogue, and share benefits, costs and risks, are critical to make this work.
Water is a local resource, but cooperation on water also needs to be global. Enhancing the 'north-south' and 'south-south' cooperation between high income, transitional and low income regions and countries is a continuous challenge. However, the traditional divides between 'north' and 'south' are rapidly changing in a globalising world, and so are the mechanisms of cooperation.
Cooperation across traditional management - from hilltop to ocean
Managing water means different things to different 'water communities': freshwater resources management, often divided into specialties around rivers, lakes, groundwater and glaciers; drinking water and sanitation management; wastewater management; coastal zone management etc. These communities again divide into different communities around the purpose of water development and management, such as different economic use sectors; ecosystems and habitats; climate change, disasters etc. Although all of these communities address water as a vital resource for society, they often live separate lives without much communication between them. Bridging these management divides is a major water cooperation challenge to achieve coherence in policies and practices.
Many such relevant 'management communities' could be mentioned, but some of the more obvious relate to land, ecosystems and oceans, as well as to the linkages to climate change and disaster risk reduction. Land management is critical to water management: managing water with the land from 'green' to 'blue' and 'grey' water, and managing land rights and tenure, land use and management, and land acquisition, as key determinants to water governance. Although the concept of integrated water resources management (IWRM) explicitly mentions the land-water
linkage, in practice it is often forgotten.
The outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development "Rio +20" states the need to "significantly reduce water pollution" and "significantly improve wastewater treatment". These long neglected issues require significant intersectoral cooperation to address the serious backlog that exists.
Similarly, in a world with increased competition for scarce water, maintaining and developing ecosystem integrity and functions are critical. Ecosystem services for human livelihoods and biodiversity, integrating IWRM and ecosystem approaches, along with environmental flows, strategic environmental assessment (SEA) etc. are all important aspects to include. Relevant ecosystems to water management are terrestrial and aquatic. The continuum of water management from 'hilltop-to-ocean (H2O)', or 'ridge-to-reef', does not always receive the attention required. Bridging the freshwater-coastal-ocean management divide, reconciling and coordinating IWRM and integrated coastal zone management (ICM), is still a major challenge.
Mainstreaming water and disaster management, from 'prevention to cure', learning from the relief phases to establish cooperation for prevention, including through integrated flood management (IFM), integrated drought management (IDM) and coastal flooding preparedness (hurricanes, tsunamis etc.) calls for the two traditionally rather separate communities to come together. Although water related disasters have always been with us, and always will be, indications are that climate change may accelerate both the frequencies and severity of disasters. Considering and mainstreaming climate change mitigation and adaptation is an added dimension of good water governance. This calls for bridging the 'water-climate community' divide, and building water-energy alliances for improved synergies between adaptation and mitigation.
Cooperation between jurisdictions and levels - from village to transboundary basin
Water follows its own hydrologic boundaries, and implementing IWRM principles in practice needs to focus at the basin level by bridging administrative boundaries (districts, municipalities/cities, provinces, states), involving all relevant stakeholder groups, while respecting overall policies, strategies and laws set at the national level. This involves a combination of top-down and bottom-up processes, practicing IWRM thinking in water governance from small watersheds, through sub-basins to basins/tributaries to transboundary basins (rivers, lakes, aquifers), and building sustainable institutions at all levels to do so.
When basins transcend jurisdictional boundaries and become 'transboundary', be they between provinces, states or countries, political dimensions enter into the equation. Managing transboundary waters often start at the technical/scientific level, before moving into political cooperation, and thus 'hydro-diplomacy', with dialogues on the sharing of water and water-related benefits and products, such as food and energy, across boundaries. Evidence suggests that through proper management water can become an economic win-win agent and a 'lubricant of peace'.
Cooperation between jurisdictions and levels calls for collective action and stakeholder negotiations with proper tools and processes to make cooperation actually happen. Such processes need to recognise power perspectives and asymmetries, and the risk of 'hijacking'. This does not always come easily, and the equitability and quality of cooperation, as well as barriers in the form of e.g. corruption and exclusion, are important to consider.
Cooperation between scientists and users - bridging the science-policy gap
Knowledge must be shared based on context and needs of those involved, to develop evidence-based policy, make decisions and raise awareness. Science-policy gaps are common, often with too much "science-push" and insufficient attention to "policy pull".
To respond to the challenge of communicating research findings to decision-makers and practitioners, and ensure the science community responds to policy needs, entails understanding of the latest thinking and understanding of practical solutions to the various obstacles that can impede knowledge sharing and application. This calls for informed dialogue, based on inclusiveness, transparency and access to relevant data and information. Making science relevant to policy-makers, bureaucrats, practitioners, and not least to the public, is a major challenge, as is the clarification by decision-makers of the kind of answers they need from science. From basic to applied science, from short-term solutions to long-term visions, the challenge is to clearly communicate technical and scientific findings to decision-makers and practitioners, 'from bookshelf to policy', from 'models to decision support systems'.
The chain starts with education to form the scientists and politicians that will close this gap in the future, and ends with the development and implementation of policies that will change our behaviour towards a more sustainable world of water.
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