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To Prof. Niels Röling, the Daddy of all things multi-stakeholder
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for
Integrated Water Management

Edited by
Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands
© Jeroen Warner 2007

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording
or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.

Jeroen Warner has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to
be identified as the editor of this work.

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Multi-stakeholder platforms for integrated water
management. – (Ashgate studies in environmental policy and
1. Integrated water development – Decision-making 2. Water
resources development – Decision making
3. Interprofessional relations 4. Group decision making
I. Warner, Jeroen

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Multi-stakeholder platforms for integrated water management / edited by Jeroen Warner.
p. cm. -- (Ashgate studies in environmental policy and practice)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-7546-7065-0
1. Water-supply--Management. 2. Integrated water development. 3. Water-supply--
Management--International cooperation. 4. Sustainable development. 5. Environmental
policy. I. Warner, Jeroen

TD353.M83 2007

ISBN 978-0-7546-7065-0

Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall.

List of Figures vii

List of Tables ix
Notes on Contributors xi
Preface xv

1. The Beauty of the Beast: Multi-Stakeholder Participation for

Integrated Catchment Management 1
Jeroen Warner

2. The Nature of the Beast: Towards a Comparative MSP Typology 21

Jeroen Warner and Annemiek Verhallen

3. Collaborative Capital: A Key to the Successful Practice of Integrated

Water Resources Management 31
Nigel Watson

4. Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs: Pulling in

Different Directions? 49
Bruce Mitchell

5. Contrasting UK Experiences with Participatory Approaches to

Integrated River Basin Management 69
Malcolm Newson

6. Århus Convention in Practice: Access to Information and Decision-

making in a Pilot Planning Process for a Flemish River Basin 95
Annemiek Verhallen

7. The International Zwin Commission: The Beauty of a Mayfly? 111

Leo Santbergen

8. Participating in Watershed Management: Policy and Practice in the

Trahunco Watershed, Argentinean Patagonia 125
Alejandra Moreyra and Jeroen Warner

9. ‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 137

María Teresa Oré
vi Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
10. Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Surface and Groundwater
Management in the Lerma-Chapala Basin, Mexico 151
Philippus Wester, Jaime Hoogesteger van Dijk and Hans Paters

11. Less Tension, Limited Decision: A Multi-Stakeholder Platform to

Review a Contested Sanitation Project in Tiquipaya, Bolivia 165
Nicolas Faysse, Vladimir Cossío, Franz Quiroz, Raúl Ampuero
and Bernardo Paz

12. Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 191

Eliab Simpungwe, Pieter Waalewijn and Bert Raven

13. Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs – Unfulfilled Potential 205

John Dore

14. Against the Conventional Wisdom: Why Sector Reallocation of Water

and Multi-Stakeholder Platforms Do Not Take Place in Uzbekistan 235
Kai Wegerich

15. Unpacking Participatory NRM: Distinguishing Resource Capture

from Democratic Governance 245
Bruce Currie-Alder

16. Towards Evaluating MSPs for Integrated Catchment Management 259

Annemiek Verhallen, Jeroen Warner and Leo Santbergen

Index 273
List of Figures

2.1 Nine dimensions of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) 24

3.1 Goals and means 35

3.2 The Fraser Basin 40
3.3 Fraser Basin Council organigram 42

5.1 Sustainable river basin management, assisted by political debate,

ecological knowledge, economic assessment and public participation 70
5.2 Location map for the four North-east England catchments to
which environmental capital approaches have been applied 77
5.3 Quality of Life Capital attributes and scales of importance in
Upper Wharfedale 78

6.1 The links between data, capta, information and knowledge 98

6.2 Eight steps in interactive decision-making 100

7.1 The Zwin scenic area and its surroundings 116

10.1 Location and topography of the Lerma-Chapala Basin 153

10.2 The Lerma-Chapala River Basin Council 155

11.1 Activities of the facilitator for the design and facilitation of an MSP 166
11.2 Main points to be considered for the design of an MSP 170
11.3 The valley area of Tiquipaya 174

12.1 Water management areas in South Africa 193

13.1 Mekong Region 207

13.2 Key concepts of MSPs 211

15.1 Envisioning participatory NRM 256

16.1 Four negotiation strategies 265

16.2 Four problem types, with the strategy to tackle them 266
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List of Tables


5.1 The QoLC matrix of attributes used to guide the Upper

Wharfedale Best Practice Project 80
5.2 Steps involving public participation, worked around QoLC
assessments in the Upper Wharfedale Best Practice Project 82
5.3 The Quality of Life Capital for Coquetdale – results of initial
survey of community members, indicating their perception of
priorities 86
5.4 Comparative elements of the UWBPP and the Upper Coquetdale
applications of QoLC assessment techniques 88

7.1 Negotiation rounds of the International Zwin Commission

(1939–2004) 112
7.2 Arena composition International Zwin Commission in Round VII
(2001–2004) 117
7.3 MSP assessment dimensions in the international Zwin arena
(1939–2004) 122
7.4 Additional MSP assessment dimensions in the international Zwin
arena (1939–2004) 123

11.1 Possible design objectives of an MSP 167

11.2 Objectives of the facilitator in designing and facilitating the
Technical Roundtable 175

13 1 Mekong Region country overview 208

13.2 Major river basins of the Mekong Region 210
13.3 Desirable MSP characteristics 212
13.4 Governance forums – Tracks 1–4 214
13.5 Recent regional water-related governance forums (Tracks 1–2) 218
13.6 Recent regional water-related governance forums (Tracks 3–4) 222

14.1 Amu Darya distribution limits and actual utilization 237

15.1 Unpacking participatory NRM 254

15.2 Evaluating participatory NRM processes 255

16.1 Revised assessment dimensions and their main indicators 268

x Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
16.2 Three MSP models based on the dominant approach of the
content and the process of the deliberations in the platforms 269


13.1 Recent civil society-led local/national MSPs 220

15.1 Shared objectives 248

Notes on Contributors

Bruce Currie-Alder currently works with Canada’s International Development

Research Centre and maintains a research interest in multi-stakeholder processes
for water governance in Latin America. His past experience includes working
with the China National Petroleum Corporation, studying Mexican policies and
institutions for participatory park management, and assessing the impacts of oil
development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Email: curriealder@gmail.com.

John Dore is the Director of M-POWER water governance network which

implements the Mekong Program On Water Environment and Resilience. Much of
his recent work at the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Chiang Mai University
and Australian National University has focused on water and energy politics
across Asia. He is very interested in coordinating high quality transboundary
research, integrated water resources management (IWRM) which takes ecosystem
and livelihoods issues seriously, supporting multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs)
for social learning and negotiation, the changing political economy of the energy
industry, and testing the rationales and decision-making processes for large water
resources development projects.

Nicolas Faysse is an economist, and currently works with CIRAD in Montpellier.

He studied water management institutions in France, Tunis, South Africa and
Bolivia, especially on issues of coordination, power inequities, and tools to support
multi-stakeholder processes. He has published on the management of common-pool
resources and water resource management in South Africa. From 2004 to 2006, he
worked in Bolivia within the Negowat programme.
About his co-authors: Vladimir Cossío is an agronomist. He holds an MsC from
the Wageningen University. He studied community management of irrigation systems
in Bolivia. Bernardo Paz, also an agronomist, worked on the reform of university
in Bolivia, the production of quinoa and multi agent modelling. Franz Quiroz is an
economist. He studied water supply and sanitation organization in Cochabamba and
its peri-urban areas. Raúl Ampuero is an Agronomist and holds an MsC from the
Wageningen University. He worked on water quality and waste water reuse in peri-
urban areas of Bolivia.

Bruce Mitchell is Professor of Geography and Associate Provost, Academic and

Student Affairs at the University of Waterloo. His research specialization is the
institutional and policy aspects of water management, and integrated water resource
management. Professor Mitchell has written/edited 25 books and over 135 articles.
He has received the Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography from the Canadian
xii Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Association of Geographers, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian
Water Resources Association. He is Concurrent Professor at Nanjing University and
Honorary Professor at the Dalian University of Technology, both in China. He is
a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Fellow of the International Water
Resources Association.

Alejandra Moreyra of Buenos Aires has a background in forestry and 20 years

of practical experience in consultancy, research, organization and facilitation of
workshops and training courses for NGOs, government projects and international
organizations and universities. She has worked in a wide range of settings within
Argentina, as well as Costa Rica, Bolivia and Chile Her current PhD project at
Wageningen University concerns watershed management policy issues in Patagonia,
Argentina. Email: alemoreyra@gmail.com

Malcolm Newson, a hydrologist and geomorphologist by training, is Professor

of Physical Geography at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. After 25
years of conventional scientific research in these two fields he began to research
and write about the necessary concepts and techniques for the delivery of
sustainable development in river basins. His book Land, Water and Development
(Routledge: 1992, 1997) promoted considerable international interest in strategic
concepts vital to river basin planning and management. With colleagues in the
University’s Planning Department, he became the sole independent reviewer of
NRA’s Catchment Management Plans, taking the Wesley Dougill Prize for their
paper in Town Planning Review, 1994. In the last five years he has turned his
attention to more practical management techniques which secure stakeholder
participation, especially in ‘best practice’ projects for catchment-scale land use
and land management. He played a leading role in the application of ‘natural
capital’ approaches in the recent EU-supported Upper Wharfedale Best Practice
Project, the Northumbrian Rivers Project and the Team Revival Project. Email:

María Teresa Oré has a MSc in sociology. Based in Lima, she is currently
researching water management in Perú, Ecuador and Bolivia in peasants comunities
and indigenous settlements. She published articles and two books on irrigation in
Perú, such as: Riego y Organización (ITDG, 1992) and Agua, Bien Comun y Usos
Privados. Riego, Estado y Conflictos en La Achirana del Inca, Catholic University
of Perú, Wageningen University and WALIR Program, 2005. Email: teresaore@

Leo Santbergen is senior policy advisor at the ‘Brabantse Delta’ water management
board, West Netherlands. He took his MSc in Biology specializing in aquatic ecology
and nature conservation at Wageningen University in 1991. He gained experience at
the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, then worked.
as assistant professor on integrated water management at Wageningen University.
Currently Leo combines coordinating the implementation of the European Water
Framework Directive at the Brabantse Delta water board with PhD research on
Notes on Contributors xiii
critical (f)actors of multi-stakeholder dialogues in integrated river basin management.
Email: leo_santbergen@orange.nl.

Eliab Simpungwe, a Zambian-born resident of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, is an

agricultural economist by training. He recently completed hiis dissertation on multi-
stakeholder platforms in the Kat and Mtata rivers, Eastern Cape, at Wageningen
University. Email: eliab@ananzi.co.za.
About his co-authors: Bert Raven, a Dutchman has a background in public
administration and law. He was Secretary of the Eemszijlvest Water Board in
Groningen and a policy advisor of the National Association of Dutch Water Boards
in The Hague. He carried out PhD research on local water institutions in South
Africa. Currently he works an independent consultant. Pieter Waalewijn was born
in South African, and obtained his MSc in Irrigation from Wageningen University,
for which he carried out thesis research in South Africa. He also holds an MSc in
Philosophy at the Univeristy of Utrecht. He currently works as a humanitarian aid
worker in Darfur, Sudan.

Annemiek Verhallen obtained her MSc degree in Sociology at Leiden University,

the Netherlands and worked for 14 years on the innovation of vocational training.
She subsequently obtained an MSc in Hydrology and Water Management at the
University of Wageningen and is currently an associate professor of Integrated Water
Management at that university. She published about decision support tools and the
use of vision building in river basin management. Currently she is completing a PhD
thesis on interactive policy making in multistakeholder platforms in the management
of the international river basin Scheldt. E-mail: annemiek.verhallen@wur.nl.

Jeroen Warner took his MSc in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. He
specializes in environmental conflict, risk and participation as a theorist, researcher,
lecturer, trainer and coordinator. Between 2001 and 2005 he coordinated the Multi-
Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Catchment Management research project, with
case studies on four continents, organized two international conferences on MSPs
at Wageningen University, and published Conflictos y Participación wth Alejandra
Moreyra (Montevideo: Nordan 2004). He is now a Senior Researcher with the
Centre for Sustainable Resource Management at Radboud University, Nijmegen and
publishes widely on water issues. E-mail: jeroenwarner@gmail.com.

Nigel Watson is a Lecturer in Environmental Management in the Department of

Geography and a Research Associate in the Centre for Sustainable Water Management
at Lancaster University in the UK. He received an MA and PhD in Geography from
the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada where he conducted research on
institutional aspects of water and land management. His primary research interests
are in institutional analysis, integrated land and water management, and river basin
governance in Europe and North America. He is an elected Fellow of the International
Water Resources Association (IWRA), a member of the Council of the Mersey Basin
Campaign (MBC) and a UK advisor for the European Network of Municipalities and
Rivers (ENMaR). Email: n.watson1@lancaster.ac.uk.
xiv Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Kai Wegerich took his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London
in 2003, focusing on water management and institutional change in Central Asia.
Since August 2004 he is Assistant Professor at the Irrigation and Water Engineering
group, Wageningen University. He continues to research water management and
institutional change in Central Asia and teaches on irrigation and development.
Email: kai.wegerich@wur.nl.

Philippus Wester is Assistant Professor, Water Reforms at the Irrigation and Water
Engineering Group, Wageningen University. Trained as an interdisciplinary water
management researcher, he has studied water governance processes in Senegal,
Pakistan, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Mexico. His current research focuses on
water reforms, river basin governance, and environmental and institutional change
processes. E-mail: flip.wester@wur.nl.
Both his co-authors Jaime Hoogesteger van Dijk and Hans Paters obtained
their MSc degree in International Land and Water Management at Wageningen
University, carrying out thesis research for the International Water Management
Institute (IWMI) in Mexico. Jaime Hoogesteger van Dijk completed his second
thesis research in Iran (also for IWMI). He focused on water governance, drought
management and conjunctive water use. He presently works as a researcher for the
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group at Wageningen University. His research
focuses on river basin management, water rights and collective action in water
governance. Email: Jaime.hoogesteger@wur.nl.
Hans Paters recently completed his study with a second MSc thesis research
for the Water Research Commission (WRC) in South Africa, focusing on land- and
water reforms, collective water management strategies and contract farming. He
currently works with the Dutch Water Management Inspectorate.

Multi-Stakeholder Platforms, by any other name, are currently ‘hot’ in the water
sector. As a recent phenomenon, they attract NGOs, national governments and
multilateral donor agencies under the same banner. Yet, to my knowledge, the
phenomenon has not been analysed with a global focus so far. It became possible
to take stock of many examples and – in spite of very local idiosyncrasies – pick
out the common threads when I was given the opportunity to coordinate the
‘Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Catchment Management’ project
for Wageningen University’s Irrigation and Water Engineering group from 2001
and 2004 – thanks to generous funding from Partners for Water, the Dutch multi-
organisational water consortium.
I started to work with a motley crew of enthusiastic PhD candidates from all
corners of the world,1 all amazing personalities who soon became friends, as well as
a gaggle of enthusiastic Dutch MScs who chose to do their thesis projects on MSPs
and brought in fresh insights. Working with such a diversity of backgrounds, we
were soon facing puzzling and often hilarious cultural differences. As a dynamic
network rather than a static team (the Wageningen Hydrology group, Alterra, and
several highly mobile overseas partners joined in) the MSP project became the
very embodiment of the concept, a celebration of diversity, perplexing entry and
exit strategies and, most of all, lots of energy, fun and learning, which to me are the
main spin-offs of any successful multi-stakeholder process. As we went along, we
connected with a wide variety of international researchers with similar interests,
several of whom are represented in this book, though ten times as many contributed
their ideas at water MSP workshops in Wageningen, Hoggsback, Cochabamba,
Hyderabad, Ghent and Kyoto (the 3rd World Water Forum) in 2003 and in so doing
made it all happen. My colleagues at the Irrigation and Water Engineering Group
loyally supported the project, presiding over workshop sessions and putting up
with my idiosyncrasies. Flip Wester and Marijn Beuling lent great support in
editing and formatting of the text, and Alex Bolding gamely gave me his blessing
to let me do the project he foreshadowed, my way. Leo van den Berg and Judith
Klostermann from Alterra, Thea Hilhorst from Disaster Studies, Jim Woodhill from
the International Agricultural Center and several people in the Communication
and Innovation group lent practical and mental support to the process. Professor
Adrian McDonald, the series editor, has been a patient and enthusiastic supporter
of the book project. I hope it was worth the wait!

1 In alphabetical order: Alejandra Moreyra, Maria Teresa Oré, Sriprakashsingh Rajput,

Bert Raven, Eliab Simpungwe and Annemiek Verhallen – with guest appearances by Alfredo
Duran, Nawal el Haouari and Salem Shouhan.
xvi Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
But I would never have been able to develop the project, nor the book, without
the keen support of the ‘Wageningen IWRM team’, Annemiek Verhallen and Leo
Santbergen – hats off to those two greats!
Like the Manic Street Preachers,2 not to mention Members of Scottish Parliament,
with whom they share their acronym, Multi-Stakeholder Platforms attract their share
of die-hard fans and ruthless critics. The present book reflects that difference in
a weird and wonderful panorama of multi-stakeholder processes from around the
world. While there is no uniformity of approach, I detect an overriding theme: what
makes water MSPs tick? While the book does not provide definitive answers or
twelve-step ‘how to’ guidelines, I am positive it contains some valuable clues. I hope
both scholars and practitioners will enjoy and benefit from our experiences.

Jeroen Warner

2 A politically driven British rock band, popular in the late 1990s.

Chapter 1

The Beauty of the Beast:

Multi-Stakeholder Participation for
Integrated Catchment Management
Jeroen Warner1


Policymakers, donors, NGOs, water managers – all are intrigued by the sound of
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) as new forms of cooperation in the face of
(imagined or real) water conflict. MSPs appear as networks for cooperation and
negotiation involving multiple sectors or actors within a watershed.
A widely accepted definition defines a platform as a ‘decision-making body
(voluntary or statutory) comprising different stakeholders who perceive the same
resource management problem, realise their interdependence for solving it, and
come together to agree on action strategies for solving the problem’ (Steins and
Edwards 1998: 1). It is like a roundtable, where people are gathered with very
different perspectives. From a functionalist perspective, MSPs are perceived as
problem-solving institutional innovations, to democratise water management,
to manage conflict, even to make water management more efficient. Once
people see the sense of involving multiple voices, it is felt, they will be broadly
accepted as the way forward in dealing with the increasing complexity, diversity
and dynamics of water management. But what is actually going on, and how
do we approach our research and analysis? What are we actually talking about?
Are ‘platforms’ even physical organisations or are they loose networks for
Studying Multi-Stakeholder Platforms means zooming in on a phenomenon
without very clear prior definitions (see below). Like the elusive ‘regimes’ of
International Relations, they are not necessarily ‘things out there’, institutions
with offices, bye-laws and secretariats, but inferred patterns of behaviour and
interaction, singled out of a complex reality and labelled ‘MSP’ because having
this class of constellations seems to add to our understanding of reality.
As a new phenomenon, Multi-Stakeholder Platforms are beset with problems,
which are easy to expose. However, rather than dismiss the phenomenon out of
hand, we propose a more constructive approach. Multi-Stakeholder Platforms

1 Annemiek Verhallen, Flip Wester and Nicolas Faysse merit special thanks for their
constructively critical comments – all disclaimers apply.
2 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
for Integrated Catchment management (MSP-ICM), the Wageningen project on
which much of the present volume is based, sought to study and analyse what
MSPs are, how they came about (development) and what they do for stakeholders
in practice (functioning): do they make a difference? Can their performance be
improved and their sustainability enhanced? This latter objective includes the
question whether MSPs bring on the kind of learning and empowerment their
proponents expect. Rather than call out for the hunter as soon as we spot one,
let’s look out for the beauty of what we like to refer to as ‘the Beast’.

Key research questions for this book:

1. Do multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) make a difference?
2. Are MSPs compatible with integrated water resource management
3. Can (and should) MSPs be sustainable?


Dialogue is now increasingly recommended and applied to the management of

common-pool resources like coastal management, fisheries, land care (Campbell
1998) and, especially, forest resources (Grimble et al. 1995; Edmunds and
Wollenberg 2001, Shannon 2003). In the run-up to the Third World Water Forum
in Kyoto (March 2003) the International Water Management Institute, IWMI,
organised the Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment and the Dialogue on
Water and Climate especially to promote basin-wide deliberative platforms.
Water supply companies now organise MSP-type consumer panels. A workshop
at Wageningen explored the usefulness of MSPs for disaster response. While
obviously an increasingly popular pet, MSP as a newly emerging social life form
still requires proper determination.
The present study applies MSPs to integrated catchment management – a ‘holy
trinity’ of three currently almost unassailable water governance ideals: integration
(IWRM), participation and catchment management within hydrological rather than
political boundaries. IWRM is about decompartmentalising water management,
respecting the interactions and internalising the externalities that come with a
sectorial approach. After Mitchell (1990, 1998) we can see it as a multi-layered
systems approach to water management, integrating:

1. Relations between surface and groundwater, quantity and quality

2. Relations between water and land use
3. Relations between water and stakeholder interests

To which we would add

4. Relations between water institutions (coordination)

Combining these four seems a perfectly logical way forward for a water sector
in need of modernisation. But they inevitably bring a multitude of daunting
The Beauty of the Beast 3
challenges: holistic management needs to take many aspects into account that
are hard to model and to square with each other; and then they need to be squared
with participation. First of all, it requires a radical change in management culture.
IWRM is not just the sum total of all the isolated facets of water management,
but a search for the added value of integrating relevant (f)actors. Nigel Watson
(Chapter 3) decries the tendency of some to see IWRM as ‘more of the same’.
He argues that IWRM requires a totally different institutional set-up along the
lines of MSPs. The particular beast this institutional zoologist has spotted is
a Cariboo – in fact an acronym for seven criteria: Common vision, Adaptive
capacity, Resources, Interdependence, Balance, Output and Outcomes.
MSPs seem helpful in realising common visions, realising a balanced outcome
of adaptive processes, once people realise their resource interdependence.
Still, as Bruce Mitchell (Chapter 4), an early and authoritative champion of
IWRM notes, integration and participation seem to pull in opposite directions
– people are motivated to participate in a clear, single-issue, close-to-the-bone
area, while integrated management, because of its complexity, seems to invite
centralisation. There are clear similarities between the two, though: both IWRM
and MSP are ways of managing increasing degrees of variety and variability. In
that respect, MSPs are a logical companion to IWRM, reflecting the same variety
of interconnected social uses and users that IWRM reflects (Grigg 1996).
As the third leg of the tripod, the catchment level is emerging as the natural
unit for water management. Slowly but surely, these adopted dogmas are set to
revolutionalize water governance arrangements (regimes), in Europe (under the
Framework Directive), South Africa (the 1998 Water Act) and elsewhere. Water
resource management has long been a top-down concern of many states, and
water authorities followed administrative boundaries. Now that hydrology and
ecology rather than territorial administrative or cultural boundaries dictate the
management scale, states and regional authorities are forced to work together
across boundaries, and treat water bodies as part of ecosystems. Involving
stakeholders in decision-making, with the accountability and transparency
requirements that brings, these developments necessitate a new phase in an
already changing deal between the public, private and civil-society sectors,
which, as Malcolm Newson of Newcastle University maintains (Chapter 5),
challenges and revolutionises the prior ‘technocratic’ outlook.
The catchment as best practice is not without its detractors. Wester and Warner
(2002) question its current unquestioned, ‘naturalised’ status. Not only may, as
Allan has it, the ‘problemshed’ transcend the scale of the watershed, neither
stakeholders nor decision-makers naturally gravitate to this level. Fischhendler
and Feitelson (2003) argue that due to the common spatial discrepancy between
benefits and costs of cooperation at the basin scale, other special scales are to be
advanced in order to offset this discrepancy. Their US-Mexico case presentation
includes similar denotations on the importance of issue-linking across river
basin borders as Meijerink (1998) does in his dissertation on the multilateral
rivers Scheldt and Meuse negotiations.
4 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Fighting or Learning?

While nobody disputes the legitimacy of stakeholder participation, the writings on

MSPs come from very different worldviews – one in which people change things
by cooperative learning (‘cognitive school’), and one in which things only change
by changing the power balance (the ‘power school’). These diametrically opposed
worldviews are most clearly expressed in the view of cooperation and conflict.
A conflict framework sees negotiations as zero-sum with winners and losers, a
cooperation approach sees win-win.
On the cooperation side, the cognitive school is interested in whether joint gains
can be obtained through learning. Aarts and Van Woerkum (1999) usefully contrast
two types of negotiation – distributive and integrative negotiation. Distributive
negotiation is antagonistic, interest-based, mainly concerns the cutting of the cake,
actors keep their cards close to their chests. Integrative negotiation starts from a
commonly perceived challenge, involves ‘baking the cake together’ and joint social
The cognitive or Social Learning approach is deeply influenced by the ideas of
Jürgen Habermas, who advocates aiming for an authentic speech situation. The idea
is that as stakeholders start talking, a process of learning by doing takes place in
which power gaps and institutional hindrances are broken down. The attraction of
the Habermasian approach is that it presupposes that through dialogue, perceptions
and problem definitions will change and converge (Poncelet 1998). An aversion to
(party) politics and conflict informs this particular literature (Hemmati 2002). In a
situation of complexity, actors are advised to leave their sectoral perspective behind
to develop a shared perspective in a process of reframing (van Woerkum 2002).
This requires skilful facilitation – if badly done, a reframing process can of course
result in a totally strategic (or expedient) ‘vision’ with a high deal of equifinality
(each interpreting the result in highly particular ways), without addressing the
actual dilemmas.
In a genuine dilemma, each side is defensible from a particular perspective
(Hoebeke 2004). The important thing is to bring the dilemmas, the conflicts, out into
the open and discuss them. A good facilitator puts sufficient time into divergence
before aiming for convergence. In fact, it may not be possible to converge and it
may be necessary for all to accept a hard-won compromise. But that openness and
responsiveness requires a great deal of social trust, something that for example in
Perú, as in many other locations, is still developing. Thus, any ‘concertation’2 means
a combination of conflict, negotiation and, where possible, consensus-seeking. The
effect of multi-stakeholder participation, then, is not to depoliticize issues (quite
the contrary), but to expand the legitimacy base beyond government, beyond ‘the
The ‘cognitive school’ of MSP sees facilitated social learning as a helpful
modality enabling new forms of governance – as IAC Wageningen puts it, ‘between

2 The word ‘concertation’ is not really English, but has taken pride of place in the
French and Spanish discourse on roundtables. It has the connotations of ‘concerted action’ or
‘co-ordinated consensus-seeking’.
The Beauty of the Beast 5
the extremes of top-down “expert”-driven decision making by government and
“letting free markets rule” lies the idea of facilitated social learning’.3
The Århus convention expresses the belief that, in the environmental issue-area,
improved access to information and public participation in decision-making will
enhance the quality and the implementation of decisions and contributes to the public
awareness of environmental issues (UN-ECE 1998). Indeed there are known cases
where the stakeholders themselves collect, manage and interpret the information,
using a joint information system.
Multi-stakeholder platforms may be set up to act as a sounding board
rather than a policy-making body. They are like think tanks or focus groups,
providing policymakers with ideas and feedback from selected social groups.
This arrangement interestingly seems to bring enough benefits to both initiators
and consultees. In addition to this outside-in benefit, platforms can help a better
spread of ideas (within the platform and inside-out). Communication then may be
a vehicle for two-way information/knowledge exchange, joint knowledge building
and dissemination.
Indeed, Annemiek Verhallen’s Flemish case study (Chapter 6) shows that,
when it is clear that the platform is only consultative, stakeholders are happy to
give feedback and, crucially, be in the loop about what is going on. Her contribution
discusses a platform in the Nete, a sub-basin of the river Scheldt, where 13 stakeholder
categories were invited to join in developing a vision. She investigated attendance,
adequacy and exchange of information and satisfaction with the process.
It should be noted that this was a situation in which savvy, well-educated
stakeholder representatives negotiated. Yet it is hard to prove that any joint learning
occurred due to participation. While no doubt people learn by doing, i.e. acquire new
information and ways of thinking due to their participation, we find that the ‘social’,
mutual, collaborative aspect, is not necessarily happening. The critical condition
here is not only the recognition of interdependence, but also the willingness of all
involved to take joint responsibility and learn their way into addressing the issue
facing all. Negotiation that looked integrative may turn out to be distributive after
all, but also free-riding, opportunism and double agendas are obvious pitfalls. In the
Nete case, for example, there was very little social learning in evidence – several
actors were listening in, but not really contributing.

What Should MSPs Do? Multiple Rationales

The definition of MSP that started the chapter off comes from the prescriptive end
– the ideal-type MSP is imbued with a positive value connotation. The quest for
preconditions for MSP success is related to the level of expectation and ambition
as to what platforms should do. Expectations of MSPs are rather high. From the
emerging literature, we take three key strands: MSPs as a mechanism of Alternative
Dispute Resolution, for adaptive management and as a vehicle for democratisation
and emancipation.

3 www.iac.wur.nl/services/training/index.htm?regular/MSP_seminar.htm
6 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Dealing with Conflict

According to Jaspers (2003), a stakeholder platform plays a vital role in conflict

prevention and conflict resolution. Resource conflict at different levels continues
to ring alarm bells. In the mid-1990s, water discourse briefly became dominated
by the literature on water wars. Water, it was claimed, is in crisis (Gleick 1993),
and increasing scarcity would lead to violent conflict (Starr 1991). This came
on top of an already widening post-Cold War security agenda, as new security
threats were identified (Kaplan 1994) in a combination of Malthusian worries
about environmental degradation and Hobbesian faith in the ‘strong state’. While
Malthusian doomsayers still occasionally make headlines (McLoughlin 2004), the
debate between the optimists and pessimists has progressed significantly. As Allan
(2001) has put it succinctly: the optimists are right but dangerous, the pessimists are
wrong but useful. The debate has opened a more serious look into the connection
between conflicts and scarcity. Intermediate factors between scarcity and violent
conflict have been identified: society’s social-institutional resource capital for
regulating conflict.
While international water wars have yet to happen, local water disputes
continue to break out. MSPs may be less than suitable in adversative cultures
where social changes develop with clashes and jumps – ‘litigation cultures’ such
as the United States or Chile – rather than gradual motion. In a traumatised post-
violence society like Perú however, and in countries where states are eager to
reach out to society like South Africa, the MSP approach as Alternative Dispute
Resolution can be a breather, a novel option worth exploring. Both in terror-
stricken Perú and anarchic Bolivia, where social trust is low, novel ways of
local consensus-building and fine-tuning (concertación) are welcomed, as case
studies by María Teresa Oré (Chapter 9) and Nicolas Faysse et al. (Chapter 11)
in this volume underscore.
For many, the lack of harmony, incompatibility and struggle inherent in
conflict continues to have a negative connotation. However, our research finds that
MSPs are of necessity political and – especially at the start – often conflictive, as
participants stake out their territories. ‘Conflict’ can range from disagreement to
violent war – a word that has been diluted by excessive labelling of local disputes
as ‘water wars’. Both critical and cognitive schools, however, perceive conflict as
essentially healthy, as it brings people’s preferences out in the open. The situations
we research are the result of a diversity of needs, interests, perceptions and
cultures in the dealing with water resources. Such diversity should not necessarily
result in a violent confrontation. Understanding conflict as a natural part of social
life, within a framework of respect for difference, can be in fact an open window
of opportunity for social change. Therefore conflict should be understood as
something that is not negative or positive in itself and that will occur in every age,
culture and space.4

4 Robert Wright (2000) argues conflict is ultimately positive, because a sufficient

amount of conflict produces the necessary level of co-operation needed to survive as a human
The Beauty of the Beast 7
Adaptive Management

While water wars may not be close at end, it does not change the fact that in many
areas of the world, basins are closing, requiring a stressful process of reallocating
water resources, necessitating an adaptive water redistribution process away from
major guzzlers. This adaptation process brings social dilemmas, which Jiggins and
Röling (2004) usefully define as the unfeasibility or non-existence of an equitable
distribution of a resource. As Turton and Ohlsson (1999) note, scarcity can bring a
reflective process, spawning social and environmental NGOs who demand greater
influence in the decision-making process. MSPs can facilitate such n adaptive process
in which actors face a changing environment, realise their common predicament and
mutual interdependence in realising solutions and decide to take joint action (Röling
1994). If they see the interdependencies of their stakes in the shared resource, and
agree to sit together to negotiate about pressing issues, they may develop the sense
of ownership required to manage these issues, and through their collective action
manage the common-pool resource in a more sustainable way (Steins and Edwards
Water management presents especially apt examples of the aforementioned
social dilemmas. Just like public managers have learned to face up to the inevitable
shortcomings in tackling all governance problems,5 water managers are faced with
the realization that you cannot eliminate all water risks. The 1990s have seen serious
erosion on the claim to the engineerability, or even governability, of the socio-
political system – most notably Beck’s ‘Risk society’ (1986).
Ensuring and allocating sufficient water of acceptable quality for all, in the
face of dwindling supply is a complex task indeed. A diversity of different uses
and users compete for the same resource (Grigg 1997). Because of the complexity
and uncertainty surrounding water management issues, they easily lead to value
conflicts. This makes water (re)allocation issues ‘wicked’ (intractable) problems
(van de Graaf and Hoppe 1992; Fischer 1995). A great many issues can easily be
decided: they are straightforward and the evidence for and against is tidy, and people
are clear on what they want. Not all water issues are straightforward, exactly because
of the different social values people attach to them, not least in light of the resource’s
irreplaceability. The great number of recent controversies over water projects attests
to the intractable nature of those water issues, and they are likely to be intensified as
the realisation sinks in that an adaptive shift to ‘demand management’ implies tough
socio-economic choices (Ohlsson 1998).
Stress is the difference between a challenge and coping capacity – to ease the
stress, one either needs to reduce the stress or increase the capacity for coping, that
is, tap as many capabilities as possible. Similarly, if governability is the ratio of
challenges to capabilities (cf. Kooiman 1993) there are two sides to the equation. Not
only can we seek to reduce challenges, we can also seek to enhance capabilities.

5 In the discipline of Public Administration, a similar systemic approach became

popular in the 1990s to cope with complexity in response to a sense of ungovernability of
socio-political problems (e.g. Kooiman 1993). The ‘limits to governability’ are increasingly
8 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Because the stakeholders represent different partial interests, a wider spectrum
of water management issues at basin level will be covered. This may facilitate trade-
offs, package deals and win-win situations that promote a more integrated approach
than a single-issue platform would. Geldof (2004), for example, shows that in
participatory replanning processes in urban areas solving non-water issues such as
traffic congestion can help raise the visibility of water management and increase
commitment to it. Bringing in a variety of actors, thus increasing feedback within the
system, might help improve the quality of system governance, increasing the range
of options, opening up a flexible repertoire.

Democratisation and Empowerment

There is a need for profound change in the way water is managed if we are to achieve any
sense of sustainable water use in the near future. The empowerment of people at the local
level to manage their water resources – the ‘democratization’ of water management – is
essential (2nd World Water Forum in The Hague, March 2000).

MSPs are highly compatible with so-called DIPs (Deliberative and Inclusionary
Processes) seek to ‘democratise democracy’, increasing the range of alternatives and
scope of action by relying more on an argumentative turn (Bloomfield et al. 1998). The
inclusion of disenfranchised groups and perspectives is pivotal in this process. MSPs
represent a particular approach to democracy. By giving allocated seats to different
groups rather than majority vote, and making room for extensive deliberation, the
idea is to give voice to weaker or smaller interests that would otherwise be outvoted.
This is especially promising in deeply divided areas or societies, where one group
dominates in number and/or power positions. Apart from or additional to water-use
sectors or the nine ‘major groups’ identified in the Rio Summit of 1992, it could also
be relevant to include different ethnic, linguistic, cultural or age groups (Warner and
Simpungwe 2003), while in South Asian panchayats, women are given a specific
Edmunds and Wollenberg (2001) and Leroy (2002) have called attention to
problems of inequality in platforms, which we shall highlight below. Action-oriented
researchers however see it the other way round: unequal access to scarce resources is
a key rationale for setting up platforms. They feel mobilising stakeholders can be an
important factor in bringing about social change, wresting greater control over water
resources from the hands of the powerful. Platforms can promote the emancipation
of the previously powerless, the underprivileged, the disenfranchised. In such a case
the MSP may start out as an alliance of multiple non-powerful actors seeking reform,
co-opting the powers that be in the course of time.
A multi-stakeholder process may empower those participants who are equipped
to negotiate and take advantage of their voice and of new information. But marginal
groups may well be badly organised and easily co-opted or bribed. The poorest may
not participate, because their opportunity costs are too steep. An especially serious
problem occurs when marginalized stakeholders remain unheard and even stand
to lose from the consultation process. Thus, participatory processes can actually
disempower groups (Edwards and Wollenberg 2001). As Bruce Currie-Alder
The Beauty of the Beast 9
maintains in his contribution (Chapter 15), MSPs for participatory natural resource
management (e.g. Christie et al. 2000) can in fact degenerate into a mechanism for
resource capture if responsibilities are not truly shared. In conflictive settings, what
may look like consociational arrangements may in fact be hegemonic control on the
part of a state or social elite (Lustic 1997). As noted by Faysse et al in this book,
to enable change, empowerment may well be needed outside as much as inside the
MSP context.
An inventory what MSPs should do turns out to be all things to all people:

• Conflict resolution Prevent violence

• Adaptive water management Prevent environmental degradation
• Democratization and empowerment Equity

Yet, MSPs for Integrated Catchment Management do not necessarily serve all three
sets of goals. The best result for sustainable resource management and integrated
management does not necessarily have the best social outcome given existing power
differences. Conversely, when many actors bring their strategies and power positions
to bear, to bend the outcome in their direction, the outcome may be a monster and
water management may deteriorate rather than improve. As the Africans say, it does
not matter to the grass whether elephants fight or mate on it – it suffers anyway.
The gain will then be political (the prevention of violent conflict) rather than serve
environmental or social goals.

For a New Governance Deal

Deflating expectations may be needed not just to prevent disappointment on the part
of the stakeholders, but also on behalf of the donors and sponsors – especially now
that multi-stakeholder participation is well on its way to becoming a conditionality.
In part in response to successful NGO protests against interventions such as the
construction of large dams and extensive flood protection schemes – skilfully
playing the international media and embarrassing donors. The World Bank, ADB
and IADB’s policies now routinely call for participatory processes, and are nudging
closer to requiring participation as a conditionality for new loans, as exemplified by
the grudging creation of the CONIAG national roundtable after the Cochabamba
war (Warner 2004)
The interest of multilateral donor institutions in participation is part of their
emphasis on ‘good governance’ thinking (World Bank 2000). The rediscovery of
civil society replaces state-led and market-led models which, on their own, fail at
providing adequate water management. This integrates civil society in a new, more
complex governance arrangement of public, private and civil-society governance
(Kooiman 1993), widening the range of options in dealing with water issues (Warner
2002). In exchange for taking more responsibilities, civil society actors are given
a greater voice in the management of the resource base they take a stake in. In
this context, Lankford and Hepworth (2006), among others, advocates a distributed,
decentralised rather than top-down mode of basin governance.
10 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Resource Management and at
catchment level seeks to accommodate the complexity of uses, the diversity of users
and the dynamics of uncertainty and change:

Challenge/Opportunity The 3 ‘u’s Goal

Complexity of Uses IWRM

Diversity of Users Multi-Stakeholder
Dynamics due to Uncertainty and change Adaptive Management

In terms of Kooiman (1993, 1997), the governance challenges are complexity,

diversity and dynamics: present-day resource management throws up complexity of
uses and linkages, a diversity of actions, a dynamic physical and policy environment
creating uncertainty. These are played out in different modalities of governance: top-
down intervention, comanagement (network management) and self-governance.
Creative governance (Kooiman 2000) is, in this context, the way these modalities
are crafted together tapping the strength of each, in response to the failure of
government-only or market-only approaches. Even where formal government has
broken down, hitherto unrecognised systems are in place that achieve remarkable
feats – as Long stresses (2001), social actors continuously participate in altering their
social context, whether or not they are invited to do so in a bounded context. Norman
Uphoff (1992) and Elinor Ostrom (1990) found impressive examples of participatory
self-organisation in resource management. Evidence from many different contexts
has shown that stakeholders are perfectly capable of working together in regulating
access to, allocation of and control over resources (Ostrom 1990).
This rediscovery of civil society also cross-links with the New Public Management
(Osbourne 1992) which promoted the introduction of business management tools
in the running of public sector, shedding public functions. This not only recast
government as an enterprise, but also the citizen as a calculating, critical, savvy
client judging the public sector by its outputs. The client however is increasingly
expected to take co-responsibility for resource management in a new governance
arrangement. The government still tends to be the leading actor, though – it is not
always decisive enough in assuming that leadership.

Unpacking MSPs

What is a multi-stakeholder platform? Let us unpack the three constitutive elements

of the compound; ‘multi’, ‘stakeholder’ and ‘platform:

Stakeholder... The word ‘stakeholder’ itself is of recent vintage. In issues of

corporate governance, it is increasingly realised that apart from the (often short-
term) interests of shareholders, other interests such as employees, suppliers, the
community and the environment should be taken into account if the company is to
The Beauty of the Beast 11
be legitimate and sustainable (sources). Anthony Giddens coined the ‘stakeholder
society’ as a (‘Third’) way of extending this concept to the way that nations should
be governed. Society is thus represented as an enterprise, with all the risk-taking,
profit and loss that involves, rather than a secure living environment.
Stakeholders are individuals, groups or institutions that are concerned with, or
have an interest in the water resources and their management (World Bank 2003).
They include all those who affect and/or are affected by the policies, decisions, and
actions of the system (Grimble et al. 1995). That means not only direct water users but
those affected by (waste)water management. They include those involved in water
resource development, management and planning, including public-sector agencies,
private-sector organisations and NGOs and external (such as donor) agencies.

Multi... The ‘multi’ in MSP does not refer to ‘multiple stakes’ but to the diversity of
identities of stakeholders. The ‘multi’, then, is contrasted with ‘single-sector’ forms
of interaction as practised in, e.g., Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM). PIM
is nominally concerned with agriculture, not with fisheries, industry, navigation or
urban water uses – although PIM may indeed seek to represent different interest
within agriculture – high-, mid- and lowland farmers, or smallholders and latifundists
– or allocate special voice to the traditionally disenfranchised such as landless or
Stakeholders still tend to be solely defined in terms of economic identity groups
while it would make sense to assign stakeholdership to cultural, religious or other
identities, where these identities are salient, in the tradition of consociationalism
(Lijphart 1971). Unrepresented interests may also find their way through co-
opting formally sanctioned identities where the platform’s bye-laws provide strict
barriers to (later) entry. For example, barriers to entry to the executive boards of
Dutch waterschappen are high – it would take a statutory change to allow a seat
for a new stakeholder group – which forces environmental groups to co-opt one
of the incumbent stakeholder groups. But barriers may be more subtle: as Warner
and Simpungwe (2003) have noted on the basis of Simpungwe’s experience with
South African MSPs that platforms are unlikely to remain captivating to the rural
poor when the meetings are held in urban block offices with lots of people in suits
toting laptops, or when the local language is not understood. Physical and cultural
accessibility of the participatory process is therefore graded.
In terms of number, to deserve the ‘multi’ prefix, we would expect more than
two, three interests to be represented in the platform. We would also expect different
levels to be represented (e.g. local government and state government) as both
impact on the catchment’s management, at the strategic and operational level. A
rough measure of the ‘multi’-inclusiveness of MSPs is whether state, civil-society
and private-sector actors at several levels are represented. However, if this means
that three minority interests at three levels getting together equals an MSP, perhaps
we are on the wrong track. We have to look at actor relevance and roles within the
network comprising MSPs as well.
Role descriptions such as proposed by Moench et al. (2000) can be useful in this
respect. Moench et al. distinguish ‘managers’ from ‘auditors’ who, as they rarely
hold a great direct stake in the resource itself, can facilitate or support bargaining
12 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
between user interests. Likewise, Gavin and Pinder (1995) identify primary and
secondary stakeholders. Primary stakeholders are those who are ultimately affected,
i.e. who expect to benefit from or be adversely affected by the intervention; secondary
stakeholders: those with some intermediary role. Note however that even with the
best of intentions, it may not be possible for the facilitator to avoid powerplay due to
structural power differences, i.e. ‘level the playing field’.

Platform... Finally, a ‘platform’ is a forum for negotiation. The word ‘platform’

suggests that this joint action takes place on a raised but level playing field. Raised,
to be able to step out of sectoral issues and take a broader overview of the issues,
while the raised surface also connotes the conspicuous nature of MSPs, which act
in the public space and are therefore open to public scrutiny. Level, in the sense that
the stakeholders (ideally) have (or come to a situation of) equal rights and power
balance (Den Hond 2003). The assumption of a level playing field is one of the most
conspicuous flaws in MSP thinking given the obvious power gaps, or indeed politics,
between the participating actors (Edmunds and Wollenberg 2001).

Participation and Politics

Power Sharing for Real?

The present book involves many cases which explicitly take the political aspect into
account – within the platform and in its broader environment. Since water policy
in most countries is primarily in the hands of the state and mostly the initiator of a
water forum is the public sector, the level of participation in fact denotes the level of
power sharing (Bruns 2003).
One important political reality is that states do not much like sharing power. For
all the sea changes in public management in response to state overload and policy
failures – working with societal actors, network management in which the state is
a primus inter paris – many states are still not relinquishing much of their power
Governments have certain exclusive resources at their disposal: sizeable budgets
and personnel, special powers, access to the mass media, a monopoly on the use of
force and democratic legitimation. Access to these resources generally means that
governments have considerable power in particular to define the strategic space of
any other actor.
‘Real participation’ requires devolving mandates down to the lowest practicable
level (cf. the Dublin Principles of 1992) and giving people the right to say ‘no’
to interventions – even if they make perfect sense technically, economically and
environmentally. Rather than preparing for the possibility of a ‘no’, agencies often
prefer a controlled participatory processes that seeks to change people’s minds about
a controversial issue – in other words, the initiators take a ‘selling approach’ to
participation, hearing ‘participation’ as the magic word that will ‘create’ a support
base for acceptance of new policies and interventions such as water pricing. as tends
to be the rationale for basin committees in Brazil (Brannstrom 2004; Mostertman
The Beauty of the Beast 13
2005) and new infrastructure such as dams in Gujarat and Maharashtra, India (Rajput
2002). While opponents may be vocal about the consequences of the intervention,
they are not fundamentally opposed to the principle, and did not feel it worth their
while to frustrate the process. However if the initiating party seeks to keep control
of the process, while offloading some of the less desired tasks, such ‘selling’ is
unlikely to be effective. Bangladesh is a striking example of a state that is very happy
to devolve (offload) responsibility for the operation and maintenance of decrepit
water infrastructure onto users themselves, who by taking charge of operation and
maintenance are expected to develop a sense of ownership. However, the latter have
no choice in the matter, or on the budget.
As a form of communicative governance – learning together – MSPs can increase
understanding and acceptance of new ideas and policies. But communication experts
will tell you that you cannot change people’s attitudes and behaviour if they are
fundamentally unhappy with the policy (e.g. Aarts and van Woerkum 2000). You
cannot ‘sell’ an unpopular plan. If the starting point cannot be subject to discussion,
strong opponents will question the legitimacy of the process itself (second-order
Rather more successful MSP processes are especially found in planning and
visioning processes, convocated by the government, where plans for the future may
be at a less detailed stage, with a discrete number of sessions and enough room for
adaptation of plans.
The philosophy of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms has deep roots in the Dutch
culture of consensus seeking, emphasising the need to involve minorities. That is
not so surprising giving its history of accommodating interests in deeply divided
society by way of ‘poldering’ between farmers and ‘consociationalism’ between
elites. (Lijphart 1971; Warner and Simpungwe 2003). But Jiggins, Röling and van
Slobbe’s work (2002, also Jiggins and Röling 2004) flags some important pitfalls of
Dutch ‘poldering’: formal platforms with official stakeholders can lead to endless
discussion, especially where participants have conflicting compensation structures.
Moreover, consensus seeking may not fit every situation or culture. Seeking general
consensus, to prevent surprises, means that the game may draw on forever. The Dutch
experience is like a supertanker. Goals may change in response to the feedbacks
during the process. The representatives may start to bond with their negotiation
partners and lose touch with their constituency, which may disown them or their
results at the negotiation table. In Holland, environmental groups that were heavily
involved in so-called ROM projects (Glasbergen 1995) have sometimes pulled out
for this reason.
In many instances of top-down MSPs, the government as network manager
presents itself as facilitator and/or secretary, seeking to co-opt all stakeholders. In
South Africa the state seems quite willing to leave more political space to citizens.
The joint role of initiator and facilitator however has its drawbacks, as Eliab
Simpungwe, Bert Raven and Pieter Waalewijn (Chapter 12) show in their South
African case. The role conflict of a government seeking to keep water management
governable clashes with the neutrality and leadership required of a facilitator.
To devolve more power to society, you need both a willing government and an
active, well-developed civil society. This is not a universal given. Kai Wegerich
14 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
(Chapter 14) makes a convincing argument why MSP-type dialogues are unlikely
to even emerge in Uzbekistan. By the example of the province of Khorezm,
Wegerich shows that since independence, the state’s influence on decision making
over water allocation has grown rather than been reduced, while civil society is
highly underdeveloped. A new comanagement arrangement is not so likely in such

Managing the Catchment Level: Is There a Catch?

The importance of integrated water management at catchment level is now almost a

truism in water policy circles. The underlying idea is that water is so fundamental to
life that we should live our lives in harmony with these natural boundaries (Franks
2004). Integrated Catchment Management in this way provides us with a beacon, as
well as a well-delimited focus for research. Our concern with MSPs for Integrated
Catchment Management is inspired by the European Water Framework Directive
of 2000 (Directive no. 200/60/EG), which postulates the need for integrated water
management, with due stakeholder participation, with the catchment as the defining
unit. River basins are the management units, their management should involve
surface, ground- and wastewater and to the extent that they are transboundary the
European member states have to cooperate in the management of such river basin
areas. Since river basins do not respect administrative boundaries, we can expect
many bigger and smaller transboundary MSPs in Europe in the years to come.
A famous example, often hailed as a success, is the Lerma-Chapala river basin
council, which covers a host of stakeholder groups including multiple Mexican
states. Philippus Wester, Jaime Hoogesteger van Dijk and Hans Paters (Chapter
10) however note that in the eyes of many the river basin council has led to more
conflicts rather than to conflict resolution. They argue that the continued involvement
of the federal government is both a key to the longevity and to the weakness of this
While the Lerma-Chapala RBC seeks to accommodate different states within a
federal context, collaboration across sovereign countries is even harder. Indeed, at
the international level, international water conflicts are the headline-grabbing focus
of water management at catchment level. Wolf (1995) showed that international
water treaties far outnumber violent disputes, yet the substance of these treaties
leaves much to be desired. Even commissions regulating international rivers shared
by friendly states often cooperate as little as possible. In this context, the space for
stakeholder involvement in transboundary stakeholder platforms seems an uphill
Devolving power to lower-level actors is hard enough for states, delegating
power to trans- and international actors proves out to be even harder. Sovereignty is
sacrosanct both with respect to societal actors and other nations. However, on special
occasions a multi-stakeholder dialogue can be an interesting ‘Track Two’ activity.6

6 The term ‘Track Two’ refers to informal, unofficial interaction outside the formal
governmental power structure, providing the means for historically conflicting groups to
improve communication and gain a better understanding of each other’s point of view. In so
The Beauty of the Beast 15
Some Track-Two partnerships were in fact concluded or formulated during the 2002
World Summit in Johannesburg, which explicitly promoted voluntary partnerships.
Leo Santbergen’s study of the Zwin Commission (Chapter 7) is emblematic of both
the usefulness and rarity of Track Two processes – like a may fly, the Commission
only showed in exceptional political ‘weather conditions’, not so much to solve but
to take the pressure off a policy crisis.
Going beyond Track-Two, MSP processes can be relevant at multiple levels of
social interaction as John Dore (Chapter 13) shows in his chapter on multi-stakeholder
initiatives in the Mekong. They give examples of opportunities and realities of MSPs
on four separate Tracks known in international informal diplomacy. Next to official
Mekong River Commission processes, he sees the potential of MSPs in Track-Two,
Track-Three and even Track-Four processes, with promising initiatives but daunting,
formidable political realities.

Results Needed...

This book approaches MSPs as a multi-legged beast, often mentioned in tales, but
as yet rarely spotted in broad daylight. Our research is about why these platforms
in water management are promoted, whether they indeed emerge and how they
are functioning. MSPs do not solve problems in themselves, and are not going to
function in any context, for any problem.
The water MSP case studies from around the world show achievements and
limitations of the concept. As noted above, not all ‘habitats’ are conducive for the
beasts to thrive in. We have attempted to frame the analysis by developing a set of
assessment indicators, introduced in Chapter 2, organised by the Mitchellian triad
of process, context and outcome. The contributions by Dore, Faysse and Currie-
Alder provide relevant ‘MSP desirables’ that we draw on as we evaluate the utility
of our own indicators in the Conclusion, which also provides a questionnaire for
MSP evaluation. In our concluding chapter (Chapter 16) these are tied together in a
‘mixed model’ of fighting and learning.
The examples, while illustrative rather than exhaustive, show that while MSPs
are an exciting and popular idea, they are not a panacea. According to van der Veen
(2004) there are three ways of arriving at an outcome: force (the prerogative of
the state), trade (the market) and deliberation (civil society). Currently, dialogue
is enthusiastically embraced in the water world. But is anyone listening? Without
a mandate, there is no obligation to do anything with the outcome of all the talk.
Without an audience, MSPs are dialogues of the deaf, and if too many fruitless MSP
processes are being set up, MSPs as a new institutional species may well join the
ranks of the red herring, the paper tiger, the dodo and the white elephant.
One the first amendments the MSP-ICM research group made to the working
definition of MSPs was therefore to include an action component, to avoid the
danger of MSP turning into a talking shop (although we qualified this later, see

doing, it reduces anger, fear or tension, and facilitates the resolution of substantive conflicts.
16 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
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Chapter 2

The Nature of the Beast: Towards

a Comparative MSP Typology
Jeroen Warner and Annemiek Verhallen

Introduction: Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane?

Piecing together the parts introduced in Chapter 1 results in a photofit of a presumed,

but highly elusive phenomenon. Like a biologist we are pursuing a (potential) new
species, knowing that the jungle we are about to enter harbours an exciting breed,
but we are not sure whether it walks or flies, preys on cadavers or forages on clover,
whether it has two heads and six legs or slithers through the long grass like a snake.
It is not even clear whether that species is a fascinating mirage like the Terrible
Snowman or the Loch Ness monster; of if it is just a workaday bug or toad, of
interest to zoologists only.
We found that the definition of MSP can be stretched so as to include many
varieties of beasts, to the point one may wonder if we are still talking about the
same animal. From a research perspective, we should define what a ‘proper’ MSPs
would be like, an ideal type at the far end of multiple continua. As we infer from the
literature and debate, genuine MSPs represent multiple, relevant identities, facilitate
‘real’ negotiation and generate ‘real’ outputs. Not all MSPs are set up to do this,
and in fact they may serve quite different goals. But the normative ideal provides a
strong legitimising impetus for the establishment of MSP-type networks.
Researching the Beast in itself can teach us about the workings and behaviour
of the whole and its parts, but it won’t tell us much about its chances of survival.
A structuralist approach helps us understand the niche, the role the Beast comes to
occupy in the organisational field as a whole, which then impacts on the expected
longevity of the Beast. An MSP can only function in interaction with its local
institutional ecosystem – the legal-administrative context, its resources and mandate,
its competitors and territory. Whether the initiative, once started, persists, and in
what form, depends both on the constitution of the Beast (is it strong, adaptive,
aggressive?) and its environment (is it enabling, volatile, competitive?). Its ‘energy
level’ is important, as any fledgling organism needs great dynamism to grow, to earn
respect, a territory and a mandate to qualify as a player. The Beast would then take
on more and more ‘pure’ MSP characteristics. A dynamic approach also highlights
that to maintain its niche, an MSP may slowly mutate into something else.
So far the MSPs have not been described and studied very well as a new type
of institutional ‘beast’, let alone the kind of ‘habitat’ it will thrive in. In the course
of the MSP-ICM project, we have developed a typology, to create some order
22 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
but also to understand contextual success and failure factors for multi-stakeholder
processes. Thanks to the project, we could draw on international experiences gained
with multi-stakeholder process in the water sector in ‘North’ (Western Europe) and
‘South’ (South Asia, Southern Africa and Latin America). Nine dimensions were
identified, preliminarily to gauge the performance of participatory processes in
terms of context, content and structure. It is expected that a good score on these
dimensions can serve as a ‘birth certificate’ to help identify able the development
of an MSP.

History Matters: MSP Dynamics

The central question of the MSP-ICM project interrogated the evolution, functioning
and sustainability of MSPs. Given this research brief, it is also advisable to incorporate
a dynamic element in the analysis. A constellation may be moving towards or away
from the ‘ideal-type’ MSP. A developing MSP (an ‘MSP process’) would then shift
appreciably to the right on many indicators. Its degree of MSP-ness may grow or
fall, which we may indicate by an arrow pointing left-or rightward on the continua.
Of course there is always the possibility of overshooting, such as where the number
of involved stakeholders is so great that the result is a fragmented constellation.
Especially in the absence of a regulatory environment, organisations can be usurped
(captured) by one or more stakeholders, looking for the benefits organisations can
bring: jobs, prestige, resources, power. The Beast can turn into a blood-sucking
Frankenstein or into a harmless Bambi.
It cannot be assumed a priori that platforms will or should endure. As Röling
and Woodhill (2001) have noted, a ‘one-shot’ platform may serve its purpose, while
an institutionalised forum with great longevity may have lost is teeth and survive
only on an artificial life support. Also, institutional ecology reminds us we cannot
assume that an MSP will in fact do – or keep doing – what it says on the tin. Thus we
need to follow an MSP through time to see whether they still conform to originally
stipulated tasks, for the organisation as well as for individuals. As a phenomenon
that is developing as we speak, with no certain longevity, all we can do is take
snapshots in time. An in-depth description of the developmental path can yield
indicative pointers of triggers and milestones.
To contextualize this dynamics, we may place the developmental life cycle of
the MSP itself, in the context of the life cycle of its habitat, that is, the relevant era
of water management.

Provenance: Indigenous and Introduced Species

The ‘beast’ metaphor suggests that the Beast can be indigenous as well as introduced
by (domestic or foreign) actors outside the habitat. The increasing currency of
Stakeholder Dialogues in the international arena is likely to promote the introduction,
reformation or reformulation (relabelling) of participatory platforms into MSP
where they were not in evidence before – in exactly the same way as Participatory
Irrigation Management was (and still is) introduced in countries. Donors, NGOs and
The Nature of the Beast 23
some states are now keen to fund and facilitate MSPs. Where they are the result of
conditionality tied up with loans or a state’s own efforts, they are a new or newly
introduced species in an environment that is not necessarily friendly.
Where MSPs are introduced by the state or a donor, co-opting the grassroots
proves a difficult task. Conversely, where MSP initiatives are bottom-up, it may
be difficult to co-opt the public and private sectors, for whom joining may pose a
greater risk than staying out. In South Africa, stakeholder fora are now stipulated
by law, but early signs show that their approval is a tortuous application process.
This means that the survival of the new species currently introduced in a habitat
that has seen rapid change itself is by no means certain. On the upside, the
institutional environment in South Africa still seems imbued with energy and
legitimacy, on the downside, it can easily be bogged down in bureaucracy and
patronage. There is a scenario of expectations, but the script is not very detailed,
so there is no telling how the co-opted actors, supposed to make the story work,
will behave. While the habitat may be supportive, providing food (resource)
and shelter, internal (bottom-up) legitimacy may be low. In such a case, it is
important to see whether the MSP develops substance so that its participants
develop ownership.
Finally, the external institutional environment for MSPs may be limiting or
enabling. Usually the field had been divided up before the new actor got on the
scene. This means that some actors will expect to lose some of their power and resist
the new actor who may be regarded as competing for the same resources and niche
or territory. Other actors may seek to offload some of their responsibility load onto
the new actor, without giving it a real mandate and meaningful resources to make
and implement autonomous decisions. The official mandate, then, may be greater or
smaller than the actual room for manoeuvre.

Developing a Typology

Above, we noted that in the different case study areas (‘habitats’) we come across a
variety of life forms (‘beasts’) that somehow find themselves lumped under the genus
‘platforms’. Platforms are the result of interrelations among different social actors,
embedded in different social and political contexts and therefore there is no room for
normative definitions on how they must be structured or which methodology is the
best for their functioning.
There is no such thing as a ‘standard MSP’. Are there even indeed sufficient
commonalities to warrant a comparison? Part of our research project has been about
developing a context-independent typology of platform characteristics to enable such
a comparison, to help determine the degree of MSP-ness, predict platform strengths
and weaknesses, and identify opportunities for change and dos and don’ts.
For this, we start from an ‘ideal-type’ dialogue and see how the participatory
process under scrutiny compares, whether it moves towards it or away from it.
Inspired by Mitchell’s work, we focus on process, content and context of multi-
stakeholder platforms. The nine dimensions in Figure 2.1 build on and advance on
that framework. Next, we will briefly discuss these dimensions one by one.
24 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Assessment dimensions Multi-Stakeholder
Dialogues in river basin management

Fig 2.1 Nine dimensions of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs)


Arenas (Domains) From only NGOs, public sector-only or private sector–only

platforms to bipartite and tripartite partnerships. In most cases, water authorities are
not used to sharing responsibilities with users and other stakeholders. The inclusion
of non-expert voices can make the established decision-makers feel uncomfortable.
The same awkwardness can be felt when one sector is required to share decision-
making powers with others.
Dutch water boards are moving from unipartite (farmer-only), drainage-oriented
platforms to a multi-sectoral, multi-focal water management institution. For many
this involves an uneasy transition to a more contested, changeable environment.

Power balance from dominated by one actor to an equilibrium among the different
stakeholders. MSPs appear to take the currently fashionable ideas on public-private
partnerships and sectoral participation (Water Users Associations) one step further
The Nature of the Beast 25
by allocating specific seats for a multitude of interests: farmers, fishermen, tourism,
industry, government, environmental and community groups and so on. But sectors
and ‘communities’ are not homogeneous wholes, but fragmented into groups.
Societies are driven by structural power differences making it easy for some groups
to paralyze decision-making processes. If the powerful do not want it and the less
powerful are not well-organized and focused, nothing will happen despite the most
beautiful MSP structures being in place.


Multiple use From unilateral to multiple-use, including environmental flows.

The composition of many MSPs does not cover all bases required for Integrated
Catchment Management. Rural MSPs can offload problems onto urban stakeholders.
Thus rural South Africa the black and white middle classes may find themselves
uneasy bedfellows in an alliance against the Big City. Also, MSPs tend to be
anthropocentric, and thus the ‘nature’ (environmental flows) aspect of water is not
always represented. Here, the (positive) South African example of the ‘environmental
reserve’ comes to mind.
It may also be necessary for different identity groups to be represented, such
as ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities – in Ecuador, for example, indigenous
people are in fact more like a ‘majority’, but still have to struggle for their place in
decision making.

Salient goal When the problem is experienced as urgent and salient, a resource
platform will seem logical for its participants. For example, the Netherlands, half of
which is below sea level: at the time Water Boards were established, it was of crucial
importance that everyone participated in raising, maintaining and paying for dikes
and embankments. If one actor stubbornly refused to cooperate, the whole collective
would suffer immensely from floods or groundwater congestion.
Generally, an MSP does not address routine policy making, but complex issues
(see also the concluding chapter of this volume). They often involve all four levels of
integration (Ch. 1, this volume). It must be reasonably clear what must be done and
easily explained to others what is the relevance for the interests at stake. The reason
for starting such a group must be worth the trouble for the initiator and the potential
participants to invest their time, energy and resources.


Support generating capacity from a ‘talking shop’ of individuals to a diversity of

resources. This has an internal and external dimension.
Internal: Platform members who are highly motivated to make their endeavour
work will contribute and attract a variety of resources ranging from public support
(constituencies) to legal support (mandate) to financial support (a budget).
External: For the MSP to work, it must also have an impact on the surrounding
institutions and show tangible outcomes in water and risk management. Without
26 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
demonstrated impacts on salient problems, the platform can lose legitimacy and
political and financial support will dwindle. The external dimension is therefore
bound up with acceptance of the interinstitutional field.

Adaptivity over time a range from rigid inflexibility to focussed flexibility. The
development of new institutions such as a platform takes years. The Kat platform in
South Africa, for example, took 9 years to take off. This kind of time frame runs the
risk of donors or facilitators losing interest. But it is too easy to dismiss the concept
of platforms because they do not show up results soon. Where people did not know
each other very well before, and lacked trust, an MSP functioning as an information
network was already a major gain in Perú (Oré, this volume).
In the course of time, the platform’s goals and environment may change. A
‘water platform’ in South Africa may turn out to encompass a whole range of social-
economic challenges – housing, health, employment, land rights, poverty alleviation.
Therefore it is essential that the platform rules and platform definition (what is in
and what is out) do not constrain adaptive capacities (Ruijgh and Verhallen 2002).
Institutional ecology theory even notes that the mission and identity of an institution
can totally be transformed, e.g. the YMCA transforming into a budget hotel chain
(Perrow 1986). This has a risk of excess flexibility, where the institution loses its
focus. Ideally the platform is flexible, but remains focussed on land and water
resource management.

Synergy for innovation from a narrow interest-representing function to a platform

where people try to understand and augment each other’s perspectives and jointly
come up with new and bold approaches.
If a platform remains a space for negotiation of narrowly defined interests, it will
not exceed the level of business-as-usual. When social learning take place (which
cannot be taken for granted), it can benefit from the range of capacities, knowledge’s
and energies present with the various stakeholders, and in so doing tackle the
complexity, diversity and dynamics of natural resource governance (Kooiman
1993). In so doing, they develop into a ‘SMART’ organisation. Synergy is usually
dependent on proper facilitation which, in Röling’s (pers. comm.) phrase, helps
to translates cubic meters into human interaction. This issue will be discussed in
some more detail below. This dimension points at the ‘reframing’ or ‘social learning
capacity’ of a MSP (see section below).

Decision space runs from no mandate, only consultative or informative to plenty of

mandate, with influences in decision making processes. In practice, participation in
water management tends to depend on the degree to which the central governments
are willing to share power (Bruns (2003), see also Chapter 1, present volume).
Warner and Oré (2006) argue that both internal (mandate from constituency to
representatives) and external legitimacy (from enabling environment to platform) are
highly important in keeping a platform afloat, based on two Perúvian case studies.
Neither the emerging platforms in Perú (Oré, this volume) nor the South African
Catchment Fora (Simpungwe et al, this volume) are formally recognised in the
law, so whatever they decide can be ignored. It is true, though, that a consultative
The Nature of the Beast 27
process cannot always be ignored or dismissed if its participants ‘speak with one
Once the body has become statutory, as in France or Brazil, it can take meaningful
decisions, and the MSP becomes a force to be reckoned with. But what matters most
is not the de jure recognition by law, but the de facto political support for a platform
from the participants’ constituencies (internal) and the institutional environment
(external), enabling it to act decisively.

Output is it a place to gauge opinions and stay abreast of new government plans,
or does the platform produce visions, plans, projects that are actually implemented?
Is the MSP dormant, only talking or also acting?
Several MSPs we encountered produce paper rather than action, that is,
minutes of meetings and workshops rather than concrete projects for action.
Brief, they do not take any meaningful decisions! That may have to do with the
participants being content to give feedback and ask questions for clarification,
but also with the lack of concrete means and mandate (decision space) to make a
significant change in the way that the resource is being managed.
We have however come across MSPs that produced meaningful output in the
form of a coherent vision for the near future (cf. Ruijgh and Verhallen 2002).

The Role of Facilitation and Framing

The above typology does not include the facilitation function, which impacts on
all those dimensions, although this is not often taken into account in the dialogue’s
Platforms do not tend to come together spontaneously. When people are not
aware of the urgency of a problem, or do not feel they can make a change, they will
not feel motivated to participate. On the other hand, it might be the case that the
actors that are most responsible for a perceived problem are the less interested in
being part of a platform where they will have to negotiate with other stakeholders
affected by their activities.
Our research finds that just sitting together does not solve problems. People
have to bring, or develop, skills for making a multi-stakeholder process work.
Ideally, persons collaborating in a platform form a dialogue in which they
fully grasp the complex situation, including an understanding of the different
perspectives and interests. They are able to acknowledge those perspectives but
can go beyond that to come to innovative and inspiring ways to tackle the complex
issue, in an accountable and transparent process that can be communicated to their
constituencies. This is likely to require proper awareness-raising, training and
We found in several of our case studies that it is usually a charismatic leader or
facilitator (or facilitating organisation) that convenes and motivates the platform.
When platforms are top-down, a government agency or hired consultancy-university
may be the facilitator. When bottom-up, an NGO or university will usually be the
28 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Facilitators have an important say in stakeholder selection / categorising and
limiting the number of stakeholders. Even though everyone may be invited to come,
as they are indeed in South Africa, it is unfeasible to have 40 million people around
the table. This gives the one in charge of stakeholder selection an important in- and
exclusionary role. Facilitators can be ‘facipulators’ when they manipulate the process
for their own political or financial ends, or when they are not truly independent and
act on behalf of the institution or group that hires them, having an overt or hidden
agenda and organiser. All too often, MSP is a controlled space in which specific
problem frames are discussed with specific people, with a specific goal participants
and duration. This includes some people, topics and data at the expense of others. In
Alejandra Moreyra and Jeroen Warner’s case study (Chapter 9) the demarcation of
the Trahunco arroyo in Argentinean Patagonia was such that the ‘difficult’ indigenous
groups (Mapuche) were bracketed out of the MSP process, which meant they had to
strategize to reach their goals by working around the MSP.
It is therefore important not to ‘box the process in’ from the start and make
space for problem (re)framing to happen. Reframing starts with the recognition of
problems and interests of the other people involved. In the process of reframing
actors learn to understand the paradigms, metaphors, mindset or mental models that
underpin how they operate. Insight is gained on the relationship between one’s own
problem and problems of others. In ‘integrative negotiation’ collective frames might
develop (Aarts and Van Woerkum 2002).
It therefore seems highly important that the platform and its facilitator obtain the
legitimacy and mandate from the participants, and that the facilitator’s activities are
monitored by all.


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Planning Association, v35 i4: pp. 216–224.
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and equity in peasant irrigation, Van Gorcum, Assen.
Bruns, B. (2003), Water Tenure Reform: Developing an Extended Ladder of
Participation. Paper read at Politics of the Commons: Articulating Development
and Strengthening Local Practices, at RCSD Conference, July 11–14, 2003,
Chiang Mai, Thailand. Retrieved 24 December 2003 on http://www.bryanbruns.
Campbell, A. (1998), ‘Fomenting synergy: experiences with facilitating landcare
in Australia’, in Röling, N. and Wagemakers, M. (eds), Facilitating Sustainable
Agriculture: Participatory learning and adaptive management in times of
environmental uncertainty, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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Negotiation’, Development and Change, v31 i2: pp. 231–253.
EU (European Union) (2000), Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Union and of
the Council, of 23 October 2000, establishing a framework for community action
in the field of water policy, Official J. European Communities, L327, 1–73.
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International River Basins’, Water International, v18 i1: pp. 54–68.
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critical reflection’, in J. Boonstra (ed.), Management of organizational change
and learning, Wiley.
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and perspectives, Belhaven Press, London.
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House (3rd edition).
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principles and elements for dialogue on water, food and environment’, Background
papers prepared for Dialogue on Water for Food and the Environment: Workshop
on design for national and basin level dialogues. Bonn, 1–2 December.
Ruijgh-van der Ploeg, M. and Verhallen, J. M. (2002), Envisioning the future of
transboundary river basins, Technical University/Wageningen UR, Delft.
Steins, N. A. and Edwards, V. M. (1998), Platforms for Collective Action in Multiple-
Use CPRs, Paper Presented at the 7th annual conference of the International
Association for the Study of Common Property, Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada, June 10–14,1998. www.indiana.edu/~iascp/abstracts/612.html.
UN ECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), Århus Convention
(1998), http://www.unece.org/env/pp/
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conflictos por el agua: sueño, pesadilla o espejismo?’, in J. Warner and A. Moreyra
(eds), Conflictos y Participación. Uso Multiple del Agua, Montevideo: Editorial
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in Perú’, Disasters 30 (1).
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Chapter 3

Collaborative Capital: A Key to the

Successful Practice of Integrated
Water Resources Management
Nigel Watson


There is widespread agreement that integrated water resources management (IWRM)

is an imperative for sustainable development (Young et al. 1994; Mitchell and
Shrubsole 1997; Gleick, 2000). Although the fundamental importance of water for
human advancement and ecological maintenance is now generally acknowledged,
most societies have only recently attempted to move away from the dominant water
management paradigm that emerged in the twentieth century whereby available
water resources were exploited for development purposes with little appreciation
of their economic value or the long-term impacts of heavy river engineering on the
environment. Consequently, continued growth in water consumption was often left
unchecked. As a further consequence of this previous paradigm, ecologically important
and aesthetically attractive waterside environments effectively ‘disappeared’ from
the urban landscape, as communities turned their backs on polluted and degraded
streams and rivers. IWRM seeks to correct some of the imbalances and mistakes of
the past and to ensure that policies, plans and projects for water are coordinated with
those for other resources within an overall river basin development framework.
However, as an approach, IWRM is not easy to put into practice and actually
poses an enormous institutional challenge for governments, water users and society
as a whole. In the past, many governments have tried but failed to implement
IWRM through existing agency structures and institutional arrangements for
water management. There has been a general reluctance on the part of those with
responsibility for water policy to accept that alternative systems of governance are
needed in order for IWRM to be translated from a noble statement of intent into
an operational reality. Furthermore, attempts to bring about institutional reforms
in pursuit of a more integrated approach have often been met by fierce opposition
from government agencies themselves, which have perceived IWRM as a threat to
their authority as well as a challenge to the fundamental values and beliefs of the
dominant water management paradigm.
This chapter is concerned with the institutional conditions that are required for
the successful implementation of IWRM. Although many people appear to adopt a
‘business as usual’ attitude to IWRM and regard it as something that can be delivered
32 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
through conventional bureaucratic means, it is argued here that a radically different
institutional approach is required that requires planned collaboration among
government agencies, private sector organisations, voluntary groups and other
stakeholders. Consequently, researchers and practitioners of water management
need to develop a much clearer and more sophisticated understanding of the inter-
organisational environment and how collaborative processes may be applied to the
implementation of IWRM. The chapter begins with a discussion of the meaning and
origins of IWRM in order to demonstrate why existing institutional arrangements
in the water sector often act as a barrier to implementation. This is followed by an
examination of the case for a collaboration, which draws on some of the theoretical
literature to demonstrate some of the potential advantages and benefits for IWRM.
Attention is then turned to the key institutional conditions that are required for a
collaborative approach to work in practice. Reference is made to an example of
collaborative river basin management in British Columbia, Canada. The chapter
concludes by highlighting some of the lessons and implications for the future
practice of IWRM.

Integrated Water Resources Management

If IWRM is understood to be the unified or holistic management of water, land and

other natural resources within the boundaries of entire river basins, watersheds
or catchment areas, then clearly it is not a completely new idea. Indeed, there is
an extensive research literature on integrated management of river basins and the
idea itself was interpreted and applied in a variety of different ways during the
last century. The origins of IWRM can be traced to the 1920s and 1930s, when the
development of water resources within the hydrologic limits defined by river basins
gained credence in several countries. Perhaps the best-known example of IWRM
from this early period is the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the United States
(Owen 1973; McDonald and Kay 1988). The TVA was created during the New Deal
era to plan and develop available natural resources in a comprehensive fashion in
order to improve economic and social conditions in what was, at that time, one of
the poorest regions of the country. As such, the TVA linked environmental, economic
and social policy together and established the principle that water management
should be used as a means to an end, and should not simply be viewed purely as an
end in its own right. Furthermore, the TVA symbolized the belief that governments
could achieve integrated water resources management by creating multi-functional
bureaucracies that had jurisdiction over entire river basin areas. Although the
precise TVA institutional model was not replicated, several governments in other
countries did subsequently adopt the same underlying philosophy and approach to
water resources management. For example, beginning in the 1940s, the provincial
government of the Province of Ontario in Canada actively encouraged municipalities
to joint together and create watershed-based Conservation Authorities (CAs) with
broad responsibilities for the planning, development and management of water,
land, timber and other renewable natural resources. Today, the Ontario CAs are
internationally recognised as leading examples of an integrated approach to water
Collaborative Capital 33
management. According to Mitchell and Shrubsole (1992), the success of the CAs
stems from the fact that their institutional design is based on six key principles: the
watershed as the management unit, local initiative, provincial-municipal partnership,
a healthy environment for a health economy, a comprehensive approach and lastly,
cooperation and coordination. Nevertheless, the efficacy of some of the CAs has
been reduced in recent years due to budgetary restrictions and the emergence of
government ministries and other organisations with overlapping responsibilities and
powers (Shrubsole 1996).
As many western countries experienced rapid economic and population growth
during the 1950s and 1960s, IWRM was reinterpreted to take account of a shift
in objectives. While initially IWRM had been about comprehensive resource
development, much heavier emphasis was placed on unified resource management
in order to satisfy escalating demands for water and potential resource conflicts
in the post-war era. This modified approach was exemplified by the institutional
arrangements for river basin management created in England and Wales during the
1960s and 1970s. In essence, responsibility for water management was progressively
removed from the control of local governments and other public organisations whose
jurisdictions were defined by political and administrative, rather than hydrologic,
boundaries. In their place, new all-purpose water management authorities were
created that had control over the full range of substantive functions (water supply,
waste disposal, flood control etc) and generic functions (planning, development,
regulation etc) within entire river basins. Although the approach was considered
revolutionary at the time, it was not entirely successful because each authority was
responsible for both the regulatory and operational aspects of water management
in each river basin area and, from the late 1970s onwards, lacked the financial
resources to maintain infrastructures and control pollution. At around the same
time, a number of governments invested heavily in the production of comprehensive
river basin development and management plans. For example, Mitchell (1983)
described how such plans were generated for major river basins across Canada so
that available water resources could be used to their fullest potential. However, the
planning exercise had only limited success because the desire to examine every
aspect of each river basin created enormous data requirements, the plans themselves
took too long to complete, and circumstances had often changed by the time each
plan was published. Thus, experiences in England, Wales and Canada suggest that
whilst the objectives of water management had changed somewhat by the late 1970s,
governments continued to subscribe to the idea that IWRM could be achieved
through a bureaucratic institutional and managerial approach.
A further interpretation of IWRM, with two important differences, started
to emerge in the early 1980s. First, it was recognized that there is a fundamental
difference between a comprehensive and an integrated approach to water resources
management (Mitchell 1990). Whilst the former requires consideration and
management of all the different elements and processes within a water resources
system, the latter focuses only on the interactions among elements that are significant
in a particular river basin. For example, in one river basin the relationship between
pollution and declining fish stocks may be of critical importance, whereas in another
the key concern may be related to water abstraction for domestic or industrial use.
34 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
As such, IWRM in its most recent form is a more focused approach that potentially
avoids some of the analytical and management challenges associated with the more
comprehensive interpretation of the past. Second, it was recognised that IWRM
implied the unified management of both the land and water components of river
basins and that an exclusive water-centric view was inappropriate. Land uses such
as agricultural production and urban development often have a major impact on the
water environment and equally manipulation of river systems can produce flooding
or drought on land. IWRM in this form was applied in a number of countries during
the latter part of the 1980s. For example, in Australia the state governments of
Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia each adopted policies for Integrated
Catchment Management (ICM) or Total Catchment Management (TCM) (Wallis
and Robinson 1991; Mitchell and Hollick 1993; Johnson et al. 1996; Margerum
1999). In England and Wales, institutions were reformed in order to improve public
water services and at the same time to provide a sharper focus on the protection and
restoration of whole catchments and river basins. The operation of regional water
supply systems and sewerage was privatised in 1989 and a new public organisation
(the Environment Agency) was created for river basin management and regulation
(Watson 1997).
The preceding account illustrates the point that IWRM has been conceptualised
and applied in a wide variety of ways during the last eighty years. Nevertheless,
throughout this entire period IWRM was characterised by two common features.
Firstly, there has been a significant ‘implementation gap’ since the idea of IWRM
as unified management of water, land and related natural resources across entire
river basins has rarely, if ever, been achieved in reality (Watson et al. 1997;
Ducros and Watson 2002). Secondly, most interpretations and applications have
rested on the assumption that IWRM can be achieved through improved inter-
organisational coordination. Indeed, leading organisations such as the Global Water
Partnership (GWP) continue to promote the idea that IWRM is really a question of

IWRM is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management

of water, land and related resources in order to maximise the resultant economic and
social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital
ecosystems Global Water Partnership (2001, 1).

For clarification, coordination is defined here as an arrangement whereby two or more

organisations or units create and/or use existing decision rules in order to align their
separate policies, programmes and practices (Mulford and Rogers 1982; Alexander
1993). Coordination refers to a static institutional relationship involving existing
networks of organisations (Gray 1989). In essence, administrative fragmentation and
duplication of effort among government departments and public agencies within
the water sector have been regarded as the major institutional obstacles for IWRM.
What is more, inter-organisational coordination has been presented as the preferred
response to this situation or ‘administrative trap’ (Baker 1989).
The observations made above demonstrate that there is an implementation gap
associated with IWRM and also that the majority of governments have approached
Collaborative Capital 35
the task by creating more coordinated sets of institutional arrangements. The
implementation gap and the over-reliance of governments upon coordinated efforts
are not unrelated. Indeed, there are some compelling arguments that suggest
inter-organisational coordination alone is not likely to be an adequate strategy for
IWRM. One argument is related to the way in which water resources systems and
their associated management problems are framed. Christensen (1985) proposed a
framework in which problems can be categorised according to the degree of certainty
associated with the technology (means) available and the goals (ends) to be achieved
(see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 Goals and means (Adapted from Christensen 1985)

In Box A, the ends are agreed and the means to achieve them are known. In such
situations, water resources management problems can be solved through a standard
bureaucratic approach in which a single organisation follows prescribed procedures
in a routine, repeatable, fashion. In Box B, the problem is characterised by agreement
on ends but uncertainty regarding the means to achieve them. Thus, there may be
public commitment to addressing a water resources problem but an obvious method
is lacking, management organisations tend to adopt pragmatic, trial and error,
approach or attempt to reduce the level of uncertainty through scientific research or
increased knowledge acquisition. In such situations, water management agencies may
choose to coordinate their activities in order to search for an effective solution to the
problem. Box C represents a set of circumstances in which a particular technology or
‘means’ is already available but there is disagreement about how or where it should
be applied. A case in point is the addition of fluoride to public water supplies, in
which there are competing arguments about the benefits and risks to health. These
conditions call for an entirely different approach in which competing interests are
accommodated through bargaining, negotiation and mediation. Finally, Box D
represents a situation in which there are multiple, or unarticulated, goals coupled
36 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
with uncertainty regarding the means of achieving them. According to Christensen
(1985, 68), a strategy of problem finding is required for such conditions:

… problem finding is problem defining; it elicits order and meaning from ambiguity.
The discovery of a compelling articulation may come from a single planner or from
interactive processes. Such problem finding – that is, identifying or articulating – may
require planners and participants to reformulate the problem: casting the problem in a
new light so that people can agree that it is the right problem to tackle. To do that planners
need insight both of the nature of the problems and into political forces to ensure that
participants agree as to what the problem is.

An important lesson for IWRM emerges from the preceding account of responses
to different management situations. To date, the implementation strategies of
governments and agencies with responsibilities for IWRM have largely been designed
for the conditions described in Box A and B. The bureaucratic and coordinated inter-
governmental institutional arrangements that have been devised for IWRM were
suited to conditions in which the ends to be achieved were agreed and the means
of achieving them were fairly certain. However, in reality, river basins are highly
complex and dynamic socio-biophysical systems, which generate water resources
management problems characterised by high levels of uncertainty and conflict.
As such, successful implementation of IWRM requires a type of institutional
response that is suited to the conditions represented in Box C and D. As such, inter-
governmental coordination alone is not a sufficient strategy for IWRM.
A further reason why bureaucratic or even coordinated institutional arrangements
are unsuitable for the implementation of IWRM relates to the organisational
environment in governments and water management agencies now operate. Trist
(1980, 1983) argued that the world is in transition between an industrial and a post-
industrial order. For much of the twentieth century, organisations operated in an arena
described by Trist as the ‘disturbed reactive environment’. Such an environment is
occupied by big industrial organisations and equally large government institutions,
each of which seeks to amass power, resources and expertise in order to compete
and survive. In the context of water resources management, this type of environment
led to the development of highly centralised, multi-functional and bureaucratic
government institutions during the later part of the twentieth century. However, in
the last few decades a new type of organisational environment has started to emerge,
which Trist labelled the ‘turbulent field’:

In such a field, large competing organisations all acting independently, in many diverse
directions, produce unanticipated and dissonant consequences in the overall environment
in which they share. These dissonances mount as the common filed becomes more densely
occupied. The result is a contextual commotion – as if the ‘ground’ were moving as well
as the organisations. This is what is meant by turbulence. Subjectively we experience it as
a loss of the stable state (Trist 1980).

In today’s turbulent environment, therefore, water resource management constitutes

a type of ‘meta-problem’ or ‘mess’, which is characterised by increased complexity,
change, uncertainty, and conflict. Overall, this implies increasing inter-dependence
Collaborative Capital 37
among the numerous public, private and voluntary organisations involved in the
management water, land and other river basin resources. Unfortunately, most of our
existing institutional arrangements for IWRM have been designed for the conditions
of the disturbed reactive environment, and are maladaptive responses to the turbulent
field. It is clear that advances in institution-building that go well beyond unilateral
action and inter-organisational coordination are required. Such institutions will be
very different and are likely to be based on a kind of negotiated order in which
stakeholders interact, identify common values, continuously learn, evaluate and
adapt as part of an open-ended process (Nathan and Mitroff 1991).

The Case for Collaboration

If it is accepted that bureaucratic and even coordinated institutions are inadequate for
the implementation of IWRM in an environment characterised by unknown goals,
uncertain means, complexity, change and conflict (turbulence), then the question
arises as to what sorts of arrangements and responses should be developed in the
future? In the last few years, a growing number of commentators have argued that
the key to success lies with the development of collaborative institutions in which
a wide range of stakeholders are engaged in a process of joint decision-making and
problem-solving (e.g. Dorcey 1986; Glasbergen 1998; Wondolleck and Yaffee 2000).
The merit of such claims is that, in most heterogeneous societies, river basins are
contested spaces and water management itself is shaped by a multitude of different
attitudes, values and beliefs. As there can be no single correct interpretation or
application of IWRM, some sort of collaborative institutional process is required
in order to define problems, identify what is desired and achievable and to produce
agreement as to how common goals will be reached. Viewed in this way, IWRM can
be understood as an exercise in social problem-solving (McCann 1983).
Because collaboration appears to ‘fit’ many of the requirements for the
implementation of IWRM, it is argued here that researchers need to examine
collaborative institutions and processes much more closely than they have in the
past. Many different definitions of collaboration appear in the literature, most of
which is located within the field of behavioural science rather than water resources
management (Wood and Gray 1991). Gray (1985, 912) provided one of the most
widely cited definitions:

By collaboration we mean: (1) the pooling of appreciations and/or tangible resources,

e.g., information, money, labor, etc., (2) by two or more stakeholders, (3) to solve a set of
problems which neither can solve individually.

Unlike coordination, which is a static arrangement, collaboration is an emergent and

adaptive process that allows different organisations to deal effectively with their joint
task environment through information exchange, dialogue, deliberation, negotiation
and shared agreements (Selin and Chavez 1995). Coordination can be viewed as
one element of a broader collaborative process, which requires organizations to
re-examine their basic assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and values regarding the
environment in which they operate. As Beyerlein et al. (2003, 18) observed:
38 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The collaborative organisation is designed for effective coordination, shared decision
making, and decision implementation. The emphasis is on a collaborative approach,
because that provides an opportunity to utilize multiple perspectives and generate synergies
and commitment. The collaboration occurs across both vertical and horizontal boundaries,
so flow of information, people, coordination, and materials escape the constraints of silos.
The collaboration rests on a culture of shared responsibility, authority, and accountability
for results.

As an approach to IWRM, inter-organisational collaboration is less adversarial,

coercive, and regulatory in style compared to other long-standing bureaucratic
methods. Furthermore, collaboration can be used in two different situations related
to IWRM. Firstly, it may be used as an alternative approach to resolving resource
disputes and secondly it may be used to advance a vision for the future of an inter-
organisational domain, such as a river basin, that is shared by public and private
stakeholders. Several perceived advantages of the collaborative approach can be
identified from a review of the literature:

• Collaboration may increase access to knowledge and information that lies

beyond the realm of ‘expert’ researchers and managers and lead to more
creative solutions to uncertainty.
• Collaboration improves response capabilities by drawing on a more diverse
set of organisational resources.
• Collaboration encourages differences in values, beliefs and attitudes as well
as preferences to be explored.
• Collaboration can help to legitimise decisions and decision processes.
• Collaboration reduces the risk of impasse and can be used to break deadlocks
in negotiations.
• Collaboration may enable the transaction costs associated with other methods,
such as command and control regulation, to be avoided.
• Collaboration may improve organisational efficiency by limiting overlaps and
duplication of effort.
• Collaboration may reduce the risk of ‘implementation failure’ by involving
stakeholders in the design of solutions and creating a sense of ownership.
• Collaboration improves the flexibility of institutional responses, and may
enable joint agreements to be adapted according to practical experience and
changes in circumstances.
• Collaboration can improve social relations and create a latent problem-solving
capacity for the future.

Most writers have conceptualised collaboration as an iterative process that involves

a number of different phases. Waddock (1989) and Selin and Chavez (1995) argued
that collaboration is often initiated due to a number of different factors, such as a
perceived environmental threat or crisis, a legal mandate, an influential leader or
the availability of financial incentives. This is followed by a problem-setting phase
in which groups with a legitimate stake are identified, and the nature of the issue or
problem they face is articulated (McCann 1983, Gray, 1985, 1989). At this point in the
Collaborative Capital 39
process the stakeholders begin to appreciate their common predicament and the need
for joint action. In the next direction-setting phase, the participating organisations
focus on desirable future conditions and the values, beliefs and principles guiding
their aspirations. In essence, a common understanding of ‘ends’ that are mutually
desirable is developed. This is followed by a structuring phase in which specific
objectives are established, programmes or activities are designed and roles are
assigned to the various participating organisations. Whilst some commentators regard
structuring as the final phase in collaboration, Selin and Chavez (1995) argued that
outputs such as policies and programmes must be implemented in order to produce
outcomes or ‘impacts’ on the collective problem or set of conditions. Whilst the
different phases of collaboration will tend to occur in sequence, it is important to
note that lessons learned or changes in circumstances may require the collaborating
partners to return to an earlier point in the process.
Organisations with responsibility for river basin resources must have a capacity
to collaborate with other organisations and groups if IWRM is to be successfully
implemented. Beyerlein et al. (2003) used the term ‘collaborative capital’ (CC)
to describe this vitally important asset which represents the networks, processes,
structures, communication mechanisms and cultures that enable different
organisations and interests to work effectively together. A further important point
concerns the nature of the organisations that should be engaged in collaborative
processes for IWRM. Collaboration should not just occur within government,
since IWRM requires interaction among government interests and other groups
within society. As such, successful implementation of policies for IWRM requires
collaborative systems of governance, which are less ‘state-centric’ in character and
attempt to bridge the divide between the traditional bases of political power and
other groups within civil society with interests in the management of land and water
resources (Kooiman 1993; Pierre 2000).

Collaborative Governance in Practice

Collaborative governance appears to be a highly appropriate approach for

the implementation of IWRM. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that
collaboration can be difficult and is subject to a wide range of constraints and
obstacles. As such, multi-stakeholder partnerships or ‘platforms’ (Watson
2001; Wester and Warner 2002), referent organisations (Trist 1983), collectivist
organisations (Rothschild-Whitt 1979), third sector organisations (Taylor and
Warburton 2003) and other collaborative institutional arrangements should not be
seen as a panacea for the integrated management of land and water in the context
of river basins. A key research task therefore is to develop a set of principles
or criteria for the design of effective collaborative arrangements for IWRM. In
this section, key institutional factors that are likely to determine the success of
a collaborative approach are examined, drawing on theoretical literature and
empirical research carried out by the author, which examined the organisation
of the Fraser Basin Council (FBC) in British Columbia, Canada. In order to
set the context, a brief outline of development and resource management in the
40 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Fraser Basin is provided before attention is turned to the analysis of collaborative
institutional arrangements.
The Fraser Basin drains ¼ of the provincial area, includes fourteen different
watersheds and supports more than 2.5 million people who generate 80% of Gross
Provincial Product (GPP) from what is still a largely resource-based economy
(Figure 3.2). During the 10,000 years prior to the arrival of European settlers, the
natural resources of the Fraser sustained an indigenous population of approximately
50,000 people. However, in the last 200 years activities such as mining, timber

Figure 3.2 The Fraser Basin

Collaborative Capital 41
production, fishing, agricultural settlement, port development and urban expansion
have produced a complex mix of land and water-related problems. Responses to
these problems were generally piecemeal and management efforts were concentrated
on flood control, port development, fisheries and pollution abatement. By the late
1970s, it was evident that a more integrated approach was needed to effectively
tackle land and water management problems in the Fraser. A key step was taken
in 1985 with the establishment of the Fraser River Estuary Management Program
FREMP was designed to coordinate the activities of federal departments,
provincial ministries, municipalities, harbour commissions and other groups but was
confined to the tidal waters. By the early 1990s, there was significant interest among
governmental officials in the idea of basin-wide integrated planning and management.
This led to the launch in 1992 of the Fraser Basin Management Program, which was
based on a five-year agreement to pursue sustainability signed by representatives
from the federal, provincial and local tiers of government. The Program was
developed through a multi-stakeholder Board, which included representatives for
the four orders of government – federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations
– and also economic, social and environmental interests from different parts of the
Fraser Basin. Whilst the FRMP did have some success, it was essentially an inter-
governmental arrangement dominated by powerful federal and provincial interests.
At the end of the agreement in 1997, several members of the Board recognized
that further institutional change was needed in order to engage a wider range of
stakeholders and to galvanize commitment for balanced, integrated and sustainable
river basin management. As a result, the Fraser Basin Council was established in
1997 as a successor organization to the Fraser Basin Management Board.

The Fraser Basin Council

The Fraser Basin Council is a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to pursue

sustainable development through integrated river basin planning and management. It
is important to stress that the Council does not replace existing government agencies
or seek to duplicate their management functions. Rather, the role of the Council is to
address multi-jurisdictional issues and to resolve disputes using a consensual rather
than a legal or bureaucratic approach.
The Council has a corporate structure, with a Chairperson, a group of Directors
and a series of sub-committees with responsibilities for different functions and
geographical areas within the Basin (Figure 3.3).
Important initial tasks for an organization such as this include the development of
a shared understanding among the disparate groups of the problems to be addressed
and a common set of values, rules and principles to guide collective actions. In the
case of the Fraser Basin Council, a ‘Charter for Sustainability’ was prepared to
meet these requirements. The Charter outlines an agreed vision of the economic,
social and environmental character of a sustainable Fraser Basin system, plus
twelve principles to guide action towards the achievement of the vision. Crucially,
the Charter acknowledges the need to strengthen institutional arrangements by
42 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
adopting a watershed approach, by encouraging collective action at the local level,
by facilitating the participation of indigenous people in decision-making and by
creating transparent and accountable procedures.

Figure 3.3 Fraser Basin Council organigram

A key challenge for collaborative governance is to provide equitable representation,

recognizing that some groups are likely to be more economically or politically
powerful than other groups that have legitimate interests in river basin management.
The Fraser Basin Council is governed by 36 Directors drawn from the federal
and provincial government, regional districts, First Nations and sectoral interests
from different parts of the basin. In addition, there is a neutral Chairperson and
representatives for basin-wide economic, social and environmental interests. The
four orders of government make their own appointments to the Council and jointly
select Directors to represent basin-wide and sectoral interests.
Whilst this may appear to be a fair and balanced arrangement, there are still
some limitations. For example, although the 8 Directors from the First Nations
do represent the different indigenous language groups within the Basin, there are
more than 90 separate Bands each of which is a separate kinship group with its own
social and administrative system. As such, the 8 Directors cannot directly speak
on behalf of the very diverse mix of First Nations groups. Furthermore, there are
some concerns about the role of the Operations Committee, which was created
to deal with administrative matters and to maintain momentum between the full
meetings of the Council, which take place three times in each year. The Operations
Committee includes the neutral Chairperson plus 8 Directors, 6 of whom are drawn
Collaborative Capital 43
from the four orders of government. When interviewed, a number of participants
in the Council expressed a concern that the Operations Committee had a tendency
to make policy and strategic decisions that should have been more widely debated
among the Directors.
An additional challenge stems from the fact that river basins are complex
dynamic systems that evolve in a chaotic and unpredictable fashion rather than in a
linear direction. One implication of this is that river basin management institutions
must be sensitive to local conditions, flexible and capable of adapting to new
circumstances. The Council has dealt with these requirements by establishing five
Regional Committees, each of which is supported by a full-time coordinator and
is responsible for several watersheds within the Basin. Each Regional Committee
includes Council Directors who represent municipal, First Nations and sectoral
interests within the relevant geographical area. As such, Directors representing
federal, provincial and basin-wide interests do not participate at the regional level.
The Regional Committees provide a valuable mechanisms for responding to change
as they enable the Council to be alerted to emerging concerns and enable actions to
be taken at the local level that are consistent with the vision, values and principles
contained in the Charter.
Like all other forms of organization, collaborative institutions require
adequate funding and resources to function effectively. However, in the context of
collaboration, funding is a politically sensitive issue since it has the potential to exert
political power and influence. Although some stakeholders may be well positioned
to contribute financially towards collaborative efforts, others with equally legitimate
interests and claims may not. The Fraser Basin Council operates an innovative funding
arrangement in which municipal, provincial and federal governments contribute
in equal measure. Municipal governments provide approximately $300,000 to the
Council on an annual basis at a rate of 20 cents per head of population. However,
the Greater Vancouver Regional District contributes at rate of 10 cents per head
because it allocates an equal amount of funding to the Fraser Estuary Management
Program. Whilst funding is provided by three orders of government, this is still a less
than ideal situation. It is generally accepted that few, if any, First Nations groups are
able to contribute financially to the Council at present given the legacy of economic
and political marginalization. What is also striking, however, is the lack of financial
contribution to the Council from the private sector, given that several of the Directors
do represent economically powerful sectoral interests.
One of the main criticisms aimed at collaborative systems of governance is
that whilst they provide opportunities for deliberation and wider participation in
decision-making, they often produce implementation failures because insufficient
attention is given to outputs that will have an impact on the problem at hand. As a
result, participants may lose enthusiasm for further collaboration if there is little sign
of their efforts having a positive effect.
Fortunately, policy delivery and monitoring of impacts appear to be particular
strengths of the Fraser Basin Council. Examples include the production of
sustainability indicators to measure progress over time, the publication of State of
the Basin reports, an integrated flood hazard management strategy and a nutrient
management plan. The Council has also contributed to the resolution of long-
44 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
standing controversies in the Nechako watershed in the Upper Fraser Region. The
Aluminium Company of Canada (Alcan) constructed the Kenney Dam in the upper
reaches of the Nechako during the early 1950s as part of a scheme to generate
electricity for aluminium smelting at Kittimat. An agreement signed by the BC
government and Alcan in 1997 provided a $100 million Enhancement Fund for the
mitigation of the environmental impacts of the dam and water diversions. The Fraser
Basin Council was instrumental in establishing the Nechako Watershed Council in
1998, which works towards cooperative resolution of water management issues and
involves representatives for government, First Nations, business and community
groups. In December 2000, the Nechako Watershed Council recommended that
the Enhancement Fund should be used to construct a cold water release facility
at the Kenney Dam in order to restore the Murray-Cheslatta river systems and to
improve the timing, volume and temperature of water released into the Nechako

Lessons and Implications

The success of IWRM is dependent on the ability of government and non-

government groups to collaborate effectively in the appreciation and definition of
inter-related resource problems, the development of policies and programmes, the
implementation of joint actions and the monitoring and evaluation of impacts. There
are strong theoretical arguments in favour of a collaborative approach and practical
experience in the Fraser suggests that partnerships can have a positive impact on
the sustainability of river basin systems. Nevertheless, collaboration should not
be viewed as a universal remedy for land and water management problems or a
‘silver bullet’ that guarantees the success of IWRM. Ultimately, it is people and not
institutional structures or processes that determine the outcomes of collaboration.
There are no substitutes for mutual respect, patience, dedication, trust, negotiation
skills and endurance (Pinkerton 1989).
Effective collaboration can help to improve coordination, generate public and
political commitment for action and resolve disputes in a constructive and fair
manner. At the same time, it is important to recognize that collaboration is not
always an appropriate response and that traditional governmental institutions are
always likely to retain ultimate responsibility for the provision of water supplies and
other essential services, or at least the regulation of those services. In implementing
IWRM, decision-makers must be able to recognize the type of environmental
condition that prevails according to the degree of uncertainty, complexity, change,
and conflict that exists in a particular river basin, watershed or catchment area.
Collaboration is not required for every type of situation or management problem,
although the conditions in which it is needed appear to be increasingly common.
As such, collaborative systems of governance are perhaps best understood as useful
additions that can compliment and improve the effectiveness of existing bureaucratic
and coordinated inter-governmental institutions, rather than as their substitutes.
The theoretical literature and the analysis of the FBC provide some useful
insights into the particular institutional conditions that should be created in order for
Collaborative Capital 45
collaborative approaches to work well. Indeed, the essential features of a successful
collaborative system for IWRM are captured by the acronym ‘CARIBOO’:

A Common Vision: of the desired future conditions in the river basin and the
underlying values, beliefs and principles that will guide joint actions towards
realising them.

Adaptive Capacity: to enable policies and practices to adjust to changes in

circumstances, new information and knowledge and to local conditions.

Adequate Resources: to enable collaborative arrangements to function effectively

and to progress through problem-setting, direction-setting, structuring and

Independence: to enable joint decisions to be made without undue government

control, but with continued government involvement and support.

Balance: to enable diverse groups with different values, beliefs, expectations and
interests to be fairly represented throughout the collaborative process.

Outputs: to ensure that the arrangement is action-oriented as well as a forum for

information exchange, deliberation and negotiation.

Outcomes: to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of joint agreements and to

demonstrate to stakeholders the positive impacts of collaboration on the state of land
and water resources in the river basin.

These seven features can be thought of as design principles for the planning of
collaborative institutions, or as criteria to evaluate the performance of existing
institutions. In conclusion, many western societies appear to be on the threshold of
a major transition in the way land and water resources are managed. Collaborative
capital (CC) will be required in the future in order to implement IWRM for
sustainable development in a world faced with increasing turbulence. Institutions
can, and must, be reformed to create the conditions and processes needed for effective
collaboration. In particular, there is a growing need for organisations such as the FBC
to facilitate collaboration among a broad range of interests. However, the success of
collaboration will ultimately depend on the willingness of officials in government
departments and agencies to engage, and share decision-making power with, private
sector organisations, voluntary groups, communities and other stakeholders with
legitimate interests in the integrated management of land and water resources.


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Chapter 4

Integrated Catchment Management and

MSPs: Pulling in Different Directions?
Bruce Mitchell


As explained in the introductory chapter, three main questions are addressed in this
book: (1) do multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) make a difference? – in the sense
of creating a meaningful change for those represented by them, and successfully
co-opting the public, private and civil society sectors? (2) are MSPs compatible
with integrated water resource management (IWRM)? – in that the latter emphasises
a ‘whole of system’ perspective and the former usually emphasises a more local
perspective, and (3) can MSPs be sustainable? – in that many MSP platforms are
slow to grow but quick to wither or die.
Against that background, this chapter has several objectives, in order to address
the three questions posed above, with particular attention to the second. The first
objective is to review the rationale for and nature of IWRM, and to identify the
strengths and weaknesses of different interpretations of this approach. A second is to
consider the strengths and limitations of MSPs, in the context of IWRM. A third and
final objective is to outline some practical ways in which the limitations of MSPs can
be addressed in the context of IWRM.

Integrated Water Resource Management

The concept of integrated water resource management (IWRM) is not new (White
1957; Weber 1964; Schramm 1980; OECD 1989; Young et al. 1994). For example,
in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established so that initiatives
related to hydropower development, navigation and flood control in the Tennessee
River basin could be pursued in a coordinated and integrated manner. Without the
TVA, it was recognised that different agencies responsible for power, navigation
and flood control would likely operate independently, and lose opportunity to
design and operate activities to complement one another (Hodge 1938; Ransmeier
1942; Lilienthal 1944; Clapp 1955; Kyle 1958; Hubbard 1961; Selznick 1966;
Owen 1973; Callahan 1980). The TVA was preceded by watershed conservancy
districts in Ohio, starting as early as 1913 (Browning 1949; Craine 1957; Giertz
1974; Jenkins 1976). In Canada, legislation was passed in Ontario during 1946
to create Conservation Authorities, catchment-based organizations modelled
50 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
after the experience in Ohio and the Tennessee River valley and formed through
a partnership of municipalities with the provincial government (Pleva 1961;
Richardson 1974; Mitchell and Gardner 1983; Mitchell and Shrubsole 1992).
The trigger was realization that individual municipalities often did not have the
resources or authority to take initiatives (such as construction and operation of
upstream dams and reservoirs for flood damage protection) which would benefit
an individual municipality, as well as other downstream communities. Under
the statute, Conservation Authorities could be established when a majority of
municipalities in a basin agreed to work together with the provincial government.
Once that agreement was reached, they could access provincial funding designated
for such basin organizations. These examples highlight that for over 90 years the
value of integrated river or catchment management and collaborative approaches
had been recognised in the United States and Canada.
IWRM also has been applied for decades in other regions. In England and
Wales, a catchment-based approach began in the 1960s, with a steady evolution
toward fewer but larger organizations with more management functions (Funnel and
Hey 1974; Okun 1977; Sewell and Barr 1978; Parker and Penning-Rowsell 1980;
Kinnerley 1988; Bullen 1996; Watson et al. 1996). In Britain, there also has been
considerable debate regarding the role of the private sector as a partner with public
agencies in catchment-based management (Kinnersley 1994). Basin agencies were
established in France during 1964 (Lamour 1961; Harrison and Sewell 1976; Bullen
1996), and in Australia the concept of total or integrated catchment management
was introduced in the mid 1980s, with agencies created or redesigned with reference
to experience in the United States, Britain and Canada (Sewell et al. 1985; Burton
1986; Cunningham 1986; Australian Water Resources Council 1988; Mitchell and
Pigram 1989; Mitchell and Hollick 1993; Johnson et al. 1996; May et al. 1996;
Robinson and Humphries 1997; Bellamy et al. 1999; Bellamy and Johnson 2000).
Similar attention was given to the links between land and water in New Zealand,
especially during the 1980s (Howard 1988; May et al. 1996)

Rationale For and Nature of an Integrated Approach

A major driver for IWRM has been recognition that management responsibility
within a catchment or for an aquifer often is divided among various public agencies
at different spatial scales (national, state, municipal) as well as is shared among
different agencies (agriculture, economic development, forestry, water, wildlife) at
the same spatial scale. The outcome is that different agencies’ activities frequently
act at cross purposes with each other, such as when an agricultural agency provides
grants to drain wetlands to increase food production while at the same time a natural
resources agency provides grants to protect or expand wetlands to increase habitat
for migratory birds or to reduce flood damage potential. A common outcome is that
‘when everyone is charge, no one is in charge’ (Royal Commission on the Future
of the Toronto Waterfront 1992, xxii). Given the potential benefits for coordination
and collaboration among public sector agencies, as well as with the private sector
and civil society organizations, there has been growing interest in and application
of IWRM.
Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs 51
Kindler (2000, 314) identified 10 generally accepted characteristics of IWRM.
With some minor modifications, these are:

• Moves beyond traditional approaches, which tend to be sectorally oriented

and fragmented, and instead seeks to manage water resources as a whole,
applying an ecosystem approach when feasible.
• Is analytical, providing advice on priorities, trade-offs, problems and
• Is dynamic and continuous, including development, management and
protection of water resources towards democratically agreed objectives.
• Employs an interdisciplinary, holistic perspective that recognises the
interconnections between different elements of aquatic systems.
• Maintains balance between protection of valuable ecosystems and development
of water-related economies. Priorities for water use are set with regard to the
need to minimise and mitigate adverse impacts on the environment.
• Seeks input from stakeholders to establish policies for equitable allocation of
• Is evolutionary, often requiring iterative solutions to complex issues involving
economic, social, environmental, legal and regulatory dimensions.
• Provides a mechanism to reduce or resolve conflicts related to resource
allocation as well as approval or permits or licences.
• Promotes awareness by all government and community levels about sustainable
development and the importance of environmental protection.
• Promotes capacity enhancement and building, including human resource

The above ideas and concerns are reflected in the design of organizations such as
the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, established in Canada in October 2002. As
explained in the first annual report, the rationale was a desire for ‘a comprehensive
approach to water management’ (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority 2003, 4). The
vision for the SWA is ‘excellence in watershed management that promotes safe,
sustainable water supplies within healthy ecosystems’, and the following principles
(from a total of 10) guide its activities:

• Shared Responsibility: recognizing that wise management and use of water is

an individual and collective responsibility.
• Stewardship: caring for watersheds to sustain the natural processes on which
life depends.
• Partnership: working cooperatively with citizens, stakeholders, other
governments and First Nations.
• Watershed/ecosystem Approach: considering implications to the entire aquifer
and/or watershed when taking decisions, and recognizing that all components
in an ecosystem are closely linked and cannot be managed in isolation from
one another.
• Sustainable Development: promoting development and diversification which
is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
52 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
• Beneficial Practice: adopting beneficial management practices that are based
on good science.
• Empowerment: providing staff with the proper tools and authority to make
decisions and take action within a policy framework.

However, Hooper et al. (1999, 749–752) have cautioned that ‘integrated catchment
management’ should not be advocated or implemented uncritically, as it requires
significant time and resources. As a result, the benefits of an integrated approach
should be capable of being identified, or else the concept may become discredited.
Furthermore, there will be many situations in which relatively straightforward
initiatives by one agency will be sufficient to deal with an issue. While an integrated
approach often will be needed when situations are characterized by complexity,
uncertainty and conflict, it should not be assumed that it is always appropriate or even
desirable (Fitzsimmons 1996, 1998, 1999). As Kindler (2000, 313–314) noted, ‘it
cannot be automatically accepted that integration leads to the improved effectiveness
of water resources management. Fragmented and shared responsibilities are a reality
and are always likely to exist’.

Different Interpretations of IWRM

Downs et al. (1991) reviewed the research literature, and identified 36 different
approaches to IWRM. Many others have discussed the meaning of IWRM as a
concept by itself, such as Mitchell (1983; 1986; 1990), Margerum and Born (1995;
2000), Heathcote (1998). Hooper et al. (1999), Margerum (1999a to d), and, Kindler
(2000), or have viewed IWRM as one type of a broader ecosystem approach, such as
Grumbine (1994; 1997), Slocombe (1998a; 1998b), and Bunch (2003).
IWRM represents one interpretation of a holistic or ecosystem approach, and
Mitchell (1990, 4–5) distinguished between ‘comprehensive’ and ‘integrated’
interpretations. At a strategic level, it is appropriate to use a comprehensive approach,
where that means striving to identify and consider the broadest array of variables,
relationships and processes with implications for coordinated management of
aquatic and terrestrial resources. However, when moving to an operational level,
maintaining a comprehensive perspective may be counterproductive, since not
all variables, relationships and processes have equal value in shaping structures
and dynamics in a catchment. If continuing with a comprehensive approach, the
likelihood is high that an unreasonably long period of time will be taken for data
collection, analysis and plan development, and that the resultant plan will be dated
before it is completed. Therefore, at an operational scale it is more appropriate to
take an integrated approach, which is more selective, focusing on those variables,
relationships and processes understood to be the main influences on the behaviour
and variation in the catchment system and for which management intervention can be
expected to make a difference. In this way, plans should be able to be prepared more
quickly, and therefore be more likely to be relevant to management problems and
issues. Experience in Canada indicates that the distinction between comprehensive
and integrated approaches is not an academic nicety, but does lead to different
approaches to scoping issues, defining problems, and developing a plan (Mitchell
Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs 53
1983; Mitchell and Gardner 1983; Ontario Watershed Planning Implementation
Project Management Committee 1997).
Several comments deserve attention relative to the above observations. IWRM
has been conceived to ensure a holistic or ecosystem approach, and to facilitate the
coordination of initiatives by different stakeholders. With regard to the latter aspect,
a strong motivation is to break down what is often referred to as the ‘silo effect’, or
the tendency of agencies to take decisions only with regard to their own mandates
and authority, without reference to those of other organizations. In this manner,
there is a reasonable expectation that catchment management will be more effective
and efficient. However, in promoting a whole of systems perspective, IWRM can
experience tension with MSPs, since many individuals, communities or stakeholder
groups do not always give attention to the entire system, but rather only to that
part or aspect which reflects their own needs and interests. Thus, individuals often
focus only on the impacts of catchment management on their own property, while
municipal governments frequently worry only about the area under the responsibility
of themselves. As a result, if IWRM and MSPs are to be used together, care has to be
taken to understand not only the strengths and limitations of IWRM, but also those
of MSPs, and especially when they are used together. In that spirit, the following
section considers some key aspects of MSPs.

Multi-Stakeholder Platforms

Rationale For and Nature of MSPs

The benefits from MSPs are increasingly being recognized, and it is also being
appreciated that collaboration can occur for various purposes. Collaboration allows
stakeholders to come together to alert others about their views regarding different
aspects of a problem, and then together explore differences and search constructively
for solutions going beyond any one stakeholder’s capacities and limitations, thereby
sharing resources, and enhancing each other’s capacity for mutual benefit and to
achieve a common purpose by sharing risks, responsibilities and rewards (Gray 1989;
Himmelman 1996, 22). To achieve effective partnerships. Mitchell (2002, 186) and
Gunton and Day (2003, 13–17) suggest the following attributes are all important:

• Shared vision
• Compatibility between participants, based on integrity, mutual trust and
respect, as well as patience and perseverance by all partners
• Adaptability and flexibility
• Inclusive representation
• Benefits to all partners
• Equitable power for partners (which does not mean equal power)
• Clear ground rules
• Process accountability
• Sound process management
• Communication channels
54 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
• Realistic timelines
• Implementation and monitoring processes in place
• Multiple-objective evaluation

In addition to the above features, Gunton and Day (2003, 13–14) highlighted that
it is essential to determine if a collaborative approach is appropriate in any specific
situation since in their view a collaborative approach, or MSPs, ‘may not work
in all circumstances’ (the same observation was made earlier regarding IWRM).
Furthermore, they noted that trying to use MSPs in inappropriate circumstances ‘can
lead to frustration and discrediting of the entire concept’. To help determine when
MSPs are appropriate, they identified five pre-conditions for success: (1) commitment
of decision-making agencies to MSPs, (2) commitment of all stakeholders, (3)
urgency for resolution of an issue or issues, (4) absence of fundamental value
differences, and (5) existence of feasible solutions. In their view, the challenge is not
whether all pre-conditions are met perfectly, but whether they are met sufficiently to
allow an MSP process to be started.
In an earlier section focused on IWRM, reference was made to the silo effect,
the inclination of public agencies and others to interpret their mandates without
regard to the mandates of others, and to develop initiatives reflecting only their
responsibilities and authority. When this occurs, the first and second pre-conditions
noted above will not be satisfied adequately. And, if there are sharp value or interest
differences among stakeholders, the fourth pre-condition will not be met. In such
situations, the application of a MSP becomes questionable.
Another challenge, not explicitly noted in the previous ‘attributes of success’
and ‘pre-conditions’, deserves consideration. Partnerships assume a willingness
to collaborate and cooperate, yet humans often are competitive and primarily
motivated by self interest. Indeed, ‘economic man’, the basis of many models used
by economists, assumes that many individuals making decisions in their own self
interest, and in competition with others, will result in scarce societal resources being
allocated optimally (Mitchell 2003).
Even if the view is only partially accurate that competition is as likely or more
likely to prevail than collaboration, care should be taken when creating management
processes based on willingness to share, be open, and cooperate, when the presence
of competition related to satisfying self interest may be much more dominant. Thus,
in addition to some of the challenges for MSPs posed by IWRM, other fundamental
obstacles can hinder successful implementation of MSPs.

Empowerment and Transformation?

A further aspect deserves careful attention. Advocates of MSPs often believe that,
through participation in and engagement with issues and problems, the general
public will become empowered, and then subsequently be transformed through new
insight about processes related to civil societies (Mitchell, 2003). In that regard, Ellis
(2002, 46–63) completed a comprehensive and systematic review of the concept of
‘empowerment’. While finding that no clear or readily accepted definition exists, she
concluded that six basic components usually characterise empowerment:
Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs 55
1. Self-efficacy, or a range of feelings related to self worth, ability to be affective
in a broad sense, self confidence, and positive self image.
2. Knowledge and skills relevant to the goal of empowerment. Key knowledge
includes understanding of social and political power systems and power
structures, government policies, policy-making processes, and how to
obtain resources. Key skills include decision making, social and political
participation, communication, lobbying, organizing, critical thinking and
problem solving.
3. Opportunity to take action, including how to make decisions and provide
input to an organization, or to mobilise without being repressed. Opportunities
can be offered (such as through an invitation to participate in a government
or community decision-making process), or can be created (such as through
lobbying or community action).
4. Action, through a wide range of activities, from trying to take greater control
of one’s own life, to running for elected office. This can be pursued by
lobbying, or by participating in community or government-based decision
5. Resources, with specific resources of interest usually being funding, time,
human resources, information and training.
6. Impact, and can range from taking greater control of one’s own health or well
being to greater ability to do one’s job. In practice, impact involves having a
desired affect on policies, events or decision-making processes.

Combining the above characteristics, Ellis (2002, 57) concluded that empowerment
usefully can be interpreted in the following manner:
To be empowered, individuals or groups must perceive that they have self-
efficacy, knowledge and skills, opportunity and resources. They must engage in
some sort of action(s) directed towards a desired impact, and have some sort of
desired impact resulting from that/those action(s). They must also perceive that they
engaged in that/those action(s) and had a desired impact resulting from that/those
Through engagement and empowerment, advocates of MSPs normally believe
that individuals and groups can be transformed as a result of social learning. As
Diduck (2001, 3) observed, learning can help to overcome personal constraints
on participation, such as lack of knowledge, understanding, or skills, aspects all
identified by Ellis as important for achievement of empowerment. Social learning
through participation also can help to

clarify terms and conceptual models, provide a common base of understanding and,
thereby, resolve cognitive conflict .... As well, it could clarify and make explicit the
opposing values, interests, options or actions at the heart of other forms of conflict.
Learning ... could also illuminate unknown situations and identify problems, and thereby,
reduce ignorance .... (Diduck 2001, 3).

However, the work by both Ellis and Diduck raises questions about how much
empowerment and transformation should be expected through MSPs. In her work,
56 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Ellis (2002) examined a shared decision-making process based on a round table in
the Okanagan-Shuswap Land and Resource Management Planning Process in British
Columbia, Canada to determine whether participants became more empowered,
and what variables affected empowerment. This was one instance of the Land and
Resource Management Planning (LRMP) process introduced in that province during
the early 1990s (Duffy et al. 1996; Day et al. 2003). LRMPs are processes based on
principles of consensus building, sustainability, and consideration of all resource
values. They are usually two to five year sub-regional processes designed to involve
all parties with a key interest in the plan. The sub-regions normally cover 15,000 to
25,000 km2.
Ellis collected data between February 1996, when monthly meetings started,
and July 2001, after implementation had begun. She attended all the round table
meetings in 1996, and then selected meetings through to 2000. She focused on all 39
table representatives who had joined the process by the fifth meeting, and conducted
interviews with all participants on three different occasions (July and August 1996;
May 1997; September 1998). In addition, she observed and interviewed participants
informally on an ongoing basis.
Of 30 participants from the public groups who she was able to interview for all
three stages, she concluded that 4 became very highly empowered, 8 became highly
empowered, 12 became moderately empowered, and 6 did not become empowered.
Her analysis revealed that only 6 of the highly or very highly empowered participants
were highly or very highly empowered as a result of participating in this MSP process;
the other 6 participants in those categories all had a high level of empowerment
before the LRMP process started.
Diduck (2001) addressed two questions: (1) to what extent do environmental
assessment processes facilitate learning by individuals who participate in the
process? and (2) what are the forms of and constraints on learning by individuals
who participate in environmental assessment processes? His case study was a
hog processing facility in Brandon, Manitoba. Evidence was assembled through
review of documents, participant observation, and semi-structured qualitative
During the environmental impact assessment process, Diduck interviewed 27
individuals selected from ‘key publics’, which included proponents, federal and
provincial government regulators, non-governmental organizations both supportive
and critical of the project, the business sector, the news media, academics, and
private citizens. He also attended two public meetings in October and November
His main conclusions were that ‘the extent to which EA as currently practised
facilitates mutual learning among participants is quite limited, that is, EA processes
deviate quite substantially from the ideal conditions of learning’, ‘the emancipatory
potential of participation in environmental assessment is highly restricted’,
‘opportunities for all participants to define their own meanings, intentions and values
are limited, which restricts opportunities to self-define broader goals and community
futures’, and restrict ‘opportunities for collective mobilization in opposition to
dominant social forces’ (Diduck 2001, 152–153). More specifically, he found
serious constraints related to accessible and complete information, freedom from
Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs 57
manipulation and control, openness to diverse perspectives, opportunity to reflect
critically on presuppositions, equitable opportunity to participate, and opportunity
to have arguments evaluated in a systematic manner (Diduck 2001, 148). In that
context, he concluded that ‘the emancipatory potential of involvement in EA, and
opportunities for mutual learning, could be increased with greater flexibility in EA
institutional arrangements to accommodate incremental or transactive approaches
to public involvement’ (Diduck 2001, 154). Diduck’s findings are consistent
with those of Ellis. That is, the assumed benefits of participatory approaches and
partnerships do not automatically emerge.
The above discussion suggests that a basic belief is that partnerships, built on
collaboration and cooperation, will trigger learning which will lead to empowerment
which in turn results in a transformation for an individual, a group, and eventually,
perhaps, a society. However, some research suggests that the assumed benefits of
empowerment and transformation may not always emerge as significantly as is
usually believed. At the same time, a basic human characteristic, to be motivated
by self interest which leads to competitive behaviour, may impede, hinder or block
realization of the potential benefits of partnerships and participatory approaches.
The next section considers some recent studies focused on the extent to which
learning and transformation do or do not occur.

Strategies and Approaches regarding IWRM and MSPs

General Lessons

The following lessons have emerged from analysis of IWRM and MSPs in Western
countries, especially Canada, but also Australia, Britain and the USA (Ontario
Watershed Planning Implementation Project Management Committee 1997;
Mitchell 1998; Hooper et al. 1999; Born and Genskow 2000; Leach et al. 2002).
They summarise points made earlier in this chapter, and provide a context for
identifying strategies and approaches to overcome the tension in using IWRM and
MSPs together.
They are not presented in order of importance. It is important to recognise the
significance of them all, and to be prepared to move forward opportunistically on
each. None by itself is sufficient to ensure effective implementation of IWRM and

• Importance of understanding and appreciating the context or local conditions

which require capacity to custom design solutions.
• Appreciation of the need to take a long-term perspective, since problems
usually were not created in a few years and therefore are unlikely to be
resolved quickly. Decades often are required to stop or reverse degradation,
or to resolve scarcity problems.
• Importance of having a vision or desirable direction so that there is a clear
understanding about the desired future condition.
• Legitimacy or credibility for an integrated and collaborative approach must
58 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
be established, best achieved through ongoing commitment from political and
other leaders in local communities. Such commitment is not always easy to
obtain and sustain, since politicians are more attracted to initiatives which
provide tangible and short-term outputs, and the outcomes from an integrated
and collaborative approach often are intangible and long term (point 2
• A leader or champion who will continue to work for and support an integrated
and collaborative approach through inevitable set backs, disappointments
and frustrations. Such a committed leader often is the key factor related to
• Willingness to share or redistribute power is usually necessary, if significant
change is to occur.
• A multi-stakeholder group should be created to ensure that processes are
representative, open, transparent and accessible.
• Decisions by the multi-stakeholder group should be based on consensus, the
best way to ensure long-term commitment from the community to accept
• Awareness of the likelihood of burnout by volunteers from the community
who participate in IWRM.
• It should be accepted from the outset that a process for an integrated and
collaborative approach normally will unfold in an atmosphere characterised
by turbulence, uncertainty and surprises. As a result, participants need to be
flexible, adaptable and willing to learn from mistakes.
• There never can be enough time devoted to communication within and between
groups. Such communication should be done in ‘plain language’ to ensure all
participants are kept informed and updated.
• Demonstration projects should be used to provide tangible evidence of
progress, and to allow a role for those who feel more comfortable with a
‘hands-on’ rather than a planning approach.
• Long-term change and improvement require attention to information and
education, as change is most likely to occur from different attitudes and values
in the community.
• Explicit provision should be given to means for implementation and
monitoring of progress regarding decisions and plan recommendations. It is
in this manner that it becomes possible to learn from doing’, and to benefit
from experience (point #10).
• Accomplishments should be noted and celebrated.

With specific reference to MSPs, many initiatives with community-based

planning, management and development in the context of catchments have
occurred throughout the world, and lessons are being learned (Pinkerton 1996;
Cantwell and Day 1998; Litke and Day 1998; Griffin 1999; Habron 2003). Stout
(1998, 6) reported that the United States Department of Agriculture Conservation
Technology Information Centre has a ‘Top Ten Hint List’ for successful
catchment management. In Stout’s words, the hints are, in decreasing order of
Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs 59
• Think small. The smaller the watershed, the easier the partners can relate or
connect to it. In addition, the smaller the watershed, the faster it will react to
changes in management practices such as precision farming or land uses such
as green strips.
• Bring everyone to the table. Successful watershed efforts include everyone
who has a stake. This enables the group to build a consensus on what needs to
be done and how to do it. Leaving a critical stakeholder out of the process at
any step may cause unnecessary problems later.
• Great leaders plant seeds and nurture them. They facilitate the groups to reach
consensus, plant new and different ideas when necessary, and assist the group
in nurturing those ideas. Effective leaders are great communicators, they listen
and expand on others’ ideas, and make sure every idea is explored and that all
stakeholders are heard.
• Ask for free advice and in-kind services. For example, if you need a video, ask
the local television station for script and production assistance. If you need
monitoring or assistance, work with your local water department and your
local school system. And don’t forget that saying thank you in public will go a
long way toward getting additional help the next time. One bonus tip: No one
gives money to a group without a plan for how to use it. Financial assistance
can come from unusual places and innovative sources once the group has a
solid plan.
• Encourage teaching. Allow stakeholders to teach each other. No idea is too
simple to be discussed. For example, a farmer can teach the basics of watering,
fertilizer application, and pest management to homeowners.
• Seek common interests, not positions. By working to find the common interest
of all stakeholders, you will establish a strong foundation for an effective
watershed management plan. One way to do this is to get past opposing
positions by asking why stakeholders have taken a particular position. Keep
asking why again and again. It usually takes seven layers of ‘whys’ to uncover
the interest common to other stakeholders.
• Celebrate successes. Regardless of how small, celebrate progress. Whether
your groups measure progress by the number of canoe trips, kilometres of
buffer strips, or hectares of no-till farming, reaching benchmarks is important.
One more bonus tip: Be kind to each other; you may need that person to agree
with you later.
• Ask not ‘do you like it?’ but ask, ‘can you live with it?’. Remember that you
probably will propose many ideas before the group reaches a common point
of agreement. What is important in reaching a consensus is that everyone can
agree to live with a decision.
• Conflict can be healthy – if managed positively. Conflicting views or ideas
often become a third view or idea that can be healthy for the group’s efforts
and the watershed’s health.
• Patience. Patience. Patience. We didn’t get to where we are today overnight,
and we won’t get to where we are going tomorrow. When we set a lofty goal,
break it down in smaller steps. Before knowing it, you will have reached your
60 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Practical Implications

The above lessons or guidelines provide a solid framework for using MSPs in the
context of IWRM. A good starting point to overcome the tension due to IWRM
addressing an entire catchment or aquifer, and MSPs tending to focus on more local
areas within the larger system, is to work simultaneously at two scales:

Entire catchment It is common to have a catchment-based MSP with representation

from all sub-areas and sectors in the basin. In this manner, it is possible to maintain
a ‘big picture’ perspective, and to consider a full range of values and interests, and
associated conflicts, such as those involving different priorities due to different
spatial interests (such as from upstream and downstream communities) or due to
different sectoral interests (such as from forestry, agriculture, wildlife, recreation,
etc.). To be effective, the members of a catchment-based MSP must report regularly
to their constituents, and represent the views of their constituents to the catchment-
wide MSP.

Sub-catchments In parallel with the catchment-wide MSP, increasingly sub-

basin catchment MSPs are used to ensure the catchment-wide group does not get
overwhelmed by the many interests and conflicts across an entire basin, and also does
not develop strategies or initiatives that do not make sense in all the sub-catchments
since each usually has distinctive characteristics. It is common that several members
from each sub-basin catchment MSP become members of the catchment-wide MSP,
to ensure that the spatial and sectoral views from each sub-basin are shared at the
catchment scale.

Overall Implications

Tension undeniably is generated when IWRM and MSPs are combined. Some
occurs because of the different orientation or perspective required by each
(IWRM: whole of system, MSP: subpart of system), and some is due to some
fundamental challenges underlying MSPs which are independent or unrelated to
IWRM per se.
However, considerable insight has accumulated from initiatives which have
used MSPs within IWRM. While the challenges and issues are not trivial, there
is now understanding which allows us to generate principles or guidelines to
help shape the way in which MSPs and IWRM can be merged. Returning to the
three questions at the beginning of this chapter, answers can be provided:

• Do multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) make a difference? Answer:

a qualified yes. MSPs can make a difference, as long as there is (1)
appreciation that empowerment and transformation of stakeholders are not
automatic, and (2) recognition that many people are competitive and driven
by self interest rather than predisposition to cooperate and collaborate.
• Are MSPs compatible with integrated water resource management (IWRM)?
Integrated Catchment Management and MSPs 61
Answer: yes, especially if blended initiatives use parallel approaches of
basin-wide and sub-basin MSPs, and also include appropriate mechanisms
for communication.
• Can MSPs be sustainable? Answer: yes, as long as those responsible for
MSPs recognise the need for a shared vision to provide a common purpose,
that there can be burn out of stakeholders from civil society, and that it is
important in early stages to undertake initiatives that lead to tangible results
which can be celebrated. Furthermore, it is critically important to have key
leaders or champions who will continue to pursue the desired future, even
when daunting obstacles are encountered.

With substantial experience and significant insight to draw upon, it should be

possible to ensure that IWRM and MSPs ‘pull together’ in the same direction.


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Chapter 5

Contrasting UK Experiences with

Participatory Approaches to Integrated
River Basin Management
Malcolm Newson

Introduction: Water and Sustainability

In many ways, those concerned with the development and management of water and
related river basin resources have spearheaded international efforts to understand
and operate the principles of sustainability during the last decade. In the Dublin
Statement, issued by water specialists before the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992 (WMO
1992), the essential, but missing, interdisciplinarity of water (and land) resource
management became established. The shortfall between the ideals and actualities of
integration was clear to those who had worked to show the links between hydrology
and other biophysical sciences and with the social sciences (Falkenmark 1997).
Partly as a consequence of its widespread appearance in Agenda 21 (four chapters),
international support has risen sharply for integrated approaches to water resource
management (IWRM) within river basin frameworks (IRBM). Whilst there is a
growing body of criticism of the approach (e.g. Biswas 2004) there are equally strong
signs of government acceptance (e.g. in the European Union’s Water Framework
Directive). To the framework of integration have been added bolder, cross-bracing
approaches to ecosystem protection, new frameworks for water governance (framed
in the language of participation – our focus in this Chapter) and treatment of water
as an economic resource. Latterly, the prioritisation of poverty alleviation through
urgent provision of water supply and sanitation has raised questions about the
forbidding breadth, duration and technical demands of IWRM/IRBM (Hens and
Nath 2003; Mwanza 2003).
Despite prestigious support on the international stage, IWRM/IRBM represents
extremely complex biophysical and socio-economic agendas (Calder 1999); some
authors seek to represent the complexities pictorially with ‘wiring diagrams’ (see
Newson 2004). Figure 5.1 here is a gross simplification of the aims of sustainable
management inspired by ‘catchment consciousness’ (Tane 1996), but this
simplification allows a convenient mapping of some of the key elements of the new
water transition:

• An initial focus on allocating demands for water, both human and

70 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
• A separation of strategic from operational decisions
• The role of knowledge in decision support and of uncertainty in that
• The inclusion of public participation, economics and, above all, hydropolitics
(for an introduction to hydropolitics see Ohlsson 1995; Turton and Henwood

Figure 5.1 Sustainable river basin management, assisted by

political debate, ecological knowledge, economic
assessment and public participation

The political dimension of water is not hard to reconstruct from Wittfogel’s (1957)
unique and outspoken historical treatment of the ‘hydraulic civilisations’, focusing
on hierarchical societal structures in support of irrigation economies. In some senses,
our apparently more democratic, Western model for water development has in fact
facilitated a water management ‘technocracy’ (Newson, 1997) in which the heroic
role of the water engineer in supply-side operations has meant a strategy of ‘cometh
Contrasting UK Experiences 71
the need, cometh the dam and the pipes’. In an era of ‘water crisis’ (Newson 2000) it
is a reflection of the inbuilt technocracy of water, reflected in protective management
styles, that the whole field of governance and hydropolitics is only slowly emerging,
behind ‘hydroeconomics’ and other obviously highly-structured managerial attempts
to secure public accountability (not participation).
It must, however, be admitted that in the initial stages of a new water paradigm,
some aspects of its predecessor may need to be retained. Issues such as scientific
uncertainty, legal accountability and professional standards need close scrutiny
before the widespread adoption of adaptive management (Newson and Clark 2007).
Paradoxically, during this process, the IWRM/IRBM agenda may be badly served
by unquestioning addiction to the apparent rationality of the river basin management
scale: IWRM/IRBM needs to be questioned effectively and ‘fit for purpose’ (e.g.
applied at appropriate scales) so that the new orthodoxy does not merely repeat the
failings of its predecessor. For example, Rhoades (1998, 5) is explicitly sceptical:

The newness, complexity and ambition of multi-purpose, multi-scale watershed

approaches makes success elusive even in the best of circumstances. The assumption that
a precisely defined geophysical unit also serves as a socio-political or economic unit for
planning and management is clearly flawed. Watersheds as closed human management
units are external bureaucratic or researcher fantasies, not indigenous ones.

Nevertheless, if political viability is indicated by policy incorporation, the decade

since Agenda 21 has seen two major practical contributions to the establishment of
both strategic and operational principles for IWRM/IRBM – the Water Act in South
Africa (Schreiner et al. 2002) and the EU Water Framework Directive (hereafter
‘WFD’: EC 2000). Our focus here, however, is also on the plethora of smaller-scale
actions that seem to incorporate blind faith in ‘catchment consciousness’ as a policy

From ‘Technocracy’ to Participation in UK Water Management

Water management has an inescapable heroic technological past (see Binnie 1981;
Rennison 1979 for the UK). We should not assume that engineering science blindly
follows its own obsessions, but its radical nature often makes it vulnerable to
incorporation in increasingly sophisticated but unsustainable ‘mega-projects’ rather
than providing technical assistance to the ‘Blue Revolution’ (Calder’s title, 1999).
In the period of transition under review there has been considerable progress in the
relevant science and technology – part of a genuine professional effort by engineers
and scientists to play a major part in sustainable water development (Bailey 1996).
Yet, engineering design remains accountable to an increasingly litigious society and
there are few signs that the water management ‘mind set’ is genuinely and pro-actively
open to e.g. indigenous knowledge, adaptive management and, thus, meaningful
public participation. A UK flood project manager has complained that, for effective
public participation, professionals must ‘give the project away’. Compared with this
generosity, there is considerable hesitation about incorporating public participation
in both the South Africa Water Act and the EU Framework Directive. The critical
72 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
agenda may therefore be that of hydropolitics, since changes of governance and
conflict resolution are as vital as those of protocols and procedures.
We should briefly mention a recent and considerable assault on the technocratic
agenda, the World Commission on Dams. The Commission’s report (WCD 2000)
is of substantial influence, given the international influence of its Chair (Professor
Kader Asmal, former Minister of Water Affairs, South Africa) and the critical
backlashes against precautionary approaches to dam building unleashed by e.g. the
International Commission on Large Dams and the World Bank.
Such battles are, in a sense, side issues in the search for a new model of water
governance for the ‘New Environmental Age’ (Nicholson 1987). Rationality
and reality are often mismatched in the new uncertain environment for decision-
making and traditional conceptual models of the interdisciplinary ‘fix’ are suspect
(Newson 2004; Newson and Clark 2007). As a general decision-making model
under conditions of uncertainty, Kai Lee (1993) has suggested, on the basis of his
experience in managing the problems of the Columbia Basin USA, that science is
a ‘compass’ to guide our options, but open democratic debate and argument are
the ‘gyroscope’ that keeps us level. There is an explicit implication in Lee’s thesis
that the model will only flourish under conditions of adaptive management but the
implicit implication is more relevant to participatory processes: information and its
exchange form a vital hub.
However strongly general principles of realistic governance are advocated, there
is little evidence that they are followed outside celebrated examples of ‘localism’ or in
river basins, like the Columbia (Lee’s example), where there have been long-lasting
‘wicked problems’ (Wester and Warner 2002). Many other, apparently successful,
examples of inclusive IRBM exist in the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe and
their common feature is that of appropriate, generally local, scaling of ‘the problem’,
the relevant institutions and the involved community, of both stakeholders and
general public. There are, however, widespread inadequacies in both the nature of
the science input and the workings of the broader democracy implied by better water
governance. Some of these are addressed in our case studies (below) but, again, at
a very small scale.
Issues of governance relate strongly to issues of scaling, in both space and time;
to set up an involved and creative polity it is vital to understand and appreciate the
appropriate scale of water issues and the potentially different scales at which the public
reacts to them. In most cases, especially when viewed from national government, it
is appropriate to envisage a nested hierarchy of spatial scales for water management,
with due regard for existing political and administrative boundaries. Subsidiarity is
a strong component of sustainability but there need to be linking processes or plans
between each level of the hierarchy and in both directions.
The European Union’s WFD represents a sharp move away from the ‘technocratic’
tradition of water management, confirming as it does the central preoccupation with
water bodies as part of an ecosystem. It is by the achievement of ‘good ecological
quality’ that successful system management is legally judged (with the exception
of ‘Heavily Modified’ waters where an anthropocentric priority is permitted). The
Directive’s adoption of ‘strong’ sustainability (Pearce 1993) is tempered by its equally
demanding inclusion of public participation and the use of economic valuation in the
Contrasting UK Experiences 73
formulation of the core River Basin District Plans and the subsequent programme of
measures. It is in the context of the dearth of operational guidance on participatory
processes for implementing the WFD in the UK that our case studies are presented
below. In a recent review of IRBM across Europe, WWF (2003) concluded that
public participation is ‘poor or very poor’ in almost half of the surveyed countries,
that the public is seldom capacitated enough to participate, resulting in disappointing
outcomes and that projects are far from transparent to the public.

Public Participation in the Planning and Management of UK Rivers

The British public have, in the past, shown considerable faith in the robustness of
UK water (supply side) management which first gained an acclaimed welfare role
during the vital public health reforms of the Victorian era. When travelling abroad
Britons were always apt to lay blame for a range of vacation health problems on
local water supply quantity and quality. Partly as a result of national complacency
the public remained, however, largely ignorant of how their water supply was
abstracted, prepared and delivered. In the New Environmental Age, and particularly
in the wake of privatisation, the public now wants and uses a powerful voice in the
regulatory framework for water management. Their role as consumers has opened a
much richer awareness, achieved prominently through the flow of information from
the water services companies and in news coverage of their regulatory strictures.
Public participation has also been facilitated by changes in environmental
science (widespread provision of information and a stronger attempt to couch
predictions in terms of risk) and by changes in governance (particularly within new
bureaucratic territories such as river basins). During the 1990s the National Rivers
Authority and subsequently the Environment Agency gained experience ‘the hard
way’ during consultation on firstly Catchment Management Plans and then LEAPs
(Local Environment Agency Plans). These were initially seen as documents rather
than planning processes and made very little effort to understand the two-way flows
inherent in the compass-gyroscope relationship (Slater et al. 1994; Newson et al.
1999). Improvement is both essential and expected as water managers move to the
statutory planning and consultation processes implied by the WFD (White and Howe
2003). Amongst the problems looming is the need to reconcile the plethora of water
sector plans now unleashed on the UK public at various ‘rungs’ on the ‘Arnstein
ladder’ of consultation (Ellis et al. 2002).
There are also signs that public agencies may slowly move towards adaptive
management as a means of coping with the very long timescales inherent in the
sustainability vision. Viable techniques of decision support must therefore deliver:
‘the alluring prospect of combining the rigour of the scientific method with the
contingent realities of policy and politics’ (Dovers and Mobbs 1997: 40). Information
(and its management – Enserink and Monnikhof 2003) can now be seen as a vital
core to public involvement in environmental issues, a message delivered from both
river basins (Edwards-Jones 2003) and the coastal zone (King 2003).
As well as being involved nationally and regionally as consumers of domestic
water supply and as consultees in river basin plans, the involvement of the UK
74 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
public has been sought locally in a range of small-scale river basin management
projects. Most of these have no reported evaluation but publications are beginning
to appear now from both the UK, USA and Australia (e.g. Edwards-Jones 1997a,
1997b; Hillman et al. 2003; Connick and Innes 2003; King 2003 – the latter example
being from Integrated Coastal Zone Management).
Almost unanimously these evaluations assert the central role of decisions based
upon a broad but systematic body of information whose compilation and shared
value becomes part of the ‘social capital’ of the participatory venture (Hillman et
al. 2003, 221). King (2003, 142) suggests that ‘An information strategy is vital for
participation and the two aspects should be conceived together.’ Another common
thread is to put emphasis on quality of process rather than on mechanistic measures of
outcome; ‘collaborative practices are more fluid and less predictable than traditional
forms of policy making’ (Connick and Innes 2003, 178).

Natural Capital – A Potential Information Framework in Basin-Scale Public


It has frequently been argued that an holistic framework for both strategic
environmental planning and the resulting operations might best be provided by
the concept of nature (and its anthropogenic transformations) as ‘capital’. Natural
processes are seen as counteracting anthropogenic impacts and are delivered to
human societies as ‘services’ by intact ecosystems. As Daily (1997, 3) puts it:

In addition to the production of goods, ecosystem services are the actual life-support
functions, such as cleansing, recycling and renewal and they confer many intangible
aesthetic and cultural benefits as well.

Thus, in the ecosystem model for river basin management (Marchand and Toornstra
1986), ‘spontaneous regulation’ services are provided by e.g. undamaged soils,
natural forests, floodplains and other wetlands; if damaged during development
their services are often replaced by less sustainable anthropogenic mimics. Natural
capital appears to integrate logically with ‘strong’ sustainability at the ecosystem
scale (such as that explicit in the WFD) – since the systems view is essential to both.
An inconvenient paradox of applying simple ‘systems thinking’ to environmental
management is the complexity inherent in our understanding of the system being
managed; whilst fundamental to the approach (Clayton and Ratcliffe 1997), it
requires translation into ‘useable knowledge’. The assignment of values and risks
to options is vital to permit participatory selection of priorities. Clearly, however,
ecosystem goods and services can only be valued (even in qualitative ways) if
sufficient information exists from systems science or by indigenous processes of
‘social learning’. Social learning can be defined (Maarleveld and Dangbegnon 1999;
Rist et al. 2003) as ‘the way in which people learn to get insight into, predict and
control the manner in which their actions affect natural and human life’ (Rist et al.
2003, 263). There are longer and softer definitions but this one accords best with the
transition to adaptive management under way in the UK and with the environmental
policy envelope for water and land use planning.
Contrasting UK Experiences 75
In 1997 four public agencies in England and Wales funded the development
of a survey and appraisal technique, based on natural capital but known as
‘Environmental Capital’. It was based on natural systems guidance (using mainly
that of Clayton and Radcliffe 1997) for sustainable development (CAG/LUC 1997).
Terminology and labelling proved important to emphasise the inclusion, within the
proposed survey technique, of elements of human and cultural capital as well as
natural capital. The name was later changed to Quality of Life Capital (QoLC) as
a further means of developing a holistic image of a technique with no built-in bias
towards particular elements of the capital concept (CAG/LUC 2001).
The technique set out to emphasise functions, rather than features, of a given
geographical unit and the main themes of sustainable development were promoted
by the pattern of the environmental capital enquiry: from attributes to importance
and thence to trends/sufficiency and substitution or trade-offs (between forms and
features of environmental capital). The CAG/LUC report came too early to be
matched to the framework of multi-stakeholder processes (Hemmati 2002) and
gives much of the responsibility for steering the technique to professionals within
the participating agencies, but with an equally clear potential for participation.
‘Professional judgement should be supported by assessment of public perceptions of
the characteristics of the environment’ (CAG/LUC 1997, 22)
An essential question surrounding the ecosystems approach to management
is that of the costs surrounding data collection (Clark 2002). An holistic survey
system such as QoLC could be particularly demanding in this respect. In fact, our
experience in four river basin applications is that much of the essential information
is already available in a developed country and therefore the basic requirement is for
collation, within a new conceptual framework, rather than primary survey. A vital
additional dimension, where information and its management are the hub of a public
participation exercise, is the ‘indigenous knowledge’ or ‘vernacular science’ which
is contributed to the process as part of continued social learning.

Test-Bed Projects for QoLC in Northern England

The sample river basins described here are small; the operational size for participatory
catchment-based actions is that of the community’s interest and, in turn, that of
the perceived problem or opportunity for change. A vital immediate concern for
establishing a project is to evaluate the level of interest and motivation of all potential
stakeholders. O’Riordan and Rayner (1991, 91) provide a warning note:

Most people in the world are necessarily preoccupied with the immediate demands of
making a living from their local environment. The privilege of observing and understanding
the complex interaction of biophysical and socio-economic systems over long distances
and historical timescales is the property of a tiny elite.

Lee (1993) puts a gloss on this view by describing environmental activism as

majority rule ‘by the minority who care’. Working between rhetorical scepticism and
optimism, an empirical examination of the motivation for positive public responses
76 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
to participation (Filho 1999, 35) has created a list of some of the most common

• The matter is perceived as relevant by individuals

• Individual participation is seen as making a difference
• Motivation is provided by authorities, family, friends or peers
• Financial benefits/direct profit
• Improvements in infrastructure
• Concern for the environment

Experience of applying natural capital matrices to river basin projects derives from
four basins in the north of England, but in only three cases (the Upper Wharfe,
Coquet and Team) has the methodology so far been carried forward to project
management. In one of these, the Team, the methodology failed at the stage of
professional consultation (for reasons conjectured below); in the Coquet it was
much less successful than in Upper Wharfedale and it is this comparison that is used
analytically to probe the process of participation initiated in a QoLC framework (see
also Newson and Chalk 2004).
Common elements of the Upper Wharfedale and Coquet projects are their
funding through the European Commission via the Objective 5B Programme’s rural
development route and their management through the Environment Agency (the
primary environmental management authority in England and Wales – the competent
authority under the WFD) and a Steering Group. Both projects are also opportunistic
in that they exploit recent political willingness to consider the riparian zone of river
networks as ‘special’ and of immediate practical, economically supported relevance
in the management of catchments. At that point, similarities between the two projects
end and contrasts, vital to our experience of QoLC, will be introduced below. Both
projects entailed costs to the public purse of £500,000 (Newson and Chalk 2004).
The Upper Wharfedale ‘Best Practice’ Project (UWBPP) was carried out between
1998 and 2002 as a partnership to demonstrate the principles, techniques and benefits
of an integrated way of achieving good land and water management, based on an
ecological approach, protecting habitats and water quality in the catchment, while
encouraging a move to more sustainable hill farming. Upper Wharfedale is an upland
river catchment area (100 km2) within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with the
highest point approximately 670m above sea-level (Figure 5.2). Local residents
number 5,600, but numbers are heavily inflated by tourists –the Yorkshire Dales are
one of Britain’s most popular tourism centres.
The initial idea of an exemplar project on land and water management arose at a
meeting between the Environment Agency and the National Trust, major landowners
in Upper Wharfedale. The idea was positively received at both a brainstorming
session of local organisations and a public community meeting. This support, aided
by Upper Wharfedale’s location in the well-known and well-studied Yorkshire Dales
National Park, led to the development of the Upper Wharfedale ‘Best Practice’
Project through the commissioning of a Feasibility Study (RKL-ARUP 1998). The
existence, through the area’s National Park status, of a ready-made institutional
support structure with considerable experience of integrating the needs of ‘nature’
Contrasting UK Experiences 77

Figure 5.2 Location map for the four North-east England catchments to
which environmental capital approaches have been applied

(including scenery) with those of humans is seen as facilitating the Environmental

Capital approach (as it was then officially known). The Feasibility Study comprised
a ‘general geography’ of the valley, including a guide to the available environmental
monitoring data and other issues of high relevance to the Environmental Capital
approach. Thus, an information ‘hub’ was created in advance of the Project. It listed
the ‘main programme elements’ which might feature in the Project as:

• River bank erosion

78 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management

Figure 5.3 QoLC attributes and scales of importance in Upper

Wharfedale (after Newson and Chalk 2004)

• Regeneration of ‘gill’ (headwater valley-side stream) habitats

• Flood Defence strategy
• Pollution control
• Biodiversity
• Moorland drainage
• Livestock farming practice
• Education

Immediately this agenda is both serious and yet broad in terms of conventional
scientific guidance; its combination of biophysical and socio-economic elements at
the river basin scale demands an adaptive management philosophy and an innovative
approach to formally progressing the Project.
The Project was developed and implemented through a partnership, led by the
Environment Agency, and managed by a Steering Group. The Steering Group adopted,
and offered the first contributions (beyond the Feasibility Study) to, the Environmental
Capital matrix. Part of the reason for acceptance of the technique was that it was seen
to bridge the gap that inevitably develops between Steering Groups and ‘best practice’
operations ‘on the ground’. It was also part of the desire amongst participants to have an
holistic view of priorities, rather than a piecemeal, ad hoc approach to funded work.
Day to day management on the ground was coordinated by a Project Officer with
overall management coordinated by a Project Manager. Operations included letting
contracts, organising delegated grants, producing legal agreements and obtaining
permissions. The role of identifiable and approachable ‘product champions’, able to
take rapid and effective action, is also seen as an essential contribution to the success
of multi-stakeholder platforms in such projects.
Contrasting UK Experiences 79
Some issues were debated/decided using sub-groups led by institutional
stakeholders, with themes such as sustainability (within which the Quality of
Life Capital approach was selected and developed), education and habitats; these
convened and met as and when necessary. Workshops, public meetings in the Parish
Hall, individual meetings at the farmhouses, walk events at locations in the Dale
and the production by local artists and the community of a floor-scale river game
(WHARFE: We Have A River For Everyone) were some of the other methods used
to disseminate information and seek public input to the core Environmental Capital
survey, to which we now turn.
The working ‘environmental capital’ features identified by professionals and the
public in Upper Wharfedale are identified in Table 5.1 and Figure 5.3.
The identification process was professionally and academically led but much of
the information base was already widely available and routes to the remainder had
been sketched at feasibility stage. Environmental Capital surveys need not inflict
lengthy delays or high costs in the prelude to setting up multi-stakeholder platforms,
through which they evolve, but they must occur early in the project’s life, for example
as part of the strategic plan (Newson and Chalk 2004).

Information and Participation: Conflict and Compromise

Information confers power in the setting of strategic and operational goals; it is

a vital element of decision support and requires very careful attention in project
management as the currency of participation (Enserink and Monnikhof 2003).
Indigenous knowledge is a vital counterbalance to the normal domination of debate
by academic and institutional data. In some senses there is dialectical rivalry between
the two, which, if sensitively managed, enhances the debate prior to decision
making. Knowledge of the features identified by consultation at the feasibility stage,
including their relationship with one another, historical changes and the objectives
of people involved was collected as described above. Information was held by a
number of statutory and non-statutory organisations, local societies, members of
the community and academic institutions. Collection, collation and distribution of
information continued throughout the Project’s lifetime through the sub-groups
addressing particular topics, community and academic input and surveys. There is
a seamless transition to essential monitoring and research to fill gaps in the matrix
(see below).
Stakeholder participation invariably identifies crucial issues, many of which are
only tangential to river management. The Quality of Life Capital approaches offer a
framework which is flexible enough to admit these issues to the holistic picture and
encourages community thinking about scientific processes at a ‘no nonsense’ level.
Teasing out the objectives of all stakeholders and the wider public helped to identify
the vital areas of consensus as well as issues of direct conflict which needed to be
addressed. For example, a notable area of conflict was the tension between farming
and environmental objectives in aiming for drier conditions in vital hay meadows
(through improved drainage) or managing for a wetter, more natural drainage
pattern with extended and enhanced wetlands. This remains a key longer term issue:
Table 5.1 The QoLC matrix of attributes used to guide the Upper Wharfedale Best Practice Project (Newson and Chalk 2004)
Blanket peat Stores carbon Environmental Global/ Impossible to High Eroding and Block drains, ‘assisted recovery’,
moorland from atmospheric control (stores catchment/ substitute: peat thinning due to low intensity use. Monitor
pollution, stores water, carbon) Wharfedale growth rates grazing/gripping hydrological recovery, monitor
water, key habitat – vital to all valley floor very slow access, grouse, cover/stocking etc.
Native Absorbs carbon Amenity, nature Local and Impossible Medium/ Undermanaged Proof against stock, regenerate,
woodland from atmospheric conservation, regional/ to substitute, high – area below extend in upper catchment
pollution, ground local economy catchment existing critical threshold and riparian zone
stabiliser, habitat woodland can
be managed/
Plantation Economic services, Local economy Local/ catchment Restore where Medium Mitigation (e.g. Forestry Commission ‘guidelines’
woodland absorbs carbon and Conservation past practices habitat, runoff) retroactive for existing
from polluted air potential unsustainable welcome plantations. Stream sampling
and wildlife monitoring
Limestone Pavements, caves Part of ‘spirit Local (river Impossible to High Pavement needs Related to peat moorland, but
features scientifically of place’ of the regime, tourism, recreate. Can protection, caves: also to recreation management
import, attract Dales, biodiversity water supply) be lost through access, pollution / pressure and farm pollution
visitors / tourism national, quarrying etc protection (cave ecosystems)
River channel Oxygenation, Central to the Local, regional/ Enhancement of High Works in the past Research on past and present
and gills sediment storage, catchment and catchment past flood works created erosion sediment and flow regime of the
aesthetic attraction, to identity of (e.g. gravel trap) and deposition channel followed by restoration
angling, biota place. Local to assist recovery problems including flood protection
water supplies
River Economic core, Key element of Local and We may make High Flood defence Hydraulic modelling and
floodplain visitor focus, farming economy regional/ publicly funded and drainage geomorphological / ecological
Hay meadows, flood storage, but some services catchment substitutes (e.g. schemes led studies to plan sustainable
wetland wildlife habitat are to communities agri-environment to damage. floodplain environment
pastures, flood downstream incentives) Aims now are
deposits natural rivers
Farmland Basic natural Provides food for Local, national, Potentially High May degrade if Manage according to stocking
in general resource for human farm stock and a international. improvable but farming income density/fertiliser in relation to
excluding occupancy, fabric habitat for wildlife Essential to intensification falls, best practice ecology but in tune with farm
moorland and of landscape livestock may be conservation finance. Monitor cover/ stocking
floodplain economy, unsustainable strategy essential
landscape or damaging
Built Homes, fabric Provides cultural, Local, national None, except via Critical House prices, Basic economic structure must
environment of the landscape, aesthetic and and international new livelihoods loss of services, be retained but perhaps subtly
villages, habitat, economic economic services –e.g. high-tech visitor pressure modified in response to changing
farmsteads, core. Major to humans cottage industries may threaten agricultural activity/roles
barns, walls aesthetic appeal farm economy
Routes Add high value to Cultural, aesthetic Local, national: Technology, Critical Maintenance Conditions and status of
roads, lanes, landscape, limits and economic access to care, mobility essential to infrastructure must be
tracks, paths and diversifies services, set accessibility to substitutes make sustainability recognised, pressures must be
human exploitation ‘carrying capacity’ delivery vehicles no impact yet at all scales monitored on a regular basis
for dale and to scenery in this economy
and culture
Archaeology Context to human Provides cultural Local, national. None High Limit visitor Full survey, designation,
Prehistoric to occupation, setting and sense Greater in the pressure, make sustainable exploitation,
industrial & attractive to visitors of renewal, context of accessible, restoration where appropriate
agricultural educational values landscape protect against
82 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
it illustrates the tension remaining between ecological and community visions, the
latter being governed, understandably, by ‘security’ in its broadest sense.
Once again, information was seen by contributors as providing the best opportunity
for compromises. Triggered by questions arising from scientific uncertainty behind
issues such as floodplain restoration, a major long-term research project has now
been set up by Leeds University with new networks of data collection feeding into
improved models to predict the impact of land management on runoff and sediment
delivery (McDonald et al. 2003).
It may seem a paradox that transparent, participatory projects demand firm
structures and management; there are some contradictions, for example, within and
between categories of consultation such as the celebrated model of Arnstein (1969).
Project momentum is essential, even as driven by the time-line of public spending.
Determining what short term improvements should be carried out and the techniques
to be used, coupled with the ideas generated through the Environmental Capital
approach and visionary, holistic thinking by some of the project partners led to the
development of an agreed, disciplined set of management steps, following the ‘map’
set out in Table 5.2.

Table 5.2 Steps involving public participation, worked around QoLC

assessments in the Upper Wharfedale Best Practice Project

1 Establish study area
2 Determine features
3 Understand features and their functions
4 Identify benefits and evaluate features
5 Produce management principles
6 Produce short term objectives
7 Implement and monitor success of short term objectives
8 Fill long term information gaps
9 Produce long term objectives
10 Implement and monitor success of long term objectives

Maintaining the Vision: Strategy becomes Operations

It is vital to appreciate that water management is a ‘24–7’ activity, requiring a

distinctive operational mode that often baffles and frustrates strategic thinkers. It is
valuable, therefore, to retain the distinction between strategy and operations (Mitchell
1990). Too often, the mature composure and global view of a precautionary strategy
are rendered redundant in situations of rapid response to e.g. flooding. Additionally,
strategic consensus tends to weaken or fail as real machines arrive to change the
landscape in specific locations.
Individual operational schemes were generated from the basic strategic vision
through personal contact between the Project Officer and the farmer/landowner
Contrasting UK Experiences 83
concerned. Overall, an average of 12 hours was spent per farmer/landowner with
about four visits per scheme design. The Project worked with 34 farmers/landowners/
angling clubs. For some more complex and/or controversial schemes group meetings
were held bringing Parish Council, farmer/landowner, angling and academic interests
together. Each scheme derived from the agreed project principles:

• Apply a holistic approach to river management, for example by management

of grazing, moorland drainage channel blocking, gill (small stream)
• Manage the physical and ecological dynamics of the river, enabling it to
dynamically form wetlands in areas where most environmental benefit can be
obtained at least economic cost.
• Unpick past ‘hard’ (machine engineered) works to create a softer and more
diverse river landscape.
• Prior to the implementation of longer-term solutions, carry out emergency
repairs to banks where the river poses an imminent threat to the conservation
and/or economic value of the adjacent land.
• Carry out works to sustain access to at least the current level and enable new
access to newly enhanced areas.
• Improve riverside and floodplain habitat to create an irregular, wide buffer
zone e.g. tree planting, river vegetation enhancement.
• Manage existing native trees, shrubs and cultural features e.g. lopping of tree
branches, stopping browsing on the landward side or riparian trees, stone
pitching restoration.
• Use local materials such as local native willow, local stone.

A series of Project leaflets (available as Environment Agency 2003) have

formed a principal information outlet; they cover sheep dip treatment, river
erosion and the uplands, moorland gripping (drainage), gravel management,
the Environmental Capital approach and river management techniques. A self
guided walk leaflet on the benefits of managing land and water together has
provided an opportunity to support local tourist accommodation, pubs, shops
and schools in the area. Everybody in the community received factfiles via The
Link parish magazine. Kettlewell school pupils designed the project’s logo and
Upper Wharfedale School, Grassington helped produce the walk leaflet. Project
events always made use of village facilities to support the local economy. A job
was created for a local farmer’s son to network and cascade essential walling
and fencing skills, moorland grip blocking, river stone pitching restoration and
tree maintenance.

The Vital Context of Participatory Approaches – Contrasting Experiences in

Northern England

It is a grave temptation to academic participants in environmental management

(possibly welcome news to the responsible public authorities!) to prescribe uniform
84 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
protocols and procedures; the Water Framework Directive advocates ‘common
implementation’. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to multi-stakeholder
platforms or to the general process of public participation. Even within a single
region of the UK it is vital to consider the context of failures for QoLC approaches,
as well as success.
The River Coquet drains the southern flanks of the Cheviot Hills in
Northumberland, UK; its upper part, known as Upper Coquetdale, has an area
of 358 km2, a population of 3,200 (without the level of visitor pressure of Upper
Wharfedale) and is similar in relief, climate and land-use to Upper Wharfedale.
The river has the same conservation status as the Upper Wharfe (Site of Special
Scientific Interest: SSSI), part of the area is in the Northumbrian National Park
and a number of agri-environment ‘best practice’ policies have been carried out
in the catchment. The application of Environment (Quality of Life) Capital did
not, however, fully commence until the Northumbrian Rivers Project, also an
EU ‘Objective 5b’ scheme, chose the Coquet as one of its target catchments in
The Northumbrian Rivers Project’s main targets were to improve riparian land
management in order to conserve and extend the fishery interest, thus supporting
both the farming community through grant aid and attracting important income
from tourism. The Environment Agency, concerned that riparian initiatives did not
conflict with their Flood Defence function, commissioned Newcastle University
to apply QoLC to the river and its geomorphology (Newson 1999). Table 5.3
illustrates the attributes listed for the River Coquet; catchment attributes were
given a less prominent role but these were developed by a further bio-physical
survey and by the socio-economic survey (structured interview) techniques of Fox
Because of the narrower river channel and riparian focus of the Northumbrian
Rivers Project (and also partly the result of differences in land ownership
patterns with Upper Wharfedale) little controversy or discussion was aroused
by the ‘expert’ QoLC assessment, despite the fact that each was well publicised
during contact with local people. There were no formal public meetings and no
publications were produced (cf. Upper Wharfedale), and it was not until Fox
(2003) gained access to a wide sample of Upper Coquetdale residents, during
a very detailed survey of QoLC attributes, that a number of tensions showed
through in the relationship between environmental managers and environmental
values based on indigenous perceptions. Broadly, local people viewed the
‘natural’ environment of the valley as heavily anthropogenic (farmed, gardened)
and placed meaning and identity in relation to the degree to which the landscape
is ‘worked’. They did not lack insights into natural capital and some of the
goods and services provided by intact ecosystems, but they generally refused
to participate in financial or trade-off exercises. It is an important contextual
element that, at the time of Fox’s survey, no specific proposals were in hand for
best management practices beyond the river channel and the riparian corridor.
There was a dominant popular impression that environmental management should
be, at least partly, a means of representing indigenous pride in a very highly-
regarded ‘worked’ landscape to institutions outside (such that they supported
Contrasting UK Experiences 85
its financial bases), rather than as a delivery mechanism for national and trans-
national policy, i.e. bringing the ‘outside’ in.
Table 5.4 illustrates what the author regards as the institutional strengths of
the UWBPP and the comparative ‘score’ of these variables in Upper Coquetdale.
Whilst such contrasts carry multiple messages, these tend to merge as one raft
of guidance. The contributors to success were the spatial and temporal focus
(and clarity!) of a project’s objectives, its activity rate in both consultation and
operations, its coordination and facilitation by clearly identifiable leaders and
its use of knowledge and information. Clearly, it is in the latter role that QoLC
makes a major contribution; our experience is also that it is a flexible device
for team building through short-term social learning processes. The ethos of
the Upper Wharfedale project was to establish a relationship of trust between
professional and public views of environmental problems, focusing where feasible
and supported on the river and floodplain. The socialisation of professionals,
interest groups, academics and local people was a serious component of the
Project: contentious public meetings often finished by translocation to a new,
relaxed forum in which disagreements became resolved or accommodated. Such
experiences may be unique to the Yorkshire Dales and should not lead to idealism
about ‘localism’ (Marvin and Guy 1997).
It is more difficult to explain the early demise of the natural capital approach
in the Team Revival Project in Gateshead (and an apparent rejection as part
of decision support for the Ouseburn Project in Newcastle upon Tyne). Once
again, the establishment of the natural capital matrix for both catchments did
not represent a costly process beyond compilation and collation. In the case of
the Team, before public consultation, the matrix was offered for consultation
to a Steering Group of the institutional stakeholders, largely drawn from local
government, the private sector and conservation bodies. This Steering Group,
however, preferred to work opportunistically, instead of strategically. In the
urban and suburban environment of Newcastle and Gateshead the creative
use of external (principally agricultural) funding to support catchment land
use initiatives is far less feasible than in rural National Parks (such as Upper
Wharfedale and Upper Coquetdale). In the urban and suburban context, the
creativity options for officers of most public bodies lie in exploiting public/
private partnerships and ‘win-win’ funding opportunities; this mitigates against
the much longer, more ‘messy’ engagement with the public. Furthermore, in the
case of the Ouseburn, local environmental democracy is already being promoted
along the lines selected by ‘Local Agenda 21’ in the UK, with an established
ward-scale (division of the city electorate) system of public representation
and sustainability checks. Nevertheless, the unique challenges of the urban-
suburban-rural catchment context have now been recognised by EU funding
under ‘INTEREG’ for four North-east England catchments (including the Team
and the Ouseburn) to collaborate with international partners in the search for
appropriate participatory, planning and regulatory models. Quality of Life
Capital may make a return under this aegis.
Table 5.3 The QoLC for Coquetdale – results of initial survey of community members, indicating their perception of priorities
Features Benefits and services Importance To whom it Enough Trend in Trend in Management issues Rank
matters most quality quantity
River Coquet Character of Coquet Dale, Sense Critical Farmers Very high Planting riparian 1
of place, Aesthetic value, Pristine, Local people quality and corridors;
Wildlife habitat, Fishing, Recreation, Environmental has increased Decline in fishing
Tourist attraction, Water for stock experts in recent Flooding
Tourists years
Pasture Character of Coquet, Tourist Critical Farmers Yes Erosion 2
attraction, Economic benefit, Local people Wilderness/ managed
Aesthetic value Tourists
Community Maintain sense of community Critical Local people Yes 3
buildings/ Sense of identity Under threat due
Services Culture maintained to out-migration
of local people
Hedges Wildlife habitat, Aesthetic value, High-critical Farmers No Decreasing Increasing 4
Character of Coquet, Stock proof Local people Under-managed
fence, Shelter, Prevents erosion Environmental Lack of labour
Traditional Character to Coquet Dale, High-critical Local people Yes
houses Aesthetic value, Historical value, Tourists
Adds to ones sense of place
Indigenous Wildlife habitat, Recreational High-critical Local people No Decreasing Slightly 6
forest value, Adds variety, Aesthetic Environmental increasing
value, Characteristic of Coquet experts
Dale, Soil erosion prevention, Air Tourists
purification, Livestock shelter
Moorland Grazing land High Farmers
Recreational services (grouse Environmental Yes Decreasing Heather burning; 7
shooting and walking) experts Bracken control;
Aesthetic value Local people Peatland drainage;
Tourism benefit Tourists
Modern Provides housing High- Local people No Slightly Increasing Desperately short of 8
Houses Low maintenance medium Incomers increasing affordable houses
for local people
Stone walls Aesthetic value High- Local people Yes Stone mason’s skills 9
Historical value medium Farmers and knowledge
Wildlife habitat Tourists disappearing
Archaeological Educational benefit High- Tourists Yes 10
ruins Connects local people to their past medium Environmental
Local people
Agricultural Adds variety to landscape High- Farmers Yes Decreasing Staying Fertilizers; 11
Fields High economic value medium Local people the same Oil seed rape;
Benefit of being locally self sufficient
Traditional Critical habitat for birds and High- Local people No Decreasing Rapid 12
Hay meadows flowers (seed bank) medium Environmental decline
Aesthetic value experts, Wildlife which
Nutritional livestock forage enthusiasts has now
Tourists stabilized
Wetlands Wildlife habitat High- Environmental No Increasing Increasing Drainage 13
Flood control medium experts
Water filtering service Wildlife
Recreational benefit enthusiasts
Plantations Employment benefit Low-medium Local people Yes Increasing Decreasing Flooding 14
Benefit to the local economy Increase mixed
Provides shelter belts woodland
Refuge for the red squirrel Gentrification
88 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 5.4 Comparative elements of the UWBPP and the Upper
Coquetdale applications of QoLC assessment techniques

Element UWBPP Upper Coquetdale

Spatial focus Catchment wide, with prominent Channel obstructions, bank
moorland and valley-side as well as erosion and riparian support
riparian activities. to river ecosystem.
Sole focus for financial aid. Finance shared with three other rivers.
Temporal focus Five year Project lifetime followed Five year Project lifetime
by landowner responsibility followed by landowner
for maintenance but with responsibilities for maintenance.
monitoring continuing.
Public consultation Began at feasibility stage and Expert-led until quite late in
– timing and context integral throughout. Project set in Project lifetime. Experience
a geographical context of heavy of environmental consultation
visitor pressure and a plethora developed only by National Park
of institutional consultations. and Catchment Management Plans.
Coordination and ‘Expert’ and voluntary members Identical ‘expert’ (institutional) bodies
project management of Steering Group in close represented on Steering Group but
coordination with community closest voluntary linkage to fishing
representatives. Clear responsibility community. Project officers from
of Project staff (from Environment FFWAG. Several staff changes.
Agency); no staff changes.
Operations EA able to facilitate aspects of Landowner responsibility
river management (machinery) – no Project labour force.
and monitoring (e.g. hydrology),
although majority undertaken by
local contractors, landowners,
tenants and angling clubs.
Knowledge and Indigenous knowledge sought from Catchment Management Plan
information feasibility, collated with ‘expert’ and knowledge of anglers used
management knowledge in QoLC attributes and to guide priorities (largely also
valuation. Dissemination at all fixed by modus operandi of
levels including schools and events Project). Public information
linked to best practice leaflets. events and river geomorphology
training courses. Project followed,
rather than led, best practice.
Dissemination Trials of best practice a specific Relatively little innovation: survey
and continuity aim – hence dissemination by directed to problem sites, funding
post-project variety of media: education and guided by opportunity. Publicity, not
training. Monitoring and research publications a project aim since heavy
tasks set for longer term. links to tourism economy (fishing).
Contrasting UK Experiences 89
In Conclusion: The Water Framework Directive – Ideals and Actualities

The EU Water Framework Directive makes heavy demands on both stakeholder

participation and economic evaluation. The chosen units – River Basin Districts
– are larger but most have substantial environmental databases. QoLC techniques
certainly have potential for delivering a framework for both these innovative
contributions to sustainable development. They at the very least act as ‘formal
ways of integrating stakeholder and science’ (Osidele et al. 2000) even if they
do not create multi-stakeholder platforms, defined by Röling and Maarleveld
(1999) as ‘devices or procedures for social learning and negotiation about
effective collective action’. It is doubtful whether multi-stakeholder processes
can be designed (as by Hemmati 2002, who gives 15 design principles) but the
characteristics of the projects used as case studies here offer signposts about
the general characteristics of ‘collective action to reduce a collective impact’
(Röling 2000).
By comparison of the two headwater (small-scale) RBMP processes and some of
their early outcomes we can conclude that:

• Variants of the environmental capital approach, however titled, have a major

contribution to make to modern, project-related, ‘social learning’ where
outcomes begin in the short-term and are firmly deliverable;
• It acts as a ‘check list’ to ensure that catchment attributes are considered at
strategic and operational scales;
• It is important that information management makes an early, participatory,
entry to projects;
• Project structure and information configured as ‘currency’ are vital, making the
role of project managers critical – they hold both the democratic and economic
keys, both features being difficult to achieve in large-scale RBMPs;
• It is valuable to bridge the gap between strategy and operations, particularly
in the field of water management; QoLC and other techniques add a valuable
strategic checklist to ‘works’;
• Unpredictable elements include the cultural experience of a project area in
decision-making, the available information and the culture of management
of the project.

It is clearly undesirable to set down firm guidance, beyond general principles, and
this contribution is regarded as a contribution to the participatory ‘toolbox’, rather
than as a prescriptive statement for river basin management planning.
Most importantly it has been a successful way to involve a wide range of
interests and provoke debate between specialists and people in the community and
thus provide a catalyst for some visionary longer-term thinking and initiatives to
further understanding. It has placed professional judgement alongside the concerns
of local people, thus helping those concerned to be aware of, and ‘own’ change.
Our experience is also that its relevance is enhanced when the terminology used
(unlike for a learned journal) is simple and backed by visual, spatial and experiential
(fieldwork) interpretation.
90 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The QoLC methodology is a very informal manifestation of a Decision Support
System in river management – much more so than the model SURCoMES which was
also calibrated to run in Upper Wharfedale (Clark and Richards 2002). Rule-based
models with ‘fuzzy’ decision-making circuits, such as SURCoMES, will inevitably
play a part in future adaptive management scenarios. As Clark (2002, 349) puts
it ‘decision support itself strengthens sustainability, which may be unachievable
without it, and enables informed and aware stakeholder participation.’
The UWBPP intends to leave the community in Upper Wharfedale with both
a role and an interest in monitoring the ‘best practices’ established during the life
of the project. The example of the Australian ‘Catchment Health’ project (Walker
and Reuter 1996) has been copied informally for future activity by schools and
voluntary groups.
It would clearly be a considerable additional burden of survey to the QoLC
techniques to undertake separate analysis of the multi-dimensional ‘values’ of
e.g. the ‘natural’ and anthropogenic assets of Upper Wharfedale. Catchment
scale applications of valuation for environmental goods and services are slowly
arriving (Bockstael et al. 1997). Perhaps the most widely publicised recently
has been the example of water managers in New York City who decided, on
cost grounds, to conserve the watershed supplying the city, rather than invest in
further purification works (Salzman et al. 2001).
Techniques abound for the indirect valuation of environmental goods and,
indeed, have been applied to the Yorkshire Dales before (Garrod and Willis 1999).
However, full realisation of the power of QoLC may need to await a formal
incorporation of environmental services in valuation schemes (Salzman et al.
2001); currently the only widespread operational model is the US Environmental
Protection Agency’s use of ‘wetland mitigation banking’ (Ruhl and Gregg 2001).
QolC is capable, via its natural systems analytical approach, of introducing
‘hard’ economic values by ‘parallel accounting’. For example, if the volume
of water passing through a specific floodplain wetland can be estimated and
the water quality benefits of this passage can be inferred from the hydrological
literature, then the costs foregone to the local or regional or global economy can
be calculated – as those of not needing to build artificial purification facilities.
Hydrological systems are generally well calibrated and many scientists might
support the view that:

All we need to do now is to apply accounting to environmental capital … attempting to

bring measurable elements into the process as our knowledge improves. But to wait until
everything falls properly into place will mean that we shall have to wait for ever. (El
Sefary 1991: 175).

However, a diagnostic of the levels of ‘localism’ achieved in the Upper

Wharfedale project is given by McDonald et al. (2004) who reveal that, for one
of the prominent river restoration sites in the valley, a notable and unpredictable
balance was reached between the vision of the local community and the scientific
guidance they received from geomorphologists. The Wharfe became, in one
reach, a ‘river of dreams’.
Contrasting UK Experiences 91

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Chapter 6

Århus Convention in Practice:

Access to Information and Decision-
making in a Pilot Planning Process
for a Flemish River Basin
Annemiek Verhallen


This chapter deals with an example of a Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) in the

northwest of Europe. In 2002 the government of Flanders, Belgium started involving
civil society and private parties in the development of a sub-basin management
plan for the river Nete, based on the principles of Integrated Water Management.
It was an attempt to innovate the normal central planning and as such was a very
interesting case to study. I focus here on the MSP as a temporary information system
(Checkland and Holwell 1998), by answering three questions. (1) How to organize
the information system so that information exchange between multiple stakeholders
is equitable, efficient and enriches the process? (2) Are there requirements as to the
accessibility, format, adequacy, timeliness and quality of the information? (3) Does
the exchange and debates lead to better plans, increased joint knowledge on the
functioning of water systems and more transparent decision-making? By looking
into the actual exchange and use of information on water issues that takes place
in a multiple stakeholder platform as the Nete platform, recommendations for
improvement are suggested.
First, the European context is sketched with its environmental legislation and the
adoption of the Århus Convention as the main factors shaping the making of river
basin management plans. In both legislations public participation plays a key role.
Second, some theoretical notions are given about information systems and about
interactive planning/decision making. In the third part these notions are applied to
results from the research in the Nete sub-basin in Flanders. The fourth part draws
conclusions, discussing MSPs as information systems.

European Context

The European Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) contains clear

requirements for the protection and restoration of European water bodies. The
96 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Directive refers to both surface- and groundwater as well as coastal waters. River
basins are the management units and to the extent that they are transboundary the
European member states have to cooperate in the management of such river basin
areas. This move towards management units with physical boundaries instead of
administrative ones requires a far-reaching change in governmental administration
on different spatial scales ranging from small watersheds to large river basins,
from local administration to international collaboration. These changes will be
implemented in the next decade.
Besides this tendency towards upscaling and internationalisation, the EU Water
Framework Directive (EWFD) calls explicit attention to public participation in the
management of river basin areas. The general public should not only be informed,
but also be consulted on the formulation of management plans (Article 14 of the
EWFD). Member states should even encourage the active participation of all parties
involved as ‘good practice’. Three years in advance of the settling of a management
plan, the general public should be provided with a time plan and working programme
for the planning process, two years in advance with an intermittent review of the
major issues in water management, and one year in advance with a copy of the draft
Recently Europe issued the Directives 2003/4/EG and 2003/35/EG to implement
the UN-ECE Århus Convention on the ‘Access to information, public participation in
decision making and access to justice in environmental matters’. ‘Recognising that, in
the field of the environment, improved access to information and public participation
in decision making enhance the quality and implementation of decisions, contribute
to the public awareness of environmental issues, give the public the opportunity
to express its concerns and enable public authorities to take due account of such
concerns…’ (UN-ECE 1998: 1). The Convention has been signed by 35 European
and Non-European countries, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The
incentives for this Convention were earlier calls for environmental information
supply such as in the ‘Stockholm declaration on the human environment’ (1972),
Principle 10 of the ‘Rio Declaration on Environment and Development’ (1992),1
the ‘European Charter on Environment and Health’ (1989) and the ‘World Charter
for nature and for the need to ensure a healthy environment for the well-being of
individuals’ (1990). The adoption of the Århus Convention can in itself be considered
an example of a Multi-Stakeholder Process (Hemmati 2002).
Article 2 in Directive 2003/35/EC mentions the early involvement of the public
when all options are still open and suggestions and opinions of the general public
can seriously play a role in the process (EU 2003). The authorities have to account
for what they do with these comments. Here we encounter a serious difficulty:

1 Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned
Citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate
access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including
information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity
to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public
awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to
judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.
Århus Convention in Practice 97
authorities think that they cannot go to the public with open–ended questions or
options. They are more used to dealing with a professional lobby and representative
bodies. So far, experiences with public consultation on strategic matters show that
only a few persons will debate in strategic terms and that citizens do want to know
where, when and how their stake is at risk. Such public participation can be reached
as recent research in Flanders demonstrates. Focus groups were used successfully
to discuss a strategic environmental plan in Flanders – but this requires careful
preparation and facilitation (Vandenabeele 2003).
River basin management plans are essentially the prime responsibility of
administrative bodies, as an account of how the public water resources will be
managed. Nevertheless, feedback from society would improve the quality of the
policy process by providing first-hand information from an historical perspective.
Moreover, this participation would guarantee information transfer to individuals
with a large stake in the problem under consideration, which indirectly strengthens
the legitimacy of the management measures being implemented (MacKenzie 1996).
Administrative bodies see the need to have civil society and private economic sectors
to collaborate. Non-governmental organisations in the field of nature conservation
and environmental concerns (such as local Agenda 21 groups) represent civil
society as do other citizen pressure groups. Their input concerns information about
the physical area, calls for specific concerns, and draws on information from their
(international) networks. Private economic sectors have environmental specialists
who cover all of the water-related aspects and bring in concerns about economic
equity or water use reduction efforts.
There are now several European initiatives in which such (semi)-permanent
platforms have been started up to create information sharing, debate and joint fact
finding from the very beginning of a planning or decision making process onwards.
The ‘Mainport Rotterdam’ project where conflicting interests between the Harbour
of Rotterdam and ecologists on enlargement of the harbour area was successfully
solved by getting new stakeholders round the table and identifying common ground
(Anonymous 2001). Success factors were the balanced representation of different
views, the possibility to broaden the problem definition, generation of own ideas,
process and output oriented search for information (joint fact finding), focus on
ambition and political will instead of on the truth.
In such processes access to information is encapsulated in the access to decision-
making and the use of information is part of the integrated negotiation (Van de
Kerkhof 2004). Multi-stakeholder platforms are thus a particular form of informed
participation because the sharing of information is practised. Ideally, to solve
a complex issue in the field of river basin management, all relevant perspectives
should be represented by persons who have the capacity to capture the content, the
process and the context of the issue (Mitchell 2002). Capturing the content implies
the capacity to assimilate further information, to process this information into
knowledge and practical capabilities. Such individuals constitute a multi-stakeholder
platform because they understand interdependencies that require solving complex
issues. The process stretches beyond competing claims, and participants are inspired
to find innovative ways for solving the issue (social learning) or enhancing the
manageability of the issue. The concerted action that results from this should be
98 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
documented and communicated in a transparent way to the respective constituencies
and the transactional environment (inhabitants, regulatory administration, legal
organizations, media).

MSP as a Temporary Information System

‘If what is to be decided is to be defensible, well-informed, and better than simply

thrashing around’ (Checkland and Holwell 1998), the platform should put great
emphasis on organizing its information system. Checkland and Holwell give a
framework distinguishing between data, information and knowledge. Data are the
myriad number of facts about the world. These facts can, in principle, be verified, if
disputed evidence is produced to support or refute them. Some facts are agreed on and
accepted as meaningful by all, some are disputed; some are private to an individual or
group. When a platform starts to work they sub-sample from this abundance of facts
certain data because the platform thinks these data are relevant for their work and
therefore capture them. Data are a starting point and by selecting data new categories
are formed that are meaningful for the issue at hand. Example: how many hectares
are flooded each year and what is the personal or material damage in Euros?
Selected data are called capta to distinguish them from the mass of data/facts
(Checkland and Holwell 1998). These capta are enriched because we relate them
to other things, as part of a larger whole and the capta gain significance. This is
called the attribution of meaning to capta. The attribution of meaning in context
converts capta in information. Context can even make meaningful information out
of no information (e.g. when agreed that no telephone call will mean that a meeting
can go ahead) (Holwell 1989). Capta than becomes information, or meaningful facts.

Figure 6.1 The links between data, capta, information and knowledge
Source: Checkland and Holwell 1998, 90
Note: Formats that related to data (1) are numbers or parameter values, for capta (2) it is tables
and spreadsheets typically, to information (3) a graph, figure or photo and to knowledge (4)
casual diagram, a system diagram or an analytical framework.
Århus Convention in Practice 99
This process is depicted in Figure 6.1. Only when this information is linked with
larger and longer living structures of meaningful facts will it become knowledge, for
instance a body of knowledge about the function and behaviour of aquifers or the
responses of ecosystems to all sorts of pressures. An information system is defined
as all activities of members, chair and secretary that lead to an informed decision to
initiate purposeful concerted action.
As a platform almost by definition consists of members with diverse backgrounds
as to ambition, skills, field of expertise and information and perspectives on the issue
at hand, they have to start from scratch, getting to know each other. For those who are
professional advocates of interests one can assume that they are well informed about
their field of endeavour but it is still difficult to be informed in all other fields related
to river basin management and corresponding legal implications. For authorities
there is an information deficit as well: it may be the first time that information needs
to be gathered from distributive sources outside the administration. At the same time,
information exchange inside the administrative levels is not that obvious as holding
information always represents power.
If a platform starts with defining their agenda and goes from there it is obvious
that they define their own information system as a joint exercise. Facts are
selected, captured and cognitive appreciation attached to them as specific interests
of the participants and context are added, a process often referred to as joint fact
finding. By debating the capta of data and the attribution of meaning and context,
the platform gains a better understanding of the issue and of the position and
ambition of the different participants in the platform. Reflection on the information
collected individually or group-wise is very important to appreciate the relevance,
accessibility and quality of this information, including uncertainty aspects. This may
increase individual knowledge or add to a joint body of knowledge of the platform.
All activities concerning data capture, attributing meaning and reflection on the
information by the platform members, chair and secretary, are defined here as its
information system. Transparency of the information process is important, certainly
when the information is produced by others (scientists, organizations).
In many cases there seems to be existing information abundance or a vast body
of knowledge in e.g. scientific institutions that cooperate in the process. But in all
processes the gathering of relevant facts and figures for the specific task means the
search for meaningful data and information for the specific situation (Checkland
and Holwell 1998). Normally, existing information is not adequate because of
different formats of time and space, the use of insignificant indicators, and because
information on other causal factors is sought (Klinkers 2002).
As each MSP is a particular form of interactive decision-making it is useful to
distinguish specific steps in this process – data, capta, information and knowledge
– with respect to platform activities related to decision-making and information
process (Figure 6.2). A skilfully managed process is designed to take one step at
the time to avoid repetitive debates and to ensure clear closures. Often agreement
on the problem definition is too easily assumed, or too soon members start talking
about measures. All this may stifle creativity or foreclose new options that can
accommodate conflicting interests better.
Figure 6.2 Eight steps in interactive decision-making
Århus Convention in Practice 101
In the Århus Convention all kinds of information requirements are expressed with
respect to the accessibility of the information, its completeness and adequacy, its
timeliness and its suitability of its format for the general public where it wants to
participate in and comment on the development of plans (UN-ECE 1998). It is
assumed that people know what their information needs are. In most cases this is
difficult; however; only after having acquired and reflected on some basic capta is
one able to express one’s information needs. In case of participation in a platform
these requirements are or should be discussed in the meetings. Members can express
their information needs or suggest other capta to complete the picture, to be able to
discuss the issue and so on. It boils down to requirements as:

• Accessibility: physically accessible because it is in the right language,

downloadable (soft copy) or on paper (hard copy);
• Suitable format: graphs, tables, maps with clear legends and data labels are
understandable for the average platform member. In-depth scientific and
technical information in experts reports is explained or avoided;
• Documentation is adequate to be able to discuss the issue: not too much or too
little. Some directions as to what to read first are given;
• Timely: digestible before the next meeting;
• Information is of good quality: up-to-date, accurate, comparable, the context
of data gathering and processing is given and the scope of validity of the
data/information indicated. It gives information about uncertainties that come
with it.

Participation in the Making of a Nete Catchment Management Plan

The Nete sub-basin is part of the international river Scheldt system, comprising
37,000 km2 and 13 million people and shared by three countries: France, Belgium
and the Netherlands. One out of the eleven sub-basins is the Nete, comprising
1,700 km2 and 600,000 inhabitants. While the majority of the other sub-basins are
shared by other countries or federal States, the Nete is entirely situated in Flanders.
The Flemish Government has started a pilot project drafting an integrated water
management plan for this sub-basin according to the new European legislation.
This project uses a predefined tripartite methodology (Staes et al. 2002): a detailed
mapping of the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the basin by
external engineering companies; a participatory mapping of impacts and pressures
of human use in the sub-basin, using questionnaires and interviews, and meetings
in which authorities and a representation of stakeholders analysed these constraints
and drew up goals for the period 2004–2010. These meetings were organised in three
working groups that met six times, during 3½ sessions. The process in these three
working groups can be called a multi-stakeholder process, a temporarily information
system characterised by active participation.
To study the information process in depth I closely observed this multi-stakeholder
process in two out of the three groups My observations were non-participatory and
covered: the information setting (materials used during the sessions) and information
102 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
use by the different participants, the process of the meeting and the content of the
dialogue. I wrote down as many of the participant’s statements as possible in verbatim
form. Semi-structured interviews were held with a selection of the participants
representing the users/uses from civil society and from private economic sectors. The
interviews addressed their eagerness to cooperate, their ambition, their information
and meeting skills, their ideas about the dialogue, the perceived effectiveness of the
process, and the transparency of the decision-making process.
The MSP was organised and presided over by a representative of the AMINAL
department of the Ministry of Environment, Infrastructure and Nature; the stakeholders
were representatives of public and private organisations. A consortium of a private
engineering company and the department of Aquatic Biology and Integrated Water
Management at the University of Antwerp designed the process and facilitated the
dialogue. After that, the Ministry is to draft a plan and subject it to public consultation
before it becomes legal. After evaluation the tripartite methodology will be applied
to all eleven Flemish sub-basins. In Flanders the interactive drawing-up of sub-basin
management plans started with the new Law on Integrated Water Management (2003)
which fully encapsulated the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive.


Active participation in this planning process should be understood in the context of

strong political support for Integrated Water Management as well as a new style of
governance in Flanders. Political support had come from a ‘Green Party Minister’ who
appointed several young officers, fresh from university and keen on environmental
issues. Modernising the government was also due to the Federalisation process in
Belgium. The Minister wanted Flanders to be the first region to have a river sub-
basin management plan to comply with the new EU rules, way before the officially
required timeline. Great efforts were made to draft a new Law on Integrated Water
Management, although in the period of this Nete process the exact features of
the Law were not very secure. The pilot process was carried out under great time
pressure. The time frame of the process was designed to fit the term of the new
Minister. However, the Flemish Government collapsed early, the Green parties lost
parliamentary seats and the Nete pilot process eventually lost momentum.
In Flanders the aim to establish integrated river basin management had been
strongly supported by the world of academia, with several universities acting as
knowledge providers for ideas about basin management. These universities were
asked to develop drafts of the aforementioned Law (Maes and Lavrysen 2003),
design a methodology or work out sustainable water use policies and measures
(Staes et al. 2002).
Unlike France, Great Britain or the Netherlands; Flanders had no prior
experience with integrated water management plans. Flanders has a four-layered
water management structure from municipal level up to the national level, but only
the national level has the right to develop policies. Until then national and provincial
departments were used to develop generic policies or operations, such as policies on
fish migration and drinking water supply that were not specific related to river (sub)
Århus Convention in Practice 103

The first contact with stakeholders consisted of an extensive, time-consuming list

with questions, which irritated the stakeholders. Neither municipalities nor private
stakeholders returned their forms. Accordingly, the coordinators changed plans and
interviewed them later. This proved to be a wise move, many stakeholders felt taken
seriously for the first time. In two workshops the results were presented in the form
of large lists of impacts on and pressures from the different uses/users on the Nete
water systems.
In the next part I observed, the Flemish government invited one representatives
from each of the twelve economic social sectors, preferable acquainted with and
active in the sub-basin Nete, to join and give input for a river basin management
plan 2004–2010. These representatives could be from either different administrative
departments or from syndicates/ interest groups. More than a hundred persons
contributed, their contribution ranged from subscription to the e-mail list to being
a key actor in the process. They represented more than fifty organisations. Seven
of 12 sectors joined the meetings frequently while five sectors were absent or
attended sparsely. These five sectors were fisheries, wildlife, the hydro-energy
sector, tourism, and the extraction industry. Although invited, they probably
thought the benefits too small to invest the time.
Twenty-five people showed up more than four times and it is assumed that
they had a substantial stake in the process. From this group 72% were from the
different administrative levels or from public services, 20% from the private sector
and eight percent from civil organisations. Clearly, the balance between people
from the administration and related services and representatives of interest groups
was very much in favour of the former. Civil servants from different sectors and
different administrative levels were urged to join because the administration is not
organized yet as one integrated water management body but as separate sectors like
water quantity management, waste water treatment, nature conservation, and spatial
The estimated time needed to participate was approximately one hundred hours
in a three-month period, including travel, preparation such as downloading reports
and reading them, and attending the six meetings which lasted about 3½ hours each.
Sixteen to eighteen people attended such meetings. The meetings were held during
office hours. Only the farmer representatives complained about meeting in the
daytime and in the growing season.
The representatives can be called experts in their fields (nature conservation,
agricultural policy, engineering, ecology, spatial planning) and most have an
academic background. Almost all of them defended their own organisational
interests in the meetings citing this as the main reason for attending. The interests
of the representatives are strongly related to their respective professions (policy
preparation, farming, industry). Some participants expressed their feeling that the
‘green representatives’ were in the majority. This was caused by ‘multiple hats’ as
some civil servants were (board) members of environmental NGOs also. The majority
of the participants lacked specific knowledge of the Nete sub-basin, because they
104 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
were responsible for the whole of Flanders in a certain sector or field and/or they did
not live or work in the basin.


As noted above, integrative sub-basin planning was a new development phenomenon

and great effort was required to collect the data on this spatial scale, to discuss capta and
process information, because normally the data and information gathered concerned
administrative territories like municipalities, provinces or the whole of Flanders.
Given the four-layered water management structure it meant assemblage of data
and capta from these levels as well as from diverse sectors within the administrative
levels. Examples are water transport, ground water, spatial planning, agricultural
development, sanitation, forest and nature conservation, tourism and recreation. Last
but not least inclusion of data and information from private sector and civil society
was aimed for, such as non-ferrous industry using water resources and discharging
polluted water in the channels, non-governmental nature conservation organisation
owning wetlands, farmer organisations representing the agricultural perspective in
the sub-basin.
The process was totally prepared by the government and external consultancies.
They strove after one interactive database containing electronic files and GIS maps
of the water system made accessible in an interactive format. Physical, chemical
and biological data of the Nete water system were captured and processed into
information as the basis for the development of the river basin management plan,
all according to a strict format. To inventory the users/uses of the Nete system, data
were captured by the organising team in strict categories. These categories were
derived from an extensive list of impacts and pressures on the water environment
such as mining, discharge of polluted water by households, agriculture and industry
and so on. Impacts and pressures were then compared with the carrying capacity
as assessed in the water systems analysis, and negative discrepancies would be
accommodated in the plan.
Based on the categories mentioned (capta) a questionnaire was sent to more
than a hundred actors. The private sector responded with irritation, arguing that
the government already possessed that kind of information which is requested
when applying for environmental permits, such as the amount of water abstracted
or the amount and quality of polluted effluent. Farmers and farmer organisations
complained that the information on crop growth and nutrients were obligatory and
submitted to another department. The answering of this questionnaire took a lot of
time because the data had to be captured in a different spatial unit (that of the basin)
which was not regular before.
The organisers provided a background document to the members of the working
groups via the Internet. This document presented information on the actual state
and functioning of the water system of the Nete and on the current and prospective
integrated water management policy and legislation of Flanders. In addition much
of the document consisted of the list of 207 conflicting impacts/uses and possibilities
that needed to be dealt with. At the end of this document, the text provided objectives
for the planning period to be discussed in the meeting. When needed, the organisers
Århus Convention in Practice 105
sent extra scientific reports and GIS maps and files by e-mail. Approximately two
third of the participants were not able to download, process and print the special GIS
files, maps and legends which require an A3 printer. Due to time pressure sometimes
large documents were sent the day before and people were supposed to be able to
open, read and digest these before the next day. The background document was
regularly updated and filled in further, but it was not clear to all which version it was
due to different formats and dates when printed on their machines.
Concrete maps pointing out the location of the problems to be solved were not
yet available, but GIS maps were projected in the room. However, participants had
trouble relating these maps with more specific local information or they did not
have the exact boundaries of the basin in their heads and the map was not layered
with a topographic map. Instead, they knew specific areas or names of sites that
were meaningful to their work. For example, the representative of the drinking water
company brought his own map with the drinking water abstraction points and with an
indication of the European Natura 2000 habitat-protection areas. The representative
of the administration responsible for mining knew on a topographic map where
a certain extraction had been finished but could not point it out on the GIS basin
map. These problems proved time-consuming. Projecting GIS maps of the drainage
system on the wall during the meetings irritated some because the manipulation with
legends, as is easy done on line, was found both confusing and suspicious.


The organising team planned the topics of the meetings. The meetings themselves
were formally structured: minutes of the previous meeting, remarks, and discussion
of the topic planned for that particular meeting, as presented in a draft text. It started
with the particular constraints and possibilities from the list of 207 connected with
this topic. Sometimes the organisers or an invited expert clarified the topic.
Much time was spent elucidating the constraints and some remarked that this
list was too literally compiled and needed other wording. Overall: debating this
list of constraints made it difficult to speak about ambition and more strategic
points. Debates were thus seldom strategic but more about minor things like the
hindrance of rainwater infiltration by concrete cycle paths. It was remarkable that
discussions of time series, trends or graphs were not very thorough or were absent
altogether and taken for granted while the debate concentrated on the measures or
the implementation problems.
When specialised information was presented at the meetings, some overtly
mentioned that they could not judge the content but had questions as to the why,
the how and the procedure for implementation. For example, buffer zones next to a
riverbed can serve different functions and their efficiency can be calculated according
to breadth, width, depth and maintenance, but the need to do this on agricultural land
and to involve farmers is a different issue.
When participants asked for extra information, experts were invited and
they enriched the process. However when an invited expert acted as an advocate
for a contested idea, like creation of more natural versus arable land, this was
counterproductive because participants felt intimidated.
106 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
From the interviews it became apparent that the participants found it important
that the meetings provided a place where all interests were presented as a broad
picture. Some stakeholders have their own bilateral meetings with authorities, e.g. to
apply for permits; however, they appreciated the multi-stakeholder setting.

Transparency of Decision-making

The decision-making process was not transparent for the participants as it emerged
from the interviews. This was because the Law on Integrated Water Management,
in which the river sub-basin management plan was announced, was not yet legally
approved by the Flemish Parliament, as was the case with several other policies like
e.g. the Water Resources Policy. Though the intentions of the proposed policies gave
little space for decisions, some participants who had a great interest doubted if it was
wise to work on the basis of intentions. On the other hand, the participants knew
that this project was a pilot project in Flanders and served as a model for ten future
projects. But some participants could not grasp the required specificity of such a
plan, which led to caution and low ambition because of the presumed consequences;
and this caused others to be disappointed.
Both the organisers and the public/private partners struggled with the format,
content and area specificity of a sub-basin plan, as there was no existing example.
This frustrated all parties and caused inefficient meetings. Thus the transparency of
the decision-making was poor as many participants did not see exactly what was to
be decided and the decision-making process was very vague. Despite that, a majority
valued the process positively, mainly because the sessions enabled them to point out
stakes and hear about other stakes. Knowledge- building occurred: the awareness
of multiple uses and multiple perspectives was raised. This is a first step in creating
an integrated water management policy. However, when specifically queried on this
issue, many representatives said they had learned only little from other participants.
Furthermore, the whole procedure of the meetings (agenda), the nature of the final
product (the plan) to be produced, and when and who had the final say were not clear
to all. Still, very few participants asked procedural questions during the meetings.
Participants were far more outspoken in the interviews than in the meetings.

Conclusions and Recommendations

When drawing main conclusions on the functioning of the Nete platform it should
be kept in mind that this was the first time authorities made the effort to organize
an interactive way of drafting a sub-basin management plan based on integrative
thinking about water- and land resources. They did succeed in bringing together the
main actors and got them involved for more than a year.
How did the Nete process function as a temporarily information system? Was
the information exchange equitable and did it enrich the process (1)? Part of the
information gathering was done in the first part of the tripartite methodology and
the participants were involved in that by responding to the information needs of the
Administration while adding their own perspectives, constraints and concerns. In
Århus Convention in Practice 107
the meetings of the third part, they could ask for other capta and add context and
appreciation of the information laid down in the background document. Water system
information was not much debated, however. Information exchange was equitable
in the sense that there was ample time to bring information in, but not equitable
when contrasted with the time needed to assemble these capta; several civil servants
from different sectors were by far not ready assembling their own information base.
Each department had been sitting on their own data, database and information. The
fact that this information search had to be done during the meetings was boring
and annoying for the other participants. The majority of the participants were
administrators who proved to have their own stakes. They combined different roles
(licensing, informing, and competing with other departments). The administration
was not ready yet for integrative thinking.
Farmer representatives were not able to respond to questions about strategy,
prospects, crop patterns and possibilities for adaptation of the farming businesses
in the sub-basin. They stressed the overall problem situation of the farmers over
and over again. The industrial sector was well organised in local circles and could
clearly inform the meetings about their industrial water processing (im) possibilities.
However, they did not respond on the issue of historical pollution, stating that they
acted on governmental permits to pollute. When asked by the environmental NGOs
to give and take they were reluctant to do so. Environmental NGOs were well
represented and very well informed on policies, strategies and terrain information.
The public drinking-water industry was well informed on the terrain and on
European legislation such as the Bird and Habitat Directives. Overall the process
was enriched by the information exchanged. Participants from some government-
related institutions specialised on land reform and spatial planning did hesitate to
exchange information on interactive planning which could have enriched the process
even further.
Was the information accessible, of a suitable format, adequate to debate the
issues, timely available, and of good quality (2)? All participants and people of
subscription list were provided with all information available. Due to time pressure
accessibility was sometimes very low, because documents were large, disseminated
just prior to meetings and GIS maps could not easily be printed. The well-educated
participants did not have many problems with the formats, but for them, too, spatial
maps and terrain visits would have made discussions more down-to-earth and
suitable than GIS manipulation in the meetings. Adequacy of the documentation
could be improved: mainly because the organisers could not properly prepare for
the sessions due to time stress, partial information was supplied in abundance and
was not very well suited to discussions and decision-making. On the other hand,
whenever participants asked for new information it was organised by asking experts
to inform the groups. The time schedule was too short to digest all this information.
Does participation lead to better plans, increased knowledge on the functioning of
the water systems and more transparent decision-making (3)? I observed knowledge
building on the consequences of thinking in terms of basin boundaries instead of
administrative boundaries as well as on the need for an integrated approach to water
management problems, like weighing the social, economic and environmental
effects of certain measures. The water systems analysis was not much debated as a
108 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
whole. In discussing issues knowledge was shared on the functioning of floodplains
or hydrological measures. In the platform participants gained more insight in new or
pending policy development in the Flemish administration.


Information exchange was found not adequate enough. Although the participants were
well educated and experts in their field of interest, they found the decision-making
process vague, which led them to contribute less, to stick to their own interests and
restrict their ambition. However, they appreciated the multiple-stakeholder setting
and made great effort to attend the meetings. An independent facilitator who could
stimulate a real dialogue rather than mere information exchange could improve the
process and stimulate a more integrative negotiation. Also other ways of convening,
such as terrain visits and more creative gatherings can stir up the process. Since there
are always participation costs for the participants involved, more condensed debates
on major points with adequate selected information and directions for reading would
be more efficient.
With respect to the eight steps of interactive decision making what was missing
in this process was the in-depth problem and causal analysis as a joint activity after
the list of 207 constraints and challenges was inventoried. This is an important step
in the deliberations of a multi-stakeholder platform as it gives deeper understanding
and a basis for choice between options and measures. Also lacking was a written
commitment by the stakeholder groups to act, each in their own way, to bring
integrated water and land resources a step further to implementation. Making a sub-
basin management plan is one thing, getting there and jointly monitor the progress
is another thing. Maybe there will be installed advisory multi-stakeholder councils
for each sub-basin as was foreseen in the Law in Flanders, but not yet formalised.
This could secure a sustainable contribution of the actors towards monitoring and


I would like to thank the Flemish Administration AMINAL for the opportunity to
observe the Nete planning process, which was facilitated by Jan de Schutter and
Erwin de Meyer, both sub-basin coordinators at that time.


EU (European Union) (2000), Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Union and of

the Council, of 23 October 2000, establishing a framework for community action
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(2003). Ontwerp van Decreet betreffende het Integraal Waterbeleid. Stuk 1730
(2002–2003) – Nr. 5: 44. Brussel.
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Verslagboek van de studiedag van 31 oktober 2003 (Gent), Die Keure, Brugge.
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EU (2003), Richtlijn 2003/4/EG inzake de toegang van het publiek tot milieu-
informatie en tot intrekking van richtlijn 90/313 EEG van de raad.
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opstelling van bepaalde plannen en programma’s betreffende het milieu en, met
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van de Richtlijnen 85/337/EEG en 96/61/EG van de Raad. Publicatieblad van de
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bain management plans: Concept and application, Mallorca congres.
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Chapter 7

The International Zwin Commission:

The Beauty of a Mayfly?
Leo Santbergen


Mayflies are sound indicators for good water quality as they are very vulnerable
to pollution. Frequent car drivers in the Netherlands are very familiar with them
due to the ‘summer snow-swarms’ the insects may cause. As adults, they leave the
mysterious ‘aquatic society’ almost simultaneously,1 after having spent their entire
lifetime below the watermark, hidden for most human beings who might not be
aware of their presence. Hibernation is a natural aspect of their life cycle (Gysels
Since 1939, the International Zwin Commission (IZC), a group of governmental
officials and experts from Belgium and the Netherlands, has discussed trans-boundary
issues related to the management of the Zwin, a scenic border area. Although the
commission has existed for more than half a century, one may wonder if this platform
has been successful over the years. The silting-up process of the nature reserve, the
official issue on the agenda for many years, seems to have affected the platform itself
from time to time, getting the members bogged down in endless discussions and
hibernation. In some decades the adults, a beautiful natural diversity of personalities,
woke up from their hibernation and met once every one or two years. In other
(lengthy) periods, the species of the Zwin platform seemed to continue their life
cycles as invisible larvae. Might the remarkable return of the commission between
2001 and 2004 be interpreted as an indicator for better relationships between close
neighbours, and the annual meetings, although complicated and laborious in nature,
as necessary inconveniences? Are those inconveniences worth the investments
because of powerful decisions, or are the officials and experts only keeping up

1 The life cycle of every mayfly is more or less similar; only the seasonal patterns differ
between species. Some species show two generations a year (with adults appearing in May
and September), others show only one generation per one or two years (with adults appearing
in May, June or July). The adults live very shortly, from only a few hours to a few days. The
male adults, packed together in swarms, dance above ditches, lakes, brooks and rivers in the
early mornings and evenings. They die shortly after having mated with the females. The eggs
are dropped in the water. The larval stage takes four up to eleven months, depending on the
species. The name mayfly is related to the swarms that appear in May for most species (Gysels
112 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The aim of this chapter is to test the applicability of the MSP assessment
dimensions as proposed by Warner and Verhallen (Chapter 2, this volume), by
analyzing a case of integrated river basin management.2 The central question is:
How effective has the International Zwin Commission been as a multi-stakeholder
In this chapter, a two-step approach is followed. First, a case description
is presented, based on the author’s interpretation of official documents and
meeting minutes from 1939 until 2004. Some bias was unavoidable since the
author was a stakeholder himself.3 Based on a theory of Teisman’s (1992),
seven negotiation rounds can be distinguished. Second, the MSP assessment
dimensions (Chapter 2) are evaluated for two periods (1939 till 1986 and 1987 till

Table 7.1 Negotiation rounds of the International Zwin Commission


Round Period # of meetings Driver(s) for activity or hibernation

I 1939 1 Awareness of values of the scenic area
II 1940-1945 0 Second World War
III 1946-1959 7 Illegal construction of an enclosure dam
Distrust and disagreement
Joint fact finding
1953 sea flood
Finance of field works
IV 1960-1986 0 Distrust and disagreement
Other trans-boundary conflicts
V 1987-1997 3 Refreshed playing field
Impact of sand supplementing works
Installation of the Technical Study Group
A confidential Belgian report
VI 1998-2000 0 Formal letter of an excluded stakeholder
VII 2001-2004 3 Formal inclusion of new members
Fourth progress report of TSG
Diplomacy of both IZC chairmen
Long term envisioning process
for the river Scheldt estuary

2 Within this case study integrated river basin management is defined as ‘an inclusive,
integrative and iterative multi-stakeholder process of developing trans-boundary policies and
management approaches for interrelated land-water-atmosphere systems on different temporal
and hydro-geographical scales, aiming at matching five dimensions of sustainability: healthy
ecosystems, social equity, economic efficiency, adaptive institutions and flexible technology’
(adapted after Santbergen 2005).
3 From 2000 until 2003 the author was the Dutch chairman of the Technical Study
The International Zwin Commission 113
Case Description

Between 1939 and 2004, seven negotiation rounds can be distinguished (Table 7.1).

Round I (1939)

The whole process started with the 1926 request of the Belgian (private) owner
of the Zwin area to reclaim the entire area, which the Dutch national authorities
refused. Gradually, awareness of the natural values grew on both sides of the border.
An important driver was the question how to preserve those values (vegetation and
birds), related to hydro-morphological processes in the coastal zone. In 1939, for the
first time, Belgian and Dutch delegations met to discuss transboundary management
issues of the Zwin area (formally, the nature area did (and still does) not have the
status of a reserve).4

Round II (1940–1945)

During the German Occupation (1940–1945) and in the years immediately after, no
formal meetings took place.

Round III (1946–1959)

The most important driver for the restarted formal meetings was the fact that the
Belgian authorities had not been informed about the ‘illegal’ construction of an
enclosure dam in the mouth of the Zwin area,5 established by a Dutch water board
(1948–1950). The Dutch nation state ‘refused to force’ the water board to remove
the dam. Instead, civil engineers proposed to periodically deepen and widen another
entrance channel (1950). Disagreement, distrust and repetition of positions and
statements dominated the discourse during the official meetings, whilst on the other
hand informal joint field excursions and technical studies contributed to a process of
joint fact-finding.
Another driving force was the 1953 sea flood in the south-west Netherlands.
The illegal dam had been flushed away; the strength of the (weakened) International
Zwin dike became a political issue, apart from the question of how to share the costs
for all trans-boundary management activities. The Dutch delegation proposed the

4 This is due to the private ownership of the Belgian part of the Zwin area. The private
owner fears restrictions and management rules imposed by the authorities if the formal status
of a nature reserve is obtained.
5 The mouth is where water from the North Sea enters and leaves the area with the
tide. Due to natural conditions and human activities, the mouth and the inland parts silt up.
If nothing is undertaken, this relatively small but ecologically rare tidal zone will develop
gradually into a desalinated and silted up dune valley, dominated by grasses, reed and willows.
Biologically rich mudflats and marshes will disappear. The importance of the nature areas for
migrating and hibernating birds will decrease considerably (Santbergen 2004; Herrier 2003;
De Wolf 2003).
114 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
enclosure of the entrance channels in the mouth (‘as the safest and cheapest
option’) whilst the Belgian delegation stuck to their wish to maintain the natural
values as long as possible (by means of an open entrance channel as the best
option). Based on recommendations of an expert panel, the IZC advised the
Belgian and Dutch national authorities to enforce the International Zwin Dike and
periodically re-allocate and deepen/widen the entrance channel. The Commission
moved the ‘hot potato’ of allocating the costs to them (1955). A draft agreement,
as composed by the Dutch national authorities (1958), has never been signed.
The International Zwin Dike enforcement works just have been carried out due
to the perceived sense of urgency.

Round IV (1960–1986)

In this round, according to one of the former secretaries of the IZC, ‘the silting
up process of both the Zwin and the negotiation arena accelerated’. No formal
meetings took place, probably related to other bilateral (historical) conflicts.
The Dutch authorities continued field works (entrance channel re-allocation)

Round V (1987–1997)

Restart of the Commission with a completely refreshed playing field. New issues
concerned the sand suppletion works in the Belgian coastal zone, which seemed
to accelerate the silting-up process. In 1987 a Technical Study Group (TSG) was
established in order to study long-term, sustainable options.6 A first result was
an agreement to re-allocate the entrance channel once more, in combination with
the establishment of a sand trap. The Flemish state authorities were to take care
of the costs and a joint monitoring program was initiated. Evaluation of the sand
trap showed that this measure helps to keep the entrance channel open, but it
does not stop the silting-up process in the scenic area.
Another important impetus was a confidential Belgian report (1993) in which
enlargement of the Zwin area with (parts) of the adjacent Willem-Leopold polder
was introduced as the so-called ‘de-poldering’ option. The IZC asked the TSG
to study this new option. In 1997, the IZC approved the recommendations as
proposed by the TSG in its third progress report. The Commission asked for
further studies on different options (restoration of inland freshwater discharge
via the Zwin area, dynamic coastal-zone management, enlargement of the

6 The formal task of the Technical Study Group, formulated by the IZC in 1987, is to
inventory the natural values of the Zwin reserve and to make recommendations on the most
desirable future developments concerning the natural values and the technical solutions and
management options that are considered to be necessary to maintain those natural values
in relation to the continuing silting up process of the entrance channel. Starting point is the
preservation of the tidal mud flats and marshes. To safeguard the saline character of the
reserve, a regular inundation with salt water is a prerequisite. The silting up process should be
tackled by active forms of management.
The International Zwin Commission 115
tidal volume within the present scenic area and de-poldering scenarios). A
transboundary, shared vision should be made first, followed by a management

Round VI (1998–2000)

A period of ‘silent diplomacy’ followed, partly provoked by one of the Belgian key-
players who was not formally involved in the International Zwin Commission. In
fact, awareness grew among the IZC members that the scope of the commission
should be enlarged, both technically and institutionally. A process of exchange
of (formal) letters and informal discussions on the extension of the Commission
with other stakeholders (public and private) started to take place. At the end
of this round, representatives of municipalities, water boards and the owners/
managers of the Zwin area were invited to become formal members of the
commission. Attempts of the Flemish state and provincial authorities to arrange
the formal status as a nature reserve with the Belgian owner failed again.

Round VII (2001–2004)

This round saw the restart of the IZC with the new members on board. Ten years
after the introduction of the ‘de-poldering’ option, the fourth progress report of
the TSG emphasises the potential of de-poldering options to generate win-win
outcomes (2001). Although proponents and opponents derive arguments from
the TSG documents to persuade their opposite numbers, both chairmen move
diplomatically and steer the process to a supported memorandum on starting
up an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure based on a ‘political
compromise scenario’ (2003). Given several statements in the minutes of the
meetings, this does not necessarily mean that this scenario is fully supported
by all members. A strong window of opportunity appears with the long-term
envisioning process on the entire Scheldt estuary, in which the options for the
Zwin area are mentioned among the most promising ones (2004). Figure 7.1
shows a map with the Zwin area and studied alternatives (from Santbergen

Assessment Dimensions


From the start until 2001, the public sector dominated the platform advised by two
experts (civil sector; arena: bi-partite, multi-focal, i.e. water and nature). In Round
VII the private sector entered the platform (Table 7.2), transforming the platform
into a tri-partite, multi-focal (i.e. water, nature, agriculture, tourism and recreation)
Remarkably, two of the major stakeholders, the managers of the nature reserve,
were not been represented formally in the IZC until mid-2001. Furthermore, those
116 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management

Figure 7.1 The Zwin scenic area and its surroundings (Santbergen 2004)

Note: The dark coloured sites are vegetated silted up-patches. ‘25%’ indicates the political
compromise scenario, i.e. enlargement of the Zwin area with 25% of the adjacent Willem-
Leopold polder; 50% indicates the de-poldering option with best (estimated) guarantees on a
long-term sustainable solution (E-Connection 2001).
The International Zwin Commission 117
Table 7.2 Arena composition International Zwin Commission in Round VII

Type of stakeholder↓ Sector↓ Level↓

Decision maker
Ministry of Transport, Public Works & Public National
Water Management (VenW; D)
Ministry of Environment and Infrastructure (B) Public National
Province of Zealand (D; chair) Public Regional
Province of West-Flanders (B; chair) Public Regional
Rijkswaterstaat Zealand (D) Public Regional
AWZ – Coastal Waters Division (B) Public National
AMINAL – Nature Division (B) Public National
Water Board Zeeuws Vlaanderen (D) Public Regional
Zwin Polder Board (B) Public Local
Nieuwe Hazegras Polder Board (B) Public Local
Municipality Sluis-Aardenburg (D) *) Public Local
Municipality Knokke-Heist (B) *) Public Local
‘t Zeeuwse Landschap (D) *) Private Regional
Compagnie ‘t Zoute (B) *) Private Local
Two advisors of the IZC (D, B) Civil National
Institute of Nature Conservation (B) Public
Hydraulics Laboratory (B) Public
Coastal Water Division (RIKZ; D) Public National
Economic Study Office of West-Flanders (WES; B) Private National
ALTERRA (D) Civil National

B = Flemish stakeholders; D = Dutch stakeholders; AMINAL = Flemish Administration of

Environment, Water, Land and Nature; AWZ = Flemish Administration of Waterways and
Coastal Zone Management.
*) Member since June 2001. In italics: TSG member only.

who stand to lose or benefit from management options proposed by the IZC, like
NGOs, farmers, recreational entrepreneurs, tourists, fishermen, journalists and
residents have been excluded and not pro-actively informed. Although international
sensitive relations are at stake, it is still striking that regional authorities should chair
the commission. Given a long history of political distrust and disagreement, the IZC
might be considered a regional pacification instrument for the national authorities
involved, at least where overcoming conflict is concerned.
There is no representation from the international and inter-regional levels.
Notwithstanding the Zwin nature reserve being subject to European legislation
like the Birds and Habitats Directives, the EC is not an observer to the IZC, but is
118 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
informed indirectly by the relevant authorities. The same applies to the International
Scheldt Commission that coordinates the implementation of the European Water
Framework Directive in the Scheldt River Basin District. Moreover the Technical
Scheldt Commission, which deals with issues of nature conservation, navigation and
flood control in the river Scheldt estuary, is not a member or observer to the IZC, but
is informed on the progress of the IZC by the chairmen (only by request).

Power Balance

For this case study, no extensive stakeholder and power balance analysis has been
conducted. For an explorative description of positions of the stakeholders within the
IZC/TSG arena (Round VII) see Santbergen (2004). There has been equitable power
for the participants within the TSG, although some players have been more active
than others. Concerning the IZC, it is doubtful that all players had equitable power.
In Rounds I through VI some important stakeholders were explicitly excluded from
the process. The media were (unilaterally) informed in a controlled way at certain
predetermined moments. Environmental NGOs, scientific and advisory institutes
seemed to pay low attention to the work of the IZC and were not actively requesting

Multiple Use

From the beginning the main focus of the IZC has been nature-oriented: conservation
of flora and fauna has been the main driver for the establishment of the platform.
Gradually, an evolution took place towards water system management, focusing
on water quantity issues. Human benefits, other than flood defence and fresh water
discharge, were hardly included. In Round VII, issues of social equity and economic
efficiency related to ecosystem sustainability started to show up in the reports of the
TSG. Examples are prospects for farmers in the surrounding polders of the nature
reserve and potential inter-regional benefits from (nature-oriented) tourism and
recreation. Although those studies provide (slightly) more insight in opportunities for
social equity and economic efficiency, no consensus is reached on (some) underlying
(controversial) assumptions and conclusions.

Salient Goals

The platform emerged in an attempt to overcome conflicts between Belgium and the
Netherlands. From the start goals have been diffuse, based on short-term interests of
involved actors. One might say that the nature reserve survived due to disagreement
and distrust. If the Dutch national government would have had full authority in
this case, the area would have been disconnected from the North Sea against the
lowest possible cost. With the establishment of the TSG (1987; Round V), the goals
started to become more focused, based on a shared sense of urgency. In 1997, the
IZC asked the TSG to initiate a long-term shared vision on the management of the
nature reserve. Although some preliminary attempts were made, such a vision never
appeared. This might be due to the ‘wicked’ nature of the issues at stake, in which
The International Zwin Commission 119
actors’ norms, values, perceptions and interests differ significantly (cf. De Bruijn
and Ten Heuvelhof 2002).

Support Generating Capacity

The IZC has a limited (formal) mandate to provide technical recommendations only
and not to investigate resources allocation in detail. Since the start of the IZC, the
national authorities have not come to any agreement on cost sharing. The IZC has
no financial and human resources of its own. Resources available to its members
fund study reports. External support may be obtained by looking for coalitions
with other national, (inter-) regional initiatives and (European) funding. Given the
broadened scope and the start of a new negotiation round in which the (potential)
cross links with inter-regional initiatives and the long term visioning process for the
entire Scheldt estuary becomes more prominent, it might be wise to reconsider the
constellation of the IZC and its TSG.
The IZC does not have the explicit aim to develop partnerships and strengthen
networks between and among stakeholders. The frequency of the IZC meetings is
too low for that purpose anyway; a frequency of three to five meetings a year (TSG)
may also be considered too low for that purpose.

Adaptability Over Time

Although clear in itself, attempts were made within the TSG to ‘discuss and
improve’ the task description. The main question was if the TSG should limit
its work to marine natural values only or should also aim at restoring historical
fresh water – salt-water gradients. Some actors advocated a pragmatic approach in
order to prevent endless debates. Discussions also took place on the boundaries of
the study area. Although some actors argued for a broader study area but a strict
planning envelope (the borders of the present Zwin area itself), others moved the
process in the direction of political compromise with a broader boundary than the
reserve itself. One may say that, although the stakeholders did not completely
agree on the norms, values and goals underlying the task description, there was at
least a shared view on the range of management options and required knowledge.
In negotiation Rounds I-IV, hardly any progress was made, due to the fact that
the issues on the table had an unstructured, ‘wicked’ character. In Rounds V-VII,
the issues then developed into the direction of ‘ill-structured problems’. In such
cases, the process is oriented at peacekeeping, as described by Hendriks et al.
(1999). Pacification points at reaching consensus on management options, while
controversies around a problem have not disappeared. Pacification as a planning
process may keep important stakeholders on board, but holds a danger of symbolic
planning outcomes.
In Round VII, TSG members started to invest more in developing a sound
advice to the IZC. Both the number (and extent) of formal and informal meetings
increased. Additional study reports were produced. A shared ownership started to
develop. Room was provided for confronting opinions and ideas and gradually a
multi-stakeholder dialogue started to develop based on mutual respect. Although
120 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
in the beginning ‘media incidents’ occurred initiated by individuals or small
coalitions of stakeholders (looking for options outside and around the platform),
(informal) agreements on external communication were increasingly respected.
On the other hand, historical distrust among some of the members continued to
cause incidents. For example, the discussions between the Dutch and Flemish
authorities concerning the approach of oil spill from the Tricolor tanker into
the Zwin mouth collapsed and entirely took place outside the IZC. One might
explain this as proof of the weak (formal) position of the IZC, or on the contrary,
as an attempt to keep the platform alive during ‘stormy tides’. The same actors
were in the field, but the platform seemed to be temporarily hidden.

Synergy for Innovation

Within both the TSG as the IZC, a gradual evolution took place from a rigid
task-oriented planning process – technical solutions on the silting up process
in the nature reserve only – to a more integrated approach, including (save and
timely) discharge of inland fresh water, dynamic coastal zone management and
flood defence in relation to climate change. Hence, the study area was enlarged
from the present nature reserve to adjacent inland polders and the coastal zone.
This provided space for innovative options and including social and economic
aspects, although the attempts to fully integrate the latter failed due to limited

Decision Space

There have been no clear, formalized, written down ‘rules of the game’. Implicit,
informal and oral agreements predominated the process both in the TSG as the
IZC. Informal coalitions arose and disappeared around the platforms, sometimes
frustrating – when unexpected press publications appeared – or stimulating – when
innovative ideas came up – the cooperation process.
Within the TSG, a mix of persuasion, seeking dialogue and formation (after De
Kock 2002) occurred. In fact, opponents and proponents tried to persuade each other
and the neutral actors. The chairs tried to stimulate scientific discussions, based on
both external studies and internal advice from individuals or coalitions of members.
After a first stage of seeking an (open) dialogue based on a synthesis of available
information, the chairs tried to steer the process towards a ‘final’ memorandum
leaving scope for additional studies.
At the formal IZC meetings, the chairs of the IZC informed the members on
the progress of the TSG, and balanced carefully among the diverging interests, in
order to keep everybody in the arena. In informal (sometimes secret) meetings with
individual members, the chairs tried to both examine the negotiation space and to
carefully guide the process in the direction of the most promising management
options. In fact, the chairs followed a formative communication strategy in which
the exchange of information, ideas and diverging opinions among different actors is
aimed at guiding a planning or decision-making process to a consensus, supported
by the key actors (after De Kock 2002).
The International Zwin Commission 121
This strategy aimed to put an end to a long period of debates, conflicts and
controversial short-term management measures. Finally, the IZC chairs decided to
inform the media jointly, but in practice, the chairs informed their own regional media
independently from one another. Table 7.3 summarizes the assessment dimensions
for the IZC (period 1939–1986 compared with period 1987–2004).


Given the lack of formal decision-making competencies, the absence of both ‘rules
of the game’ as instruments for conflict resolution and the limited (technical) scope,
the platform seemed to be not very effective. In case of trouble, the IZC moved
around in circles in the outskirts of the political activity networks, becoming
dormant or talking about ‘harmless’ issues. In a 65-year period, the commission
formally met only 14 times. Given the repeatedly stated sense of urgency, the
commission has not been overactive and did not initiate plenty activity. Its climax
has been Round IV: for 28 years there were no formal meetings. The most significant
activity was the adoption of the final memorandum (2003) and presenting it to the
competent national authorities. Supported by numerous study reports, the TSG
progress reports, and informal meetings on both expert and political level, the
stakeholders involved in the IZC/TSG arena grew towards a common sense that
at least an EIA procedure could be applied here. In this respect, the IZC seems to
have stimulated a shared ownership development. To outsiders, the IZC might still
seem a frequently hibernating mayfly, only showing up – with luck – once a year.

Discussion: MSP Assessment Dimensions

Although one may argue if some of the assessment dimensions belong to ‘process’
or ‘context’, Warner and Verhallen have presented a comprehensive tool for the
‘identification’ and ‘evaluation’ of MSPs that aim for solving complex issues of
integrated river basin management. The degree of complexity, as expressed by
Mitchell’s levels of integration (1990), is implicitly included in the ‘multiple use’
dimension. As Watson (Chapter 3, this volume) shows, the nature of the issues at
stake influences the degree of deliberation that is required. In the case of issues
on which there is no agreement on the goals, collaboration is desirable instead of
coordination only (ibid). Hence, to my opinion, an extra assessment dimension might
be useful, i.e. ‘degree of interaction’, ranging from persuasion via consultation and
coordination to collaboration.
De Bruijn et al. (2002) plead for the ex-ante formulation of explicit process rules
that are adopted by all participants. In this case study I have included ‘rules of the
game’ in the ‘decision space’ dimension (see Table 7.3).
The local institutional context is important as well and is implicitly expressed
by the presented assessment dimensions. However, in the Zwin case as in other
international cases (e.g. Hofstede, 1984, 2004; Meijerink, 1998) the role of cultural
factors might not be underestimated. Hence, I propose to take them into account as
an additional assessment dimension for those cases.
122 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 7.3 MSP assessment dimensions in the international Zwin arena

Dimension↓ Expected efficacy of an ideal-type MSP

Multiple use Single human Multiple Single human Multiple human

function, human function, nature functions,
Without functions, included nature included
nature without nature
Goals Short-term, Short-term, Long-term, self Long-term,
self-interest/ shared/clear interest/diffuse shared/clear
Arenas Uni-partite, Uni-partite, Bi-partite, Tri-partite,
single focus multi-focus multi-focus multi-focus
Power balance Two players, Two players, Multiple Multiple
one dominant equitable players, players,
power dominant ones equitable power
Decision Small Small Broad Broad
space mandates, no mandates, mandates, mandates,
explicit rules implicit rules implicit rules of explicit rules of
of the game of the game the game the game
Support Individual Shared Shared process Shared process/
generating process, own and means means, external
capacity means support
Synergy for Individual Individual Shared Innovative
innovation interests, no interests, joint ownership, group synergy
synergy fact finding process of
reframing and
social learning
Adaptability Inflexible, Flexible, unfocused Flexible, shared
over time own positions focus
Outcome Dormant Talking Advising Acting.

Finally, the formulation and monitoring of evaluation indicators by the MSP members
will be important as well. I propose to include them explicitly as an assessment
dimension. Table 7.4 shows the performance of the proposed, additional assessment
dimensions for the Zwin case.


The International Zwin Commission started within a context of historical distrust,

cultural differences and (potential) conflicts between Belgium and the Netherlands. In
the first period, the arena was dominated by stakeholders from the public sector (and
The International Zwin Commission 123
Table 7.4 Additional MSP assessment dimensions in the international Zwin
arena (1939–2004)

Dimension↓ Expected efficacy of the multi-stakeholder dialogue

Evaluation Not formulated, Formulated Formulated explicitly,
indicators no monitoring implicitly, some full monitoring
Evaluation Not formulated, Formulated Formulated explicitly,
indicators no monitoring implicitly, some Full monitoring
Degree of Persuasion Information Coordination Collaboration
interaction exchange and
Cultural Emphasis on Implicit Explicit Emphasis on
(f)actors differences; no recognition recognition added value;
action embedded
Note: Boxes shaded light grey: performance of the International Zwin Commission in the period
1939–1986 (negotiation rounds I–IV). Shaded dark grey: performance of the International
Zwin Commission in the period 1987–2004 (negotiation rounds V–VII). If there is no colour
for an assessment dimension, the performance is similar to that of the first period

two scientific experts), who were circling around the issues at stake and driven by
self-interest. Although the players exchanged information and talked about a shared
focus, they were caught within their small mandates and different positions. Probably
due to other controversial issues outside the Zwin arena, the national authorities did
not support the Commission which became dormant for more than 25 years. In the
second period, the Commission enlarged the scope, both in a technical and institutional
sense, leading the way to a more open, though limited debate fed by arguments and
with more flexible players working on a shared focus. Although the Commission
managed to decide on a shared memorandum for the national authorities, this does
not necessarily mean that the political compromise scenario is fully supported by all
its members. Given the explanation of the Commission as a pacification instrument,
the danger of a symbolic planning outcome is still present. The IZC may hit history
records as a beautiful indigenous mayfly species – in its role of indicator on both
high environmental and institutional quality – or become a harmless larvae, hidden
in the aquatic society and only showing up at unexpected moments for keeping up
appearances. If it will be the second option, no doubt a second lengthy hibernation
sleep might be the final outcome of this multi-stakeholder platform.
The case study shows that the assessment dimensions as introduced by Warner
and Verhallen (Chapter 2, this volume), are appropriate to identify MSPs and
124 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
evaluate their efficacy over time. As such they are a promising additional tool for
historical analysis of a given policy domain.

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and decision making in a network: how to improve the quality of analysis and the
impact on decision making’, in Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, volume
20, number 4, pp. 232–242.
Bruijn, H. de, E. ten Heuvelhof and R. in ‘t Veld (2002), Procesmanagement. Over
procesontwerp en besluitvorming.2e herziene druk, Academic Service, Den Haag.
E-connection (2001), Overzicht van verschillende maatregelen en scenario’s voor
het behoud van het Zwin. Study report on behalf of the Technical Working-Group
of the International Zwin Commission.
Gysels, H. (1991), Haftelarventabel: determineersleutel voor de larvale eendagsvliegen
van het Benelux-gebied, Jeugdbondsuitgeverij (eerste druk), Utrecht.
Hendriks, F., et al. (1999), Handreiking voor interactieve planvorming, Den Haag,
RIZA White Paper 99.055.
Herrier, J-L. (2003), ‘Het Zwin in de context van het Europees en Vlaams natuurbeleid’,
in Mees et al. (eds), Feestzitting ter afsluiting van het jubileumjaar 50 jaar Zwin
– Het Zwin: van gisteren naar morgen, Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ)
and Compagnie ‘t Zoute. VLIZ Special Publication 13, Oostende (Belgium).
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Contact (17th edition).
Hofstede, G. (1984), Culture’s consequences. International differences in work-
related values, Sage, London/New Delhi.
Kock, T. de (2002), Checklist voor het doordenken van een beleidsproces. in Course
Reader ‘Overheidscommunicatie – Beroepsniveau C’, RM, Amsterdam.
Meijerink, S. V. (1998), Conflict and cooperation in the Scheldt River Basin, Kluwer
Academic Publishers, Netherlands.
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Integrated Water Management: International Experiences and Perspectives.
Belhaven Press, London/New York; pp. 1–21.
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Nederlandse en Vlaamse Regering. Antwerpen/Bergen op Zoom.
Santbergen, L. L. P. A. (2004), ‘The international Zwin project: an example of
European co-operation?’, in Geres, D. (ed.), River restoration 2004: principles,
processes, practices: proceedings of 3rd ECRR Conference on River Restoration
in Europe, Zagreb, 17–21 May, 2004 (pp. 325–336), Croatian Waters & European
Centre for River Restoration, Zagreb (Croatia).
Santbergen, L. L. P. A. and Barneveld, R. J. (eds) (2005), Integrated Water
Management (HWM21306). Course Manual/Reader, Wageningen University and
Research Center, Wageningen.
Teisman, G. R. (1992), Complexe besluitvorming; een pluricentrisch perspectief op
besluitvorming over ruimtelijke investeringen. ’s-Gravenhage: VUGA
Wolf, P. de (2003), ‘Naar een oplossing van het verzandingsprobleem?’, in Mees et
al. (eds), Feestzitting ter afsluiting van het jubileumjaar 50 jaar Zwin – Het Zwin:
van gisteren naar morgen, Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ) and Compagnie
‘t Zoute. VLIZ Special Publication 13, Oostende (Belgium).
Chapter 8

Participating in Watershed Management:

Policy and Practice in the Trahunco
Watershed, Argentinean Patagonia
Alejandra Moreyra and Jeroen Warner


Urban expansion and increasing industrial activities encountering rural activities,

coupled with the lack of access to basic services like drinking water and sanitation
by most of the poor population call attention to existing water management
schemes (2nd World Water Forum 2000). This subject is debated over at
innumerable international and regional gatherings where the best ways to approach
these problems are discussed from the perspective of different interests and
Many academic and technical institutions, as well as policy makers, national
and international organisations and the like, have generated a mainstream advocacy
towards the idea that changes in water policies should go in the direction of Integrated
Water Resources Management (IWRM), defined as: ‘a process which promotes the
coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in
order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner
without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems’ (GWP 2000, 15).
For its implementation, river basin organizations (river basin authorities, river
basin committees, communities of users, multiple stakeholders platforms, etc.) are
promoted (Cosgrove and Rijsberman 2000). River basin organizations are defined as
a way of ‘generating a mixed (public and private), financially independent, socially
oriented, and environmentally sensitive system that is able to act in a democratic and
participatory way’ (Dourojeanni 2001).
Some analysts maintain that, in this way, participatory and just management
systems would be promoted (Cepal 2000; 2001; Heathcote 1998). The need for a
rational and efficient water use at the local level is also emphasized as long as it
is facilitated by appropriate institutions adapted to local settings, and not centrally
imposed (Heathcote 1998).
These academic and technical prescriptions intend to keep all political actors
informed towards implementing more inclusive water policies. However sound the
theory seems, practices not always follow linear paths and complexity always filters
in. The ‘ideal’ scenario, in which collective action, fairness, egalitarian participation,
and sustainability are the goals, promoted by emphasizing harmony and consensus,
126 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
ignores or denies existing differences and conflicts. The political dimension of water
as a disputed resource therefore is overlooked.
Another concept used unproblematically is the ‘natural boundaries of the river
basin assumed to be the most appropriate unit of planning’ (Wester et al.2003).
This assumption presents policy making with a neutral character. Participation of
users’ representatives and other ‘relevant’ social actors of the river basin are part
of the new value added of participatory water policies at watershed level. Implicit
or explicitly, these proposals search for optimal management strategies towards
win-win solutions in a concerted fashion. Nevertheless, institutional arrangements
for catchment management are neither isolated from the context in which they are
promoted nor from the individuals responsible for implementing them within the
institutions mandated to do so.
This article, therefore, examines the implementation process of a participatory
water management policy in the Trahunco watershed in San Martín de los Andes.
Ongoing conflicts which are not part of the policy agenda are also explored. The
analysis of the ethnographic research centers on: (a) theoretical assumptions
that support watershed organizations as the way for implementing participatory
management policies (b) the ways in which the institutions implementing the
policies and the other participating actors, transform or reshape them according to
their interests and understandings and c) issues of inclusion and exclusion.

The Trahunco Stream’s Context: The Conflicts

In Neuquén province, water is considered a public resource owned by the provincial

government. The General Water Resource Office (DGRH for its initials in Spanish),
responsible for applying the Water Code in the province is in charge of granting
water quotas. Together with the Environmental Management Unit Office (UGA
in Spanish) from the municipality of San Martín de los Andes, they evaluate the
projects presented by private investors and – among other issues – decide upon the
viability of the water requests.
The Trahunco watershed is a hotspot because of an international ski centre also
known as El Cerro (the Hill) on its top. It is located 20 km from San Martin de
los Andes city and it is the most populated rural watershed in the region. Current
plans for tourist development in the area (commonly called Loteos) contemplate the
construction of around 800 additional houses to accommodate visitors. In the higher
part of the watershed, the international ski centre receives more than 78,800 visitors
per high season (average of years 2000–2002, accounting for July and August).
In addition to the tourist sector, two Mapuche indigenous communities, two
periurban urbanizations and one residential neighbourhood as well as two tourist
developments, are located in the watershed. This sums aproximately 1600 inhabitants.
The growth of economic activities in the watershed, some of which contribute to the
population’s subsistence all year round and others during the tourist seasons, has
generated a substantial growth in the demand for water resources.
In the year 2000, the provincial and municipal agencies estimated that the latest
applications for water supply (quotas) by the tourist development investors, when
Participating in Watershed Management 127
added to the already existing demands, exceeded the streams’ resource availability.
They took a preventive measure limiting the grant of water quotas; these measures
were received as obstaculising economic activities and conflicts arose mainly
between the investors in the area, the ski centre and the governmental authorities.
In an attempt to resolve this conflict, the governmental institutions called for a
meeting where the specific demands for water supply would be renegotiated (from
minutes of the meetings). Along the negotiation process, the different actors invited1
discussed about water supply and were asked to adjust their initial demands to the
minimum supply required for their current activities. In addition, they decided to
study alternative water sources for the future, to provide for the tourist projects at
the height of their development; when the quotas initially requested will be needed.
A latter agreement was to distribute the resource on a monthly basis, according to
the needs of each project. The seasonal requirements of each user vary, since the
tourist developments are busy only a few months per year. The amount for human
consumption is fixed throughout the whole year for the watershed’s inhabitants
(Moreyra 2003).
To coordinate the arrangements reached, the DGRH proposed the creation of
the User’s Community for the Trahunco watershed, which would also be a pilot
initiative they could replicate in several other catchments in the area with the same
type of development.
The Users’ Community was then formed by the tourist development investors,
the Skiing centre managers, the representatives of the Drinking Water Cooperative,
representatives of one of the Mapuche indigenous communities and the different
government agents involved.
At the same time, the Mapuche communities settled around the Quitrahue stream
– a tributary of the Trahunco – downstream of the ski centre, were in conflict with the
provincial government, the municipality and the ski centre. The claim was about the
lack of efficient treatment of the ski centre’s wastewater, which was polluting their
water sources. The claims were put to the government because the centre is owned
by the provincial government and is granted in concession to Nieves de Chapelco S.
A. which is managing and administrating it.
By the year 2000 the communities were already planning the second protest:
a blockade of the road leading up to the skiing centre at the heart of the sporting
season. The strategy was to stop tourists from reaching the ski centre so they could

1 They were:
- Private investors of tourist developments;
- Representative of the Ski Centre;
- Representative of the Mapuche community settled next to the Trahunco stream (Vera
- Drinking Water Coperative (that supplies drinking water to the urbanizations from a
toma next to the stream);
- Provincial government, forestry agency (owner of a disputed nursery in the catchment);
- DGRH representatives;
- Provincial Government representatives;
- Muncipal Government Environmental Unit representatives.
128 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
get the provincial government down to the site, listen to their claims and negotiate
with them (from interviews woth Mapuche community members).
The Mapuche communities also allied with the urbanizations represented
in neighborhood commissions. They put claims against erosion processes and
sedimentation caused by house and golf course constructions at the tourist
developments in the scarps of the watershed:

... the problem appeared when the turbid water started to come down; we suspected that
it was related to displacements of earth. With some other neighbours we went to look at
the small tributary streams of the Trahunco; we saw that the sediments in the water were
connected to movement of earth for building the golf course in the upper valley and the
Las Pendientes tourist development (interview with president of Los Radales urbanization

Neighbours of the settlement also foresee problems coming from the upstream tourist
developments due to uncertain sewage systems, since

the numerous streams of water running down the slopes could, in the future, become
focal points of contamination (interview with the President of Los Radales urbanization

The Trahunco Users’ Community: The Included

Despite the Major’s proposal of ‘joint decision making’, the DGRH defined the
problem and the way to solve it. Therefore, the scale for implementing the solution
had to fit their needs, limiting the river basin to the upper part of the Trahunco
stream. In this way, they had also defined who were to be considered stakeholders:
mainly the users who were granted or required water quotas from that sector of the
stream, the private investors.
The point of departure in the meetings was a discussion on the effective water
availability, but parties could not agree on who had the most reliable data. After
several meetings discussing the data the DGRH managed to impose their data with
the following argument:

DGRH is to make the final decision in relation to quantities granted, as this is a political
decision given that the provincial law gives priority to water for human consumption (as
expressed by a DGRH representative in one of the meetings).

The creation of the Users’ Community was signed. According to the commitment
sealed, water demands from private investors would fit within the limits set by
the DGRH and the private investors would install water meters in each area. The
Users’ community would be the institutionalized arena for adjusting on a yearly
basis the amount of water to be used by each, in a negotiated and well-coordinated
manner. In order for the Users’ Community to be recognized legally, the provincial
government should pass a decree formalizing it. DGRH agents had to lobby within
the governments’ institutional hierarchies to get this Users’ Community recognized
within their own institution.
Participating in Watershed Management 129
For the DGRH officials involved, the key issue was to stop granting water
quotas until they could get private investors to install water meters, which they did.
However, according to interviews with a DGRH agent, conducted in 2004, the decree
was never passed by the provincial government and in the end, nobody controls how
much water they actually take from the stream.
The tourist development investors (or their administrative representatives), as
members of the Users’ Community, expressed their interest in participating in the
organization because they needed to solve the problem of water distribution so as to
have some degree of certainty to continue with their projects:

… instead of acting individually (each private investor with the State), the consortium
would be the one who negotiates with the State. Internally, resources would be distributed
among us, as the usage is temporary and does not necessarily overlap (interview with one
investor, who is the technical representative for two other projects).

However, they have not promoted more meetings and they are still waiting for the
DGRH and the Municipality to summon them again. In any case, this situation does
not hinder the completion of private projects. As a government agent puts it:

The private sector in general keeps on going with its projects … so by when the State
says no … with the slowness that is characteristic to its bureaucracy, they answer: But
we already have all this done! ... so there are new negotiations. They have the cleverness
of submitting the papers to the most insignificant office or to whom they know is
inefficient and they gain time for advancing their projects (interview with Government

This strategy is probably more beneficial to them than lengthy negotiations within
the Users’ community.
For the drinking water cooperative the Users’ Community was important in terms
of negotiating the water quota:

... it is important to be able to maintain the 23 l/sec. rate that the Cooperative receives
already from the Trahunco River to supply drinking water to Los Radales urbanization. The
alternative for permanently pumping water from other streams would be very expensive
for all the neighbours (interview with a technician from the Water Cooperative).

The Vera Mapuche community was invited to participate. This community was divided
into those living in the upper part and those downstream. At the time (2001), the
representatives represented those living upstream, next to the tourist developments.
These representatives had internal conflicts with some of the community members
downstream and with the representatives of the Curruhuinca mapuche community
in the watershed. These internal problems concerned their approach to the state,
who to seek legal advise and representation from, their confrontations with the
representatives of the Mapuche Confederation and their ideology. Even though the
Vera Community representatives were invited because of there good relationship
with the local government, they would argue that ‘... we are convoked to the Users
Community but we are stone guests, the Community is them, the wealthy people
from San Martín de los Andes’.
130 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The Excluded

The majority of settlers of the river basin were summoned to participate in the Users’
Community. The argument put forward by the government not to summon the suburban
districts was mainly that they receive drinking water from a Water Cooperative.
The Curruhuinca Mapuche community was not considered a stakeholder arguing
that they did not belong to the Trahunco catchment but to the Quitrahue one (the
tributary of Trahunco stream). We will come back later to this subject.
In this sense, the Municipal Agent head of the Environmental Unit, would say:

We invite them [the Vera Community] because they are easier to get a long with, we are even
supporting their representative to receive environmental training … instead the Curruhuincas
[the other community] are conflictive and contesting our policies all the time (from fieldnotes
AM, 2001).

The Curruhuinca Community, together with some members of the Vera community
are active in the Confederación Mapuche Neuquina (Neuquen’s Mapuche
Confederation), the political body of most of the Mapuche communities of the
province. At that time they were protesting against the ski center mainly because of
the lack of wastewater treatment which was polluting the Quitrahue water resources.
The Confederation supports Mapuche Communities’ contestation to provincial
policies that are perceived to affect their identity and livelihoods.
Los Radales urbanization committee met for the first time with representatives
from the Vera Mapuche Community and El Arenal urbanization committee, to jointly
discuss the erosion problems and decide which action to take.

… we called for a meeting in the Municipality to which some representatives from the
Deliberative Council and the Water Cooperative were invited, to discuss the problem, ask
for more information and think out a strategy of joint action (Interview with President of
the Los Radales neighbourhood committee).

In this meeting they were promised that when the DGRH agents travelled to SMA
they would be invited to a new meeting. However,

… when the meeting was held we were not invited. The Major understood that we would
be represented by the Water cooperative (which supplies their drinking water). This was
not consulted with us. Our complaints presented to the Deliberative Council were not
attended (Interview with President of the Los Radales neighbourhood committee).

These actors and their perceptions of the problems in the watershed were not
considered in the Users’ Community agenda.

The Construction of Problems and Solutions

Analyzing the rhetoric used in the nature and construction of a complaint or problem
raised in an environmental dispute, Hannigan (1995) identifies three components:
Data, Justification and Conclusion, and maintains that the combination of these
Participating in Watershed Management 131
three elements determines the nature of the complaint. Once a problem is defined,
the discourse is constructed by giving examples for a better understanding and it is
closed with a series of numerical estimations (Data). It is this point that ‘technical
knowledge’ plays an important role.
Other authors have shown how some policy makers have handled this component of
the complaint, by displaying a selected set of data that are actually hiding assumptions
on the shortage of water, incipient water wars, etc., as a way of justifying their actions.
As time goes by, these assumptions settle down and become received wisdom, so they
gain power and manage to survive in the realm of policies and projects. In spite of the
frequent absence of empirical data to support them, they become part of the discourse
used to assess the state of the resource (Leach et al. 1997).
The DGRH presented flow rate estimations calculated for the lower section of
the river basin as a way of justifying their assumption of water scarcity. These data
were presented as ‘the truth’ despite other actors having seriously questioned their
validity and presented their own data. The solutions proposed by the DGRH were
presented as the required policies. Although estimations of available water flow rates
are sometimes imprecise or even absent, the way some data are presented suggests
that they are ‘common knowledge’, with no chances for contesting them.
In normal practice, institutions tend to deny the existence of conflicts in order to avoid
controversy. There is a tendency to implement pre-selected solutions or technologies
based on a simple agreement. Once a technology or tool is chosen it becomes received
wisdom, an example of what ‘must’be done2 (Wester and Warner 2002). It is also attractive
to opt for an easily executable solution that guarantees control on the decision-making
process. The adoption of a given technology is strongly influenced by social, cultural
and political dynamics (Pool 1997). Integrated catchment management and watershed
entities are part of these technological packages for management implementation.
Nevertheless, decisions taken within a catchment entity don’t necessarily constrain
excluded actors from taking action. ‘The language of experts cannot simply render
invisible the experience of the people on their development problems’3 (Arce 2003,
172). Indeed, those actors have the capacity to counteract ‘predominant’ policies or
instruments by developing strategies to manipulate, reformulate, and/or adapt them
to their own interests and perspectives.
The proposal put forward by DGRH and UGA concerning the management and
distribution of water between private users was overlooked not only by excluded
actors but also by the included. On the one hand, the Curruhuinca community

2 The existence of so-called technological ‘trajectories’ severely limits the development

of ‘alternative’ technologies, which may lack behind forever. Once a certain ‘pathway’ is
followed, the development of the main technology and all the adjacent technologies becomes
so overwhelming that going back may be impossible even if an abandoned technology is
known to be better. Besides, lobbies and the establishment gain so much power that it´s hardly
possible to fight against them. In addition, the assumption that ‘optimization’ has limits is
difficult to sustain (e.g. the PC, communications technologies, rocket science, and so on)
(Seghezzo 2004).
3 This is freely translated from the original text: ‘el lenguaje de expertos no puede
simplemente hacer invisible la experiencia de la gente sobre los (sus) problemas de desarrollo,
como parte de un estado de situación que una perspectiva necesita abordar.’
132 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
managed to put the issue of water quality and the need for sewage treatment at
the ski center on the political agenda through road blocks, informing tourists, mass
media, and the general public as well as bringing the case to court (Balazote 2003).
On the other hand, private investors in the tourist sector did nothing for the Users’
Community, since they were able to individually negotiate their interests outside it. The
result was that traditional ways of policy implementation did not improve solely on the
basis of participation, presented as a more democratic and integrating approach.
Official institutions sometimes place a problem on the socio-political agenda as a
way of justifying their ‘action’ to solve it. This approach is particularly interventionist
since problems are not identified by the different actors involved in the use and handling
of the resources of the region. Policies for the integrated management of natural
resources are currently including participation of the actors involved. However, actors
are generally ‘invited to participate’ by official institutions who prepare the agenda
beforehand. Only then the actors who fit this particular agenda are identified as ‘fit to
participate’. Therefore, the design of actions is a priori restricted since ‘the definition
of a particular problem ... is very much related to and restricted by the nature of the
specific capacities of the development [or governmental] agencies involved’ (Quarles
van Ufford 1993). In the case we are presenting here, the actors perceived the problems
at hand quite differently. The process of setting up a Water Users’ Community responded
to the particular needs of the DGRH; not to collective action from the part of the other
stakeholders. In this case, the search for consensus was a way of legitimizing the interests
of the institution responsible for the implementation of specific water policies.

The Nature of Boundaries

Many policymakers, researchers and water managers assume that the river basin
is the logical planning unit for integrated water management, given its ‘natural’
characteristic. This geographic unit is imposed over the different forms in which
societies had historically constructed their administrative units, their social
interrelations, their political divisions etc (Barham 2001). Pre-existing situations
like these are presented as causes of failure (Dourojeanni 2001) instead of departure
points for designing management arrangements.
Based on an historical review of the river basin concept, Barham (2001) concluded that
‘there is no historical precedent for what is currently being attempted in environmental
planning, e.g. ecosystem or catchment thinking: the establishment of systematic social
coordination and cooperation systems aiming to achieve a sustainable interaction with
nature based on ecosystems (like river basins) ...’. Apparently, the technical-scientific
knowledge supporting the idea of river basins managed to enlist powerful political
actors and an important portion of the public in general, placing the river basin approach
on national and international agenda. The advocates of this idea seized the right moment
to make its perspective heard, taking advantage of the space created many years ago by
water and environmental problems in international relations.
However, the practical determination of the limits of a river basin is related to the
definition of the problem and the working scale. This delimitation is a political decision,
no matter how ‘natural’ the limits might appear technically, especially when it comes
Participating in Watershed Management 133
to management, where decisions involve the resources that will be taken into account
and the people that are inside and outside the system (Schlager and Blomquist 2001).
Different delimitations imply different decision-makers and therefore different effects.
The Water Users’ Community included only those who used water from the upper
basin part of the Trahunco stream4 and therefore the Quitrahue stream was excluded.
This delimitation was not innocent since Mapuche communities Curruhuinca and Vera,
who had been very outspoken for years about water quality and the lack of sewage
treatment at the ski center, were located around the Quitrahue stream.
From a catchment perspective, both streams seem to belong to the same river basin,
since their waters run jointly to the same collector. Technically speaking, like Russian
dolls, each river basin can be considered as a sub-river basin of a larger one. Socio-
economically both basins are intimately connected. On the one hand, the ski center
(operated by the company Nieves del Chapelco) located in the upper section, at the
source of both streams, impacts on the entire basin. On the other, Mapuche populations
established in both basins have all kinds of relationships (kinship, cultural identity,
commercial and labour links) among themselves and with the tourist sector. These
communities and the (non-Mapuche) districts Los Radales, El Arenal, and Oasis,
constitute the stable population of the lower section of the river basin. In the upper
section (Trehuaco stream) there is also a real-estate development (locally called loteos)
oriented at tourism. Private investors in charge of these developments don’t live in the
region, but they have interests in water due to their projects. The definition of scale in
the Trahunco stream was conflicting in itself. When it comes to the implementation of
water policies, the determination of a river basin may be arbitrary (due to ignorance)
or strategic (driven by interests), but not natural or neutral.

The Assumptions Underlying Participatory Processes

In recent years, the struggle to include the voices of excluded people in water
management entered into the speeches of international funding agencies, cooperation
agencies, and international NGOs. This approach emerges in the 1980s as a critic to the
historic verticality in which policies and programs were implemented, at a time when
power and decision making capacity was monopolized by some groups, especially in
the fields of the environment, natural resources management, and social development.
It was also an answer to the sectorialized way in which management programs were
handled (Hirsch 2002).
Participation has been defined as ‘the process through which stakeholders
influence and share control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocations,
and access to public goods and services’ (Participation Learning Group Final Report,
http://www.worldbank.org/participation). This perspective seems to assume that
actors share common interests and a desire to cooperate peacefully, and that the
decisions taken reflect the interests of all stakeholders (Crespo Flores 2001). On the

4 At its source, the Trahunco Stream is called Trehuaco stream (in Mapuche: ‘water
dog’) by Mapuche settlers and some non-Mapuche as well. It takes its definitive name (in
Mapuche: ‘place where waters join’) when it joins the Quitrahue stream (Mapuche for ‘place
where pipes are made’).
134 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
contrary, the perspective of conflict negotiation takes for its starting point that interests
are intrinsically divergent, and therefore disputes can hardly be avoided (Wester
and Warner 2002). The participatory discourse also assumes that all actors want to
‘participate’ and have a say in the ‘official’ process of decision making, together with
other actors and the government (Boelens 2001; Edmunds and Wollenberg 2001;
Hildyard et al. 1998). The lack of desire to participate is then attributed to lack of
clear information, lack of motivation, or to cultural reasons (Ramírez 1999).
In this case study we found that nonparticipation could also be a strategy. The
explicit argument for excluding the Curruhuinca community from the Community
was that they are settled outside the [chosen] limits of the catchment. However, off
the record, the UGA’s agent admitted that the real reason was that this community was
too outspoken, with a history of problems with provincial and municipal authorities.
But, on the other hand, representatives of the Curruhuinca community declare to
have neither the intention nor the desires to belong to the Users’Community since
they consider their participation only to be required to legitimate governmental
decisions (interview with the Lonko (Mapuche chief) and other members of the
community). Although these actors were deliberately excluded to avoid ‘problems’,
they generated local debate around their own interests, from outside the official
channels of participation. Their resistance strategies seem to cost the government
more than their inclusion in the meetings would have. The Mapuche people prefer
not to be included because they don’t need to commit to the rules of the game then.
In many cases, specific strategies displayed by some actors are very effective. For
example, Mapuche communities Curruhuinca, Vera and Atreuco managed to exact
better control of the sewage discharged by the ski center. Their court suits and protests
led to the construction of a sewage treatment plant at the center. Besides, the local
government had to commit to supplying them with drinking water until the stream
would be clean again. They have also managed to make the municipal government
demand the commitment of the water cooperative to search for a long-term solution
for their drinking water supply. Although there was a history of almost five years of
conflicts, these topics were never in the agenda of the catchment organization.
Minorities can confront traditionally powerful groups only through alliances and
common strategies that can not be submerged within the type of consensus seeking
within catchment organizations. In these organizations, traditional patterns of power tend
to persist and manipulate the identification of problems and the definition of agendas.5


Local realities carry specific ways of solving problems with them. Fixed categories for
catchment organizations and theoretical ‘should be’ usually do not reflect these context-
specific characteristics. Although their implementation is not totally arbitrary, they may
be used to validate political agendas fixed a priori. Policies defined with technical-
scientific data biases are implemented as ‘solutions’ to ‘problems’ unproblematically.

5 From: Proceedings of the workshop: MSPs as an alternative for the resolution of

conflicts about natural resources, ENDEPA, June 21–23, 2003.
Participating in Watershed Management 135
A catchment organization, as a tool for implementing management solutions,
is not a necessity in itself if it is not linked to social dynamics and local politics.
The promotion of a Users’ Community was an effective way of de-politicising the
issue of water management, especially since conflicts among private investors and
Mapuche communities were involved. The issue was set as ‘how much’ water could
be taken from the stream, instead of what type of development was wanted for the
region, who had the right to discuss it, and how this process could be facilitated.
These subjects were totally ignored. Distribution of water among all those who need
it, when they need it, may seem a win-win solution (for the government and the
private sector). However, it is the policy of doing nothing. Nobody actually wins in
the long run because the river basin deteriorates each day, reducing the support base
for local populations, the attractiveness for tourism and private companies, and the
natural capital of municipal, provincial, and even national jurisdictions.
The limited (or absence of) participation from settlers makes long-term
initiatives questionable. These actors are the most affected by the environmental
effects of tourism activities and developments. They raise problems that demand
complex political decisions. The very existence of catchment organizations could be
questioned if the most important decisions end up being taken outside of them.
Therefore the use of the river basin as a management unit can be a form of
manipulation of interests from those who define its boundaries. Management
recommendations can only be made effective when the social and political context is
taken into account. What may be obvious from a technical point of view may not be
socially and politically appropriate. Therefore, catchments, and abstract catchment
organizations, should not be recommended as a panacea that could solve context-
specific development problems.


This chapter is based on PhD thesis research conducted at Wageningen University, and
funded by WOTRO (Stichting voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek in de Tropen).


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Gorcum, Assen, pp. 153–189.
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Chapter 9

‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement

after Violence in Perú
María Teresa Oré

‘Huamanga tierra que duele,

grandiosa en la desgracia’1


The multi-stakeholder platform ‘Yakunchik’, after the Quechua word for ‘our water’,
was established at the end of 1998 in the city of Huamanga, the capital city of the
Department of Ayacucho located in the central highlands of Perú, when the region
experienced the effects of a severe drought caused by El Niño (EN 98). A workshop
on water management which was held in Huamanga at the end of that year brought
together a small cluster of concerned local institutions which would later give rise
to the platform.
Not only is Ayacucho one of the departments with the highest percentage of
population living in conditions of extreme poverty. In terms of the violence that
seized the country in its grips from 1982 to 1993, it is also the most emblematic
because it was the cradle of Shining Path, the guerilla that had the Perúvian
government on the rack throughout those years. The confrontations between the
guerrilla and the military forces took a toll of 60,000 victims, and it is estimated
that Ayacucho contributed with an astounding 40%. Although the high level of
violence fell in the area towards the mid-90s, its legacy is still being confronted,
not only in terms of human and physical losses but also in terms of lost social,
intellectual, and technical capital. Violence changed the panorama of Ayacucho:
intense local and regional migration gave rise to the abandonment of the country,
on the one hand, and to the explosive growth of cities like Huamanga and Huanta
on the other, as well as to the massive migration of Ayacuchanos to other cities
such as Ica, Huancayo and Lima.
During the years of violence, both State and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) were forced to restrict their activities or simply to withdraw from the region.
However, in the late 1990s the Government encouraged the return of migrants to
Ayacucho and the department became the focus of public institutions, international

1 Huayno by Carlos Falconí, Ayacucho composer, winner of the 1985 Perúvian National
Folklore Festival.
138 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
cooperation, and development projects. At present, Ayacucho ranks among the
principal departments in terms of the presence of NGOs and international cooperation
programs in the country.
Around the same time, the first group of local institutions that would later
contribute to the establishement of Yakunchik emerged in the city of Huamanga.
How can we explain the constitution and development of this multi-stakeholder
platform after such a difficult period?

What is a Platform?

In terms of our current analysis, we shall understand the concept of a platform

as a collective mechanism used in the negotiation of integrated water resource
management, including both the rural and urban areas. It involves the participation
not only of the direct users but also of the multiple stakeholders comprised within
the basin area.
The appearance of water management platforms is quite a new phenomenom
in Latin America and is related to the institutional and political changes that have
affected the role of the State regarding water management. These changes include
the transition from centralist management of this resource to a decentralized model
involving the transfer of management functions to water users organisations. This
transition has taken place within the context of a neo-liberal economic model, but
also within specific economic, social, and political processes undergone by each
In Perú, the years of violence came to an end with the administration of engineer
Alberto Fujimori (1990–1995; 1995–2000) who was able to stop the escalation of
violence. A neo-liberal economic model was implemented while an authoritarian
and vertical style, which did not recognize grassroots and several civil-society
organizations or even eliminated them, was the most characteristic trait of this
During the last years of Fujimori’s second government (1998–1999) the first
Mesas de Concertación y Diálogo (Negotiation Tables) emerged in response to the
specific demands raised by local and regional groups. These new forms of civil-
society participation were characterized by the negotiation of conflicts and a search
for agreement and consensus that differed from Perú’s cultural tradition of conflict
and confrontation. The Negotiation Tables (mesas de concertacion) became very
important during the transition government of Dr. Valentín Paniagua (2000–2001)
which encouraged and promoted them to deal with the issues of extreme poverty,
human rights, and to elaborate regional strategic development plans.
It is in this context of a new and increasing participation of the civil society
searching for consensus and dialogue that the platforms on water management
appeared. However, unlike the Negotiation Tables, which responded mostly to a
government initiative, the platforms were established separately to deal with water
management-related issues.
Platforms are collective negotiation mechanisms characterized by the
stakeholders’ voluntary participation and by their propensity to reach agreements,
‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 139
both aspects resulting from the existing interdependence among the various
stakeholders. Although we view the Yakunchik platform as a collective resource
through which the multiple stakeholders reach agreements regarding an integrated
water management in the basin, we also see it as a space where the different groups
express and play out conflicts and power struggles. Therefore, our concern is to
analyze how power is exerted and which levels of agreement are reached within
the platform. Some of the conflicts originate from national and local laws on water
management, particularly those regarding water rights in the communities.
An analysis of the Yakunchik platform seeks to answer the following questions:
What local and regional processes played a role in the establishment and sustainability
of Yakunchik? Which stakeholders participate in the platform, and what are their
objectives? Which conflicts are negotiated within the platform, which conflicts are
not, and why? How do the various legal frameworks influence these negotiations,
and with what results for the different stakeholders? What options does the platform
have for/regarding action strategies? What influence can the platform have in the
new context of regional governments?

The Physical and Social Context

The platform has its area of influence in Huamanga, between the basins of the Cachi
and Huatatas rivers. The Cachi River originates in Churiac, 4,600 meters above sea
level, where a group of interconnected rivers originate. They create the basins of
Apacheta, Paccha, Allpachaca, Chicllarazo, Chocoro and Huatatas, all different sub-
basins of the great Cachi basin.
The region does not have snowcapped mountains. Its basins are small and
river flows vary considerably throughout the year. Rainfalls occur from December
through March. The river flow is low during the rest of the year, and droughts are
frequent. The agriculture developed in the area is basically dependent on rainfall, but
irrigation has been developed in a complementary way.
Initiated in 1987, the Cachi River Special Project (CRSP) is the most important
hydraulic project implemented in the Perúvian Highland in the last few years. The
project’s goals were to bring water from this basin to increase the supply of potable
water in the city, to expand the agricultural area by 9,000 hectares, to increase the
electric power potential, and to improve the ecological conditions (reforestation). This
project ended in 2001. In institutional terms the CRSP operates in the whole basin
of the Cachi River, except for the Paccha, while the Huatatas basin – the traditional
source of drinking water for the city of Huamanga – is under the jurisdiction of
EPSASA – Entidad Prestadora de Servicios de Saneamiento Ayacucho (Ayacucho’s
Water and Sanitation Company). Many rural communities and small farms are
located in both basins.
As in most of the Perúvian highlands, each rural family owns several plots located
at different altitudes to allow for different uses and crops. Unirrigated farmlands and
natural pastures prevail both in Huanta and Huamanga, while irrigated lands are
mostly concentrated in the middle and lower areas of the basin. The most important
crops are corn, potatoes, barley, grains, wheat and beans. There is also important
140 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
fruit production in Huanta. Livestock-related activities take place in the higher area
(3,800 meters above the sea level) where American camelidae, sheep and cattle are
bred (Yakunchik 2001a). Both agriculture and cattle-breeding activities are mainly
oriented to self-consumption.
The topography of the area produces many small irrigation systems, which
are controlled by community organizations. The most important community
irrigation-related activity is cleaning out the ditches. Turns are assigned among the
comuneros and a judge on water issues is elected to supervize its control while the
cleanup activity is carried out. The community organization is responsible for the
maintenance of the infrastructure, the construction of channels, reservoirs, etc. as
well as for the resolution of conflicts. This is performed in close coordination with
the district municipal authorities, which then coordinate with other local or regional
However, irrigation is not a common practice in the department of Ayacucho,
and with a few exceptions, e.g. the valleys of Huanta and Quinua, irrigation-related
know-how is very basic. Thus, water is used in excess, with the subsequent soil wash
and erosion. The infrastructure is also very poor. In most cases, and even in irrigated
farmlands, rain is the basic source for agriculture. Irrigation, on the other hand, has
two specific functions: a) to complement rainwater to start the seeding season earlier,
and b) to allow for a second crop.
Nevertheless, this scenario began to change as the works carried out by the
Cachi Project were about to be completed. The irrigation organization described
above had never been officially recognized, since the Law on Waters did not provide
for an organization of this kind, but such a recognition would prove necessary to
be entitled for it to the new water supply and to the lands that were going to be

The Yakunchik Platform


The effects of a severe drought related to ‘El Niño’ were perceived both in urban
and rural areas by the end of 1998, and was considered a nation-wide disaster. The
phenomenon occurred at a time when the city had grown considerably, mainly due
to political violence. This growth which took place spontaneously, mainly through
the establishment of shantytowns and urban settlements, also produced a completely
new situation: a competition between the countryside and the city for the use of the
same water resources. Due to the greater urban demands for water, the Huamanga
Water Company, which had diverted some water sources from the community of
Chiara to the city since the fifties, practically took all of them, in so doing creating
a serious conflict.
On the other hand, although violence had dropped in those years, the conditions of
poverty which had increased considerably brought about greater State involvement in
many different areas, as well as the more frequent participation of non-governmental
organizations and international cooperation in Ayacucho. One of the areas they
‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 141
focused on was the construction of small hydraulic works: dams, reservoirs, intakes,
and channels. However, these works were carried out without any preliminary
studies, planning or follow-up of their possible impact.
With the end of violence, many of the internally displaced populations that had
been forced out by the war returned with fresh expectations. The communities tried to
orient their production towards market-oriented agriculture, which required a greater
use of irrigation techniques. Although the Cachi project was about to be concluded
in those years, no determination had been made about the type of agricultural
development project that would be implemented in the new irrigated areas, or about
who the beneficiaries would be. The peasants, mostly community members, had
their own local users organization, which lacked official recognition from the ATDR
(Irrigation Technical Administration) and the Ministry of Agriculture. This prevented
them from being considered as possible beneficiaries of the new project and limited
their possibilities to successfully solve the conflicts they had with EPSASA.
The first nucleus of the platform was established by a group of organizations at
the end of 1998 following a workshop on water management problems which was
sponsored by the Instituto de Promoción y Gestión del Agua (IPROGA). Some of the
local organizations that participated in this workshop continued meeting during 1999
and elaborated a first diagnosis on the irrigation problems in Ayacucho.2 The initial
aim of these organizations was irrigation water management, but after carrying out
a workshop on basins, which was cosponsored by Proagua/GTZ towards the end of
that year, they began to discuss more integrated water management; that is, oriented
to both agricultural and urban uses.
The workshop on basins was particularly important as it provided a forum which,
for the first time, brought together representatives of regional and local public
companies and institutions (CTAR Ayacucho, the Cachi River Special Project,
the provincial and district municipalities, the Water Company, the Electric Energy
Company), as well as representatives from a wide range of local and national NGOs,
the University, and international technical cooperation, among others. All of these
institutions became members of the newly created platform. However, it did not
include organizations of urban and rural users.
The platform was originally established as a space where different conflicting
groups could voluntarily meet to resolve their differences.3 The platform did not
engage in the elaboration of strategic general plans or projects, but rather in promoting
spaces for dialogue which on several occasions brought together conflicting parties
for the first time and contributed to settle their disputes (Interview with Richard
Haep, Proagua-GTZ representative, Sept. 20/2001). This initiative facilitated the
solution of at least two important conflicts, and motivated other organizations,
such as the Water and Sanitation Company (EPSASA), to enroll as members of the
platform. However, Yakunchik went beyond searching for solutions to conflicting

2 These organizations were CTAR Ayacucho, ADES, TADEPA, CEDAP, and SNV.
3 As stated by the SNV representative: ‘The platform is a space to reach agreements, to
debate, to get training and expertise, to solve conflicts, but not an executive organization. Our
added value is the space … We are not going to manage great resources or implement great
projects’. Interview with Carlos Pereyra (SNV), 19 September 2001.
142 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
interests, and elaborated a local agenda which, although expressing widely shared
needs, had not been dealt with: the integrated management of water, which would
include environmental issues and search for sustainability in the use of resources.

There isn’t a water resource inventory for Ayacucho. The communities are misinformed
and FONCODES4 policies require regulations regarding the construction of channels. It
is necessary to define the environmental agenda for Ayacucho on the water issue. The
challenge is to build a political and administrative framework on water management.
Citizen control is a must, and this should be the task of the platform.5

This way, the platform members not only became aware of the basin as a concept
and management unit, but also of the need to join efforts and work together. In
conclusion, the main axes on which the first arena of the platform was structured
were: to establish an agreement space to deal with conflicts, and to work toward the
integrated and sustainable management of the basin.

Internal Dynamics

While some institutions became members of the platform in order to resolve certain
conflicts, others were interested in executing agricultural development projects, or in
learning more about integrated water management. There were extreme disparities
not only in terms of resources but also in terms of institutional capacity. Members of
the platform ranged from the most important hydraulic project in the whole Perúvian
highlands to cooperation agencies, to small local NGOs. Reciprocal prejudice
among State organizations, NGOs, companies, municipalities was not uncommon.
Moreover, there has been a clear prevalence of government institutions participating
as members of the platform since its inception, both in terms of number and in terms
of institutional importance. As this was an unprecedented experience and there were
no previous models to follow, how could the platform integrate the great variety of
its members?
Two external actors, the GTZ adviser appointed to the Water and Sanitation
Company (EPSASA), Richard Haep and the SNV adviser Carlos Pereyra, were key to
the progress of the platform. Not only did they have the knowledge and professional
experience but they also had charisma and a great commitment to the work they
carried out in Huamanga. These two attributes gave them legitimacy vis-à-vis the
members of the platform and allowed them to bridge differences among governmental
entities, NGOs and the rural organizations. The SNV and GTZ cooperation agencies
were perceived on the basis of these two advisers who developed a relationship of
trust and friendship with the Yakunchik members. The support they provided was
never in terms of financial or technological resources: it involved motivation, ideas,
and joint work. The fact that neither of them was from Ayacucho gave them greater
possibilities to interact with the different stakeholders.

4 Acronym for Fondo Nacional de Compensación y Desarrollo Social (the Perúvian

social fund).
5 Interview with Andrés Solari (CIDRA), Yakunchik member, 21 September 2001.
‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 143
In 2000, the platform held a workshop on strategic planning to define its vision,
mission and role: ‘An institutionalized and negotiated water management in Ayacucho
… on the basis of a plan coordinated and implemented by all the stakeholders within
an appropriate legal and administrative framework’ (Yakunchik 2000).
A first work plan was elaborated on the basis of several diagnoses on the conditions
of water management and the basins in Ayacucho. The activities were carried out
by working groups, which included a representative of each of the organizations
relevant for the issue under discussion.
It was clear from the beginning that the platform had to be financially autonomous
and independent of international cooperation.6 Therefore, each institution contributed
with whatever material and human resources they could offer to carry out the
activities agreed upon. As the platform lacked an institutional facility, the work-
groups held their meetings at the offices of associate organizations. This contributed
to the development of both personal and institutional relationships of trust and
confidence among the members, which was particularly important as the members
in many cases had never had previous contact.
An internal contest to determine the platform’s name and logo, and the
publication of the Directorio de la Plataforma de Gestión del Agua en Ayacucho
(Water Management Platform Directory) were among the first activities that
contributed to an institutional establishment. The presentation and dissemination
of this Directory granted the platform a certain level of legitimacy in the city of
Huamanga. The platform also enhanced its possibilities by establishing a network
with other national organizations, such as the Comisión Coordinadora de Tecnología
Andina (CCTA) and the Instituto para la Gestión y Promoción del Agua (IPROGA),
among others. IPROGA has had a permanent relationship with Yakunchik since the
latter’s inception, playing a considerably active role which has led it to be viewed as
the institutional referent for water management platforms in the country.
The formulation of Yakunchik’s plan for the period 2001–2002 responded to
local demands.7 Its various activities included a diagnosis study of the Cachi
Huatatas basin, a rural development project proposal for the Cachi project, the
elaboration of a project proposal on soil and agricultural biodiversity conservation,
environmental education, organizing a seminar to elaborate proposals for the new
Irrigation Law, and carrying out workshops on conflict resolution. Due to the lack
of funding, only some of these activities could be carried out. However, both the
Platform’s seminar on proposals for the new Irrigation Law and its participation in
the resolution of the conflict between EPSASA and Chiara community contributed to
legitimize the platform not only among its members, but also among the population
of Huamanga.

6 ‘Many negotiation tables, platforms, etc. have been launched, funded, managed, and
even dominated by the European Community. Their failure may be attributed to this kind of
intervention which, despite the good will involved, produced undesired outcomes in most
cases’ (Yakunchik 2000).
7 The Fujimori regime had been replaced by the Provisional Government headed by
Valentín Paniagua. His Minister of Agriculture, Carlos Amat y León, invited all relevant
groups to participate in a national debate aimed at formulating a new Irrigation Law.
144 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The Conflict between EPSASA and Chiara Community

Ayacucho had already been under the effects of a severe drought since the end of
1998. In August 2000, the situation became critical:

August 24 through 26 were critical days in Huamanga as the city had no water at all. Most
people didn’t know why. A cistern truck was assaulted by some people while EPSASA
aroused the indignation of the population. Having used up its water reserves, EPSASA
began a drastic rationing of only 3 to 4 hours of water supply per day using the waters
provided by the Cachi Project.’ This, however, ‘increased the losses due to filtration and
forced EPSASA to unilaterally divert all the water from Chiara towards Huamanga,
disregarding the rural population’s needs and forcing it to spend money on guards and
controllers along the channel (Yakunchik 2001b).

An urban group called the Frente de Defensa de Ayacucho had pressured EPSASA
decided to divert the water of some streams traditionally used by the Chiara
community members for both agricultural and domestic purposes, thus sparking off
a serious confrontation between the company and the community. The comuneros
threatened to blow up the pipes EPSASA had installed. This led the platform to bring
together all the principal parties involved in the conflict to participate in a workshop:
the Chiara community, water authorities, irrigation users and farmers committees,
EPSASA representatives, Cachi Project representatives, as well as representatives
of rural communities and of the Frente de Defensa de Ayacucho.
The results of the workshop were multiple. First, it produced real settlements,
the most important of which included a more balanced from of water management
from which the communities benefited most, and the water company’s commitment
to adequately inform the users thereof. Tasks and specific responsibilities were also
Secondly, it promoted a dialogue-based methodology which was a significant
phenomenon given the fact that Ayacucho had been marked by political violence
for over 20 years, that social and cultural barriers had existed for centuries, and
that power had always been exerted vertically, reproducing a dominator-dominated
Thirdly, a methodology was used that allowed each of the parties to express their
view of the problem and common elements were highlighted. The most important
problem was the water shortage. It was understood from then on that they had to
discuss the issue of the basin both in terms of a space and in terms of a group of
shared resources for which all of them were responsible and interdependent.
Besides the conflict between the Chiara community and EPSASA, the platform
also contributed to the resolution of a specific confrontation involving two
governmental organizations: EPSASA and the Cachi Project Although this case
had already been elevated to the central Government, the local representatives

8 ‘The platform made EPSASA sensitive to our problems. For years, the actions carried
out by the company were detrimental to us, but they never saw this. Now at the platform,
we have worked things out; they have listened to us.’ Interview with the Mayor of Chiara. 1
December 2002.
‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 145
of both institutions had enough autonomy and were able to settle their conflict
within the space provided by the platform. The platform contributed to breaking
the communication barriers.

Limitations of the Platform

Yakunchik took off during the years 2000 and 2001, and consolidated its legitimacy
at the local and regional levels. Notwithstanding, it had yet to face several
problems to be fully and satisfactorily operational. Although it lacked resources,
e.g. an institutional facility and logistics support to carry out its activities, these
deficiencies were to a certain extent compensated for by a spirit of commitment,
which in many cases engaged the members, not only at an institutional but also at
a personal level. Still, the limitations were clear: the work to be carried out at the
platform was an additional activity to the one each member carried out in his or
her respective organization. There were also professional weaknesses that, at least
partly, may be attributed to the impact of the period of violence on the educational,
scientific and professional areas (Interview with Ana María Villacorta, Lima,
January 7, 2003).
In the year 2002 new circumstances appeared and changed the context in
which the platform had been established. The period of severe drought ended
and rainfall was abundant, while the Cachi Project began to supply potable water
to the city of Huamanga as well as to Huanta, and thus relieved Huamanga of the
water problem. In other words, the urban explosive situation that had triggered
the constitution of the platform the previous year disappeared.
Thirdly, upon completion of his contract, Richard Haep, one of the chief
external supporters of the platform, left Huamanga. Both Paniagua’s Provisional
Government (2000–2001) and Toledo’s government (2001–2006) appointed
new officials as heads of the public organizations, companies, and projects. The
new appointees had little or no knowledge of both the area and of the previous
involvement their organizations had had in the platform, and continued to
participate without formulating any important initiative. It is worth mentioning
here that organizations such as the Cachi Project and EPSASA had played a key
role in the platform. Hence, the context was drastically modified because of
these institutional changes.
Finally, a new situation affected the NGOs. For the first time, many
professionals who had previously worked for NGOs began to work for the State
and, therefore, some of the platform representatives left. Simultaneouly, funding
to NGOs was considerably reduced, causing several of them to downsize or even
to close. Although many former NGO representatives continued participating
in the platform, they now participated on a personal basis. Moreover, other
institutions such as the University or the Provincial Municipality experienced
serious institutional and budgetary problems, and reduced their participation at
Yakunchik as a consequence. As a result of all of the above, the level of activities
carried out by the platform decreased drastically. Just then, a new and important
actor appeared on stage.
146 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The ‘JUDRA’: A Challenge for Yakunchik

One of the phases of the Cachi Project, expanding the area under irrigation by 9,000
ha within a region inhabited mostly by peasant communities, culminated towards the
end of 2001. Shortly after this, in March 2002, the government carried out a national
consultation on the new legislation, which would regulate irrigation uses. These two
circumstances would lead to the establishment of the Junta de Usuarios de Riego
de Ayacucho – JUDRA (Ayacucho’s Union of Irrigation Users). As explained by the
Mayor of the district of Chiara:

Users’ associations strengthened their activities since 2001. This was also the case of
the Administración Técnica del Riego – ATDR.9 ... We only had irrigation judges, who
were community authorities. But, as of 2001, the users began to wake up. There were a
lot of requirements to be complied with in order to be legally recognized as associations.
The Cachi Project was about to finish, so we had to organize ourselves. This was a must
(Interview carried out on Dec. 2, 2002).

Other causes leading to the establishment of this organization included the expansion
of farmlands under irrigation following the return of former refugees to Ayacucho, the
increase of urban population – which reduced irrigation areas – and the culmination
of the Cachi Project.
As mentioned previously, the Cachi Project did not contemplate the
implementation of an agrarian development project nor had the beneficiaries
been determined. The uncertainty this aroused motivated irrigation users –mostly
comuneros – to seek the official recognition of their organizations by the ATDR
and the Ministry of Agriculture in order to guarantee their water rights under the
new conditions the Project had generated. This recognition, which officially came
into effect in December 2001, marked the culmination of an organization process
that had taken several years and that led to the establishment of the JUDRA. This
organization currently claims to represent 17,000 members.
Comunero users have had conflicts with the ATDR, feeling its uniformly
disregarded the geographic and social diversity of the country. The new regulation
on irrigation reproduces this pattern because users’ organizations did not take part in
its formulation. In the words of the President of the JUDRA, Zenón Calle:

It was because of the inequities in terms of water distribution that in 1998 and 1999 we
decided to organize ourselves as a union. The Junta was a response to the abuses commited
by the ATDR, which is too rigid. The regulations are not adequate for Ayacucho, but they
want to apply them just like on the coast. The Crops and Irrigation Plan is the same as
that for the coast. Irrigation tariffs are too high (Interview with Pablo Atauje, President of
Chiara’s Water Users’ Association, 2 December 2002).

For this reason, the JUDRA held several workshops in 2002 with the active
participation of a great number of users to elaborate an alternative proposal for this
regulation. It should be highlighted that despite the conflictive relationship between
the JUDRA and ATDR, these activities were coorganized by both organizations.

9 Technical Administration for Irrigation.

‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 147
Moreover, in the conflict between the Community of Chiara and EPSASA, as a result
of which the community got a better deal so that it could increase its water supply in
two hours per day. In other words, the peasants took advantage and benefited from
the conflict of jurisdictions between the two State entities.
The JUDRA held a regional workshop and promoted a peasant protest in order
that its official recognition be effective. At the time, it raised two kinds of demands:
on the one hand, national-scope demands in terms of the agrarian policy (restrictions
on food imports, credit, agrarian debt, taxes, property titles, new irrigation law, etc.),
which were coordinated by the Junta Nacional de Usuarios de Riego (National
Union of Irrigation Users). On the other hand, regional demands included that the
coordinated planning and implementation of water management initiatives and
infrastructure irrigation works be coordinated between the State and NGO sectors,
the dismissal of some ATDR officials on the basis of their incompetence, the
investigation of cases of ‘ghost’ or unfinished construction projects, among others.
Most of JUDRA’s demands focused on the ATDR, and constituted a conflict axis
that was completely different from the one the platform had previously dealt with.
The irrigation users did not participate in the platform at that time, and although
the ATDR was a Yakunchik member, it had not played a relevant role within the
platform. After all, the conflicts Yakunchik had helped settle were not related to
water management systems.10

The Relationship between the JUDRA and Yakunchik

While both organizations are involved in irrigation-related problems, it seems that

the Yakunchik platform only learned about the JUDRA’s existence long after the
latter was established. The JUDRA criticizes the fact that the platform membership
mainly consists of public and private institutions, and that the users were excluded.
The degree of users’ participation is, in short, the main difference between Yakunchik
and the JUDRA. The JUDRA is also a political agent that acts in rural and urban
areas, both locally and nationally, through its own networks, so its scope differs from
that of any other member participating in the platform.
The JUDRA leaders have been quite critical vis-à-vis the platform and its
membership, and claim that the platform parallels the Junta as both organizations
carry out similar activities. They also say that the platform is inefficient and that it
has no social base: ‘Where are the users in the platform?’
Despite the fact that the JUDRA is not officially part of the platform, its
participation within Yakunchik has been very intense since 2002, which was precisely
when the platform activities began to decrease. The issue of whether the JUDRA

10 It is worth pointing out the characteristics of JUDRA’s leaders, and particularly of

its President, Zenón Calle. Most of them are very young. Unlike other peasant leaders, they
have university degrees. They feel equally comfortable and can interact equally well in rural
and urban milieus, both in Ayacucho and Lima. They have social and political views on the
country’s problems, but are autonomous from political parties. All these features contrast
with those of previous peasant leaders. Peasant organizations were formerly integrated by the
poorest strata, and land was their chief demand.
148 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
should become a member of Yakunchik or not generated an internal conflict within
the platform. Several NGOs and international cooperation agencies were in favour,
in spite of all JUDRA’s criticism vis-á-vis this organization and the harsh style that
characterizes its leadership. State agencies, on the other hand, were quite reluctant.

Yakunchik Reoriented

As a result of this tense situation, an emergency meeting was held to decide whether
the platform should continue carrying out its activities. Several critical issues
regarding the platform’s performance were discussed: the non-accomplishment
of the activity plan; the instability of institutional representatives; the lack of own
resources; the lack of commitment of some institutions; and the non-participation of
the users, all of which pointed at problems concerning the sustainability and role or
mission of Yakunchick within the platform’s new context and membership.
These critical issues had shaped Yakunchick’s performance since it was first
established. The organization’s limited resources did not play a significant role while
it operated on an irregular basis and carried out a few specific activities. However,
this prevented Yakunchik from minimally consolidating itself as an institution and
made it very dependent on organizations which were able to provide funding. In
terms of membership, a decision on the JUDRA’s participation was still pending,
although the Junta’s demands constantly reoriented the platform’s agenda. In terms
of its role, on the other hand, a group of members wanted to carry out a series of water
management activities in order to obtain legitimacy in the region, but this would not
differentiate the platform from other local NGOs. Other members proposed instead
to concentrate efforts on the particular role of the platform within the new regional
Several important agreements were reached during this meeting: mechanisms
were established to provide the platform with a certain degree of autonomy in
financial terms, all the members reaffirmed their participation, a monthly financial
contribution was agreed to enable the platform’s operational performance, which
would from thereon use the institutional facilities of one of the organization
members as its headquarters. In terms of its new membership, all the organization
members approved the JUDRA’s incorporation, although the latter’s president made
its participation conditional on the platform’s future performance. In terms of its
mission, the members agreed to strengthen its role as a platform: to be a forum for
the negotiation and solution of conflicts and for the discussion of irrigation-related
problems: As stated by the Cachi Project representative:

Yakunchik provides a platform for ideas and efforts aimed at finding solutions for irrigation
problems. No one has been forced to participate; this is a forum where freedom prevails…
the doors are open for those institutions willing to participate…the people are tired of
violence and of considering public institutions as their enemies. We have to struggle for
ideas that lead to negotiation and to solutions.

Agreement was also reached in that the platform should not compete with other NGOs
in the implementation of projects but rather concentrate efforts in its cooperation and
‘Yakunchik’: Coming to Agreement after Violence in Perú 149
negotiation roles. Finally, it was agreed that the platform should play a political role
in the national agenda and act as an interlocutor of the new Regional Government.
All the member organizations reaffirmed their participation and agreed to strengthen
the platform under these new guidelines.

Closing Remarks: Yakunchik in the Context of Ayacucho’s Development

All of the Yakunchik members, both as institutions and as individuals, have

dramatically experienced the political violence that Shining Path perpetrated from
1980 to 1995. As a result of this, they feel strongly committed to the cause of
the development of Ayacucho.11 They are fully aware of the implications of this
commitment, as evidenced by the fact that they did not migrate to other areas.12
How was it possible to establish a multi-stakeholder platform after such a
difficult period? In general terms, the internal warfare did not generate solidarity
bonds among those affected by it. Like Perúvian society in general, Ayacucho is
marked by strong hierarchical relationships, multiple inequalities, and deeply rooted
social and cultural divides. The social landscape is characterized by a great many
groups which compete for the scarce resources and limited spaces this society offers.
In such a context, therefore, the establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform which
was able to carry out activities and consolidate itself without significant internal
conflicts is remarkable. The severe drought which affected the country is an aspect
which undoubtedly may have contributed to this outcome, but it does not explain
why the platform continued operating once the drought was over, or why it was not
decommissioned or blocked by confrontations among its members.
One of the platform’s greatest achievements – which is currently at an initial stage
– is to have placed irrigation and water-related problems on the national agenda.

In terms of civil society, human rights have been the major issue. As a result of the platform’s
initiatives, irrigation has been placed on the regional agenda, and has led to the discussion
of other issues such as the rural-urban relationship, conflict negotiation, organizational
and institutional water management-related problems, and rural development. In other
words, the platform is contributing not only to the development of a new social fabric, but
also to activate the agenda of regional development (Suberón 2001).

In brief, Yakunchik’s commitment with Ayacucho, the legitimacy it has consolidated,

and the inclusion of irrigation issues on the regional agenda are some of the values
and goals this organization has achieved in its short existence. It should be pointed
out, however, that the context in which the platform currently develops is also a new

11 Most of them are from Ayacucho and belong to a generation that witnessed – and in
some cases, directly participated in – the reforms carried out by the Military Regime (1968),
and the rise of popular movements and leftist political parties.
12 A member of the platform told us that his house was blown up by Shining Path.
Both he and his family rejected the possibility of asylum offered by an European country,
and decided to remain in Ayacucho. Cases like this one are common among the platform
150 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
The multi-stakeholder platform is an unprecedented mechanism in the country,.
Throughout its history, Perú has developed a culture based on confrontation rather
than one based on negotiation. Therefore, experiences such as that of Yakunchik
imply learning to negotiate after a long tradition of domination, submission and
Yakunchik arose in a context of major local, regional, and national changes.
Rapid urban growth had taken place in a region which, in general terms, lacked
development opportunities. In this particular context, the Cachi Project was
exceptional but represented a relief vis-à-vis the great urban demands raised. New
legal parameters were also established (e.g. the code regulating irrigation users; the
new irrigation law, which has not been enacted), but the most significant change took
place at the level of the State with the creation of new regional governments whose
authorities began to take office in February 2003.
In Ayacucho, irrigation is an issue which has been highlighted by the Cachi
Project (PERC).13 So far, irrigation has had no significant economic importance and
the users’ associations are at initial stages of consolidation. Now, with the end of
the Cachi Project, ‘integrated basin management’ is a discourse that attracts wide
support. However, Yakunchik has clearly pointed out that this is a long-term goal that
is currently beyond its capabilities and that, at present therefore, it will concentrate
all efforts on water management.
Unlike other basins, this basin not only comprises a considerable rural population
but also important urban centers: Huamanga and Huanta. Here, water management
embodies a central conflict between the countryside and the city, but with an
additional aspect: that these are cities with a great political relevance. The platform
had managed conflicts which originated within the city – e.g. the conflict led by the
Frente de Defensa de Ayacucho, which represented urban consumers of water – but
not conflicts originating in the rural areas. The JUDRA’s current participation in the
platform drastically changes this situation.
In these new circumstances, after a 4-year period of invaluable experiences
and after having reoriented its mission and role, the multi-stakeholder Yakunchik
platform is entering a new stage with new possibilities.


Suberón, Luis (2001), ‘Informe de Evaluación Externa del IPROGA del Plan Trienal
1998–2001’, report, Lima.
Yakunchik (2001a), ¿Quién es Quién en Agua? Directorio Institucional de los
Miembros de la Plataforma de Gestión del Agua de Ayacucho, Lima.
Yakunchik (2001b), Taller El Agua en Huamanga: Acuerdos para Resolver la
Emergencia, Huamanga, February.
Yakunchik (2000),’Planificación Estratégica: Plataforma de Gestión de Agua de
Ayacucho’, Appendix V, Huamanga, August.

13 As previously stated, irrigation know-how is quite precarious. This has been evidenced
in several training courses on irrigation carried out so far.
Chapter 10

Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Surface

and Groundwater Management in
the Lerma-Chapala Basin, Mexico
Philippus Wester, Jaime Hoogesteger van Dijk and Hans Paters


Water management in the Lerma-Chapala Basin in central Mexico is strongly

contested between different stakeholders. From a water perspective this basin is in
serious trouble. While average annual rainfall from 1993 to 2003 (at 675 mm), was
only 5% below the historical average of 711 mm, and efforts were made by the
government to reduce water use in irrigation through water saving programs, the
total amount of surface and groundwater used in the basin exceeded supply by 9%
on average during this period (Wester et al. 2001). Groundwater is being mined, and
surface water depletion exceeds supply in all but the wettest years, causing Lake
Chapala, the water body into which the Lerma River flows, to dry up.
As Mexico’s largest natural lake, Lake Chapala generates significant tourism
and real estate revenues, while also providing Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest
city, with 190 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) of water annually. It is highly valued
by the inhabitants of Jalisco State, where the lake is situated, as well as some 30,000
retirees living on the lakeshores. Despite efforts by the federal government to shore
up lake levels through water transfers from upstream irrigation districts to the Lake,
by June 2002 the lake had dropped to 14% of its capacity, the second lowest level
recorded since systematic data collection began in 1934. The water transfers have
increased conflicts between states and water users in the Basin, not least because
their impact on lake levels were minor and farmers in the irrigation districts were not
compensated for the reduction in water allocations for irrigation.
This chapter reviews the emergence and functioning of Multi-Stakeholder
Platforms (MSPs) for surface and groundwater management in the Lerma-Chapala
Basin. Since the late 1980s, the federal government in Mexico has initiated reforms
to create polycentric governance structures for water management, after more than
100 years of centralization in which the federal government increased its control
over water (Aboites 1998; Rap et al. 2004). As part of the reforms, the government
created new coordinating bodies for water management, such as River Basin
Councils (RBCs) and technical committees for groundwater management, to bring
together interdependent stakeholders in a forum setting to resolve conflicts and to
advise on water policies. What is interesting about these MSPs is that they were
152 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
formed relatively quickly, and have continued to function. This contrasts with the
received wisdom on MSPs, namely that they are slow to grow, and quick to die. This
chapter posits that the central role of the government in forming these MSPs is an
explanatory variable for their continued existence and relevance, but also for their
relative weakness.
Since 1999, political conflicts and negotiation processes surrounding the
allocation of surface water have dominated the functioning of the Lerma-Chapala
RBC. While providing a forum for stakeholders to vent their frustration with unilateral
decision-making by the federal water agency, in the eyes of many the RBC has led to
more conflicts rather than to conflict resolution. In parallel to the multi-stakeholder
processes for surface water management, 14 technical committees for groundwater,
called COTAS (Comités Técnicos de Aguas Subterráneas) in Mexico, have been
created in the basin in the past nine years. These COTAS consist of the users of an
aquifer, bringing together farmers, industries, municipalities, and state governments
in a platform setting. They have been formed to reach negotiated agreements on
reversing groundwater depletion, but to date none has yet devised effective ways to
reduce groundwater extractions.
This chapter analyzes these MSPs for surface and groundwater management,
focusing on the complicated transition from a highly centralized management of
water resources to one in which states and water users have a larger say. It shows
how stakeholder representation and participation in water management decision-
making is constrained by the legacy of the bureaucratic-authoritarian Mexican state.
While it is tempting not to view people as strategic actors and laudable to argue
for alternative narratives stressing collaboration and social learning (Röling and
Maarleveld 1999), the politics of water management in the Lerma-Chapala Basin
show that multi-stakeholder processes aimed at reaching negotiated agreements are
very fragile and steeped in struggle.

The Lerma-Chapala Basin

The Setting

The Lerma-Chapala Basin, covering some 54,300 km2, lies between Mexico City and
Guadalajara and crosses five states: Querétaro (5%), Guanajuato (44%), Michoacán
(28%), Mexico (10%) and Jalisco (13%).1 The basin accounts for 9% of Mexico’s
GNP and is the source of water for around 15 million people (CNA 1999a). The
headwaters of the Lerma River rise in the east near the city of Toluca at an elevation
of 2,600 m.a.s.l. (meters above sea level) to discharge into Lake Chapala in the west
at an elevation of 1,500 m.a.s.l. (see Figure 10.1). Lake Chapala, with a length of 77
km and a maximum width of 23 km, stores 8,125 MCM and covers 111,000 ha when
full. The shallow depth of the lake (average 7.2 m) results in a lake evaporation of
some 1,440 MCM (25% of the basin’s average annual runoff) each year (de Anda et

1 Percentages indicate the area of the basin that falls in each state.
Figure 10.1 Location and topography of the Lerma-Chapala Basin
154 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
al. 1998). When full, Lake Chapala discharges into the Santiago River, which flows
to the Pacific Ocean.
Irrigation is the main water user in the basin, accounting for 68% of current water
use. Evaporation from water bodies (Lake Chapala, other lakes and storage reservoirs)
accounts for 23% of water consumed (Wester et al. 2001). Nine large-scale canal
irrigation districts cover around 284,000 ha, while some 16,000 farmer-managed or
private irrigation systems cover 510,000 ha. Twenty-seven large reservoirs provide
235,000 ha in the irrigation districts with surface water while around 1,500 smaller
reservoirs serve 180,000 ha in the farmer-managed systems. An estimated 26,000
tubewells provide around 380,000 ha in the basin with groundwater, of which 47,000
ha is located in irrigation districts (CNA 1993; CNA/MW 1999).
The average annual runoff in the basin from 1940 to 1995 was 5,757 MCM.
Figures on groundwater recharge are inconclusive, with best guestimates placing
it at 3,980 MCM (CNA 1999a), giving a total of 9,737 MCM annual renewable
water. Informed estimates place total consumptive water use at 10,637 MCM,
yielding an annual deficit of 900 MCM (CNA 1999a). This deficit is covered by
the overextraction of groundwater and the drying up of lakes in the basin. While
the river basin was closing in water quantity terms, water quality also deteriorated
severely, with increased effluent discharges and hardly any treatment of urban
and industrial wastewater before 1989. Although large investments were made in
treatment plants in the 1990s, the Lerma River and its tributaries are still classified
as strongly contaminated (CNA 1999a).

Institutional Change

Concern about water quantity and quality issues in the basin prompted institutional
changes from the mid-1980s onwards. Inspired by the French model of river basin
management, the federal water agency sought to decentralize water management
in the Lerma-Chapala Basin (Mestre 1997). The prospects for institutional reform
improved further after 1988, with the newly elected president for Mexico, Carlos
Salinas, giving high priority to water issues and decentralization (Rap et al. 2004).
This resulted in far-reaching water reforms, such as the creation of the Comisión
Nacional del Agua (CNA, National Water Commission) in 1989, the transfer of
government irrigation districts to users (1991–present), the establishment of technical
committees for groundwater (1995-onward), the decentralization of domestic water
supply and sanitation to states and municipalities (starting in 1983), the creation of
state water commissions (1991-onward), and the promulgation of a new water law
in 1992 (Wester et al. 2003).
An important step in the creation of a basin level MSP in the Lerma-Chapala
Basin was taken in April 1989 when the Mexican president and governors of the
five states falling in the basin signed an agreement to strengthen mechanisms for
water allocation, to improve water quality, to increase the efficiency of water use
and to conserve the basin’s ecosystems. Crucially, the signatories recognized that
the agreement could not be implemented without the support and efforts of a broad
range of stakeholders. In September 1989, a Consultative Council (CC) was created
consisting of federal and state government representatives as well as stakeholder
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Surface and Groundwater Management 155
representatives to implement the agreement. Further, the CC established a Technical
Working Group (TWG) of 60 government and user representatives to translate the
agreement into action. Achievements of the CC include the formulation of a river
basin master plan in 1993, a wastewater treatment program initiated in 1991, a
surface allocation water treaty signed in 1991 and annual meetings to determine
surface water allocations (Mestre 1997).
The initial success of the CC led to the inclusion of an article in the new water
law of 1992 on River Basin Councils, defined as coordinating and consensus-building
bodies between the CNA, federal, state and municipal governments, and water user
representatives (CNA 1999b). While responsibility for water management was
retained by CNA, the RBCs were conceived as important mechanisms for negotiation
and conflict resolution (CNA 2000). The Lerma-Chapala Consultative Council
became a RBC in January 1993. It consists of a Governing Board made up of the CNA
director, the five state governors and a representative for each of six water use sectors
(agriculture, fisheries, services, industry, livestock and urban). In addition, the RBC
includes a Monitoring and Evaluation Group (MEG), the successor of the TWG, an
Assembly of User Representatives and a number of Specialized Working Groups (see
Figure 10.2). The decision-making body of the RBC is the MEG, which is a carbon-
copy of the Governing Board except that state governors send representatives in their

Figure 10.2 The Lerma-Chapala River Basin Council

156 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
stead, while CNA is represented by the head of its regional office. The MEG meets
on a regular basis and is charged with preparing and convening Council meetings
and applying the 1991 surface water treaty. Ensuring effective representation of
water users and uses has been a challenge for the Lerma-Chapala RBC from the start.
Formally, the representatives of water users on the Council are elected but links with
their constituencies are often weak (Wester et al. 2003).
If MSPs are defined as ‘contrived situations in which a set of more or less
interdependent stakeholders in some resource are identified, and, usually through
representatives, invited to meet and interact in a forum for conflict resolution,
negotiation, social learning and collective decision making towards concerted
action.’ (Röling 2002, 39), then the Lerma-Chapala RBC was one of the first MSPs
for river basin management in the developing world. To date it is one of the few
examples of MSPs that have worked to make a difference in water management.
However, not all is well in the Lerma-Chapala Basin, and the pressure that the RBC
has come under in the past few years bodes ill for its future.

Multi-Stakeholder Processes and Surface Water Allocations

The Mexican Constitution defines surface water as national property placed in the
trust of the federal government. Through the CNA, the federal government can
grant water use concessions to users for periods ranging from 5 to 50 years (CNA
1999b). The concession titles set out the maximum volumes concession holders are
entitled to, although CNA may adjust the quantity each receives annually based on
water availability, with priority given to domestic water use (CNA 1999b). In the
Lerma-Chapala Basin surface water is allocated annually based on the surface water
allocation treaty signed by the governors of the five states in the basin and the federal
government in August 1991 (CCCLC 1991). An important objective of the treaty
was to maintain adequate water levels in Lake Chapala and to ensure Guadalajara’s
domestic water supply. To preserve Lake Chapala, the treaty set out three allocation
policies, namely critical, average and abundant. For each allocation policy, formulas
have been drawn up to calculate water allocations to the irrigation systems in the
basin, based on the surface runoff generated in each of the five states in the previous
year. Based on extensive modeling of these formulas, it was concluded that the
resulting water allocation would not impinge on the 1,440 MCM needed by Lake
Chapala for evaporation.
Since 1991, the MEG of the Council has met each year to apply the water allocation
rules set out in the 1991 treaty. According to CNA’s data the WUAs in the irrigation
districts never used more water than allocated to them under the treaty. Nonetheless,
Lake Chapala’s volume more than halved between 1994 and 2002 (cf. Wester et al.
2001). This has led to intense debates in the RBC, with environmentalists and the
Jalisco State government blaming the upstream irrigation districts in Guanajuato
for using too much water. However, CNA’s weak control over surface water use
in the farmer-managed irrigation systems and direct pumping from the river and
lake combined with ten years of lower than average rainfall and reduced river base
flows due to groundwater overexploitation are also plausible reasons for the reduced
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Surface and Groundwater Management 157
inflows from the Lerma River to the Lake. In addition, the 1991 treaty itself is partly
at fault, as it overestimated annual water availability2 and underestimated Lake
Chapala’s evaporation.
Because of critically low lake levels, the CNA decided to transfer 240 MCM of
water from the Solis dam, the main water source of the Alto Río Lerma irrigation
district, the largest district in the basin, to Lake Chapala in November 1999. A
second transfer of 270 MCM followed in November 2001, as lake levels continued
to deteriorate (CNA 2001).3 These water transfers met with staunch resistance from
farmers, mostly from the middle of the basin, and undermined the legitimacy of the
Council as a body for conflict resolution. Farmers felt that their water was being
‘stolen’, as they received no compensation, and because the 1991 treaty does not
outline procedures for water transfers. On the other hand, environmentalists and the
Jalisco State government argued that much more water had to be transferred to save
the Lake, as 10 MCM are needed to raise the Lake level by 1 cm. This led many in
Jalisco to refer to the water transfers as ‘aspirins’ for the Lake’s headaches, with the
media calling for much stronger medicine to cure the Lake’s ills.
The transfer of 1999 led to reduced allocations to the Alto Río Lerma irrigation
district and resulted in some 20,000 ha out of 77,000 ha not being irrigated with
surface water in the winter season of 1999/2000. For many of the better off farmers
who could switch to groundwater, this was not too problematic, but for poorer farmers
who mainly rely on surface water, the consequences were serious. In addition, many
poor farmers who traditionally pumped return flows from the Lerma River were
hit hard as the use of this precarious source of water was prohibited and enforced
through army patrols along the river.
The surface water allocations for all the irrigation districts in the basin for the
2000/2001 winter season were so low that the WUAs decided to let 200,000 ha
out of a total of 235,000 ha in the irrigation districts lie fallow. In the summer of
2001 Lake Chapala had dropped to its lowest levels in 50 years, which triggered
environmental NGOs and the Jalisco representative on the RBC to demand a transfer
of 500 MCM to the Lake in 2001 (CNA 2001). Through intense negotiations between
the governments of Jalisco and Guanajuato, and political dealings at the federal level
this amount was reduced to 270 MCM. The RBC approved this decision, although
the agricultural water user representative strongly opposed it, thus further weakening
its legitimacy in the eyes of many farmers.
Before 1999 none of the WUA leaders in the Alto Rio Lerma irrigation district (see
Kloezen 2001) were actively involved in the RBC. However, the lack of irrigation
water in 1999 and 2000 galvanized WUA leaders to act. In May 2000, the presidents
of WUAs from Jalisco, Guanajuato, and Michoacán met each other for the first time
to discuss ways to strengthen their representation in the RBC and to influence the
water allocation process. Until then, WUAs of a particular irrigation district only
dealt with the CNA, and there were no horizontal linkages between WUAs from

2 The treaty was based on hydrological data from 1950 to 1979, which in later analyses
turned out to be a relatively wet period.
3 As a rule of thumb, 1 MCM is sufficient to irrigate 100 ha, thus with each transfer
24,000 to 27,000 ha could not be irrigated.
158 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
different irrigation districts. In 2001, WUAs from Querétaro and Mexico joined the
discussions, and the WUAs established a new working group in the RBC, under the
leadership of the representative for agricultural water use on the RBC.
From mid 2000 until the end of 2002 this Grupo de Trabajo Especializado en
Planeación Agrícola Integral (GTEPAI, Specialized Working Group on Integral
Agricultural Planning) attempted to strengthen multi-stakeholder processes in the
RBC. Its aim was to improve the participation of farmers in the RBC by developing
links between the representative for agricultural water use and farmers throughout
the basin, and to reach negotiated agreements concerning surface water allocations
that took into account the needs of farmers (Monsalvo and Wester 2003; Paters 2004).
A central element of the GTEPAI’s strategy was to show that the irrigated agriculture
sector was serious about saving water and hence a credible negotiating partner. To
identify more profitable crops that use less water, GTEPAI brought together farmers,
government agencies, agro-industries, and research institutes to elaborate a Crop and
Marketing Catalogue. This Catalogue sets out which crops can feasibly be grown
under each of the three water allocation policies of the 1991 surface water treaty, and
links these with contract farming guarantees from agro-industries.
The cooperation of government agencies, agro-industries and producers under
the GTEPAI initiative in 2000 and 2001 resulted in a change of cropping patterns
for the winter season of 2001/2002. Throughout the basin, GTEPAI facilitated the
conversion from wheat (four irrigation turns) to barley (three irrigation turns) on
47,000 ha, from wheat to chickpea (two irrigation turns) on 5,000 ha and from wheat
to safflower and canola (one irrigation turn) on another 5,000 ha. This resulted in
a record production of barley, reduced imports for the involved industries (mainly
breweries), and claimed water savings of 60 MCM. While GTEPAI considerably
improved farmer representation and participation in the RBC, the efforts by
GTEPAI to save water went unrecognized by most of the other members of the
RBC. Environmental NGOs and the Jalisco State government continued to blame
irrigated agriculture for the decline of Lake Chapala, and in the course of 2002 the
representative of agricultural water use on the RBC came under increasing attacks
in the media.
While the farmer representatives took the lead, grass roots tensions and the threat
of civil disobedience by farmers decreased, but remained dormant. However, when
the CNA decided in November 2002 that another water transfer of 280 MCM was to
take place during the summer of 2003, tensions increased and farmers warned that
they would occupy the Solis dam so that it could not be opened. Simultaneously, the
representative of agricultural water use on the RBC and the leader of the GTEPAI
initiative was pressured to resign from the RBC during the MEG meeting in
November 2002. The disappointment of farmer representatives and others involved
with GTEPAI was such that they decided to dissolve the GTEPAI and to revert to
interest group politics.
During the summer of 2003, unexpectedly heavy rains coincided with the third
water transfer, causing floods in many parts of the basin. Instead of being accused of
stealing irrigation water from farmers, the CNA was blamed for aggravating flooding
through the water transfer. During the transfer, farmers from Guanajuato occupied
the CNA office and diverted water in transit from Solis dam to Lake Chapala to
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Surface and Groundwater Management 159
Lake Yuriria to express their fury. Although the exceptionally good rains of 2003
led to a spectacular recovery of Lake Chapala, with stored volumes jumping from
1,330 MCM in June 2003 to 4,250 MCM in January 2004, this did not cool down
tempers. In November 2003, the Jalisco representative on the RBC again demanded
the transfer of water from upstream dams to Lake Chapala, fuelling the anger of
farmer representatives and further straining the relationship with Guanajuato.
How the current standoff develops will be essential for the future of agriculture
and the environment in the basin. The collapse of active stakeholder participation and
representation in the RBC through the dissolution of the GTEPAI and the strained
relationship between Jalisco and Guanajuato highlights the challenges the Council
faces in reaching consensual water management decisions in the basin. Despite the
good rains in 2003, it is clear that the conflicts surrounding surface water have not
been resolved and that negotiated agreement is far from sight.

Groundwater Management

Arguably a more pressing issue in the Lerma-Chapala Basin than surface water
allocation is the serious overdraft of the basin’s aquifers. Considering that some
380,000 ha in the basin are irrigated with groundwater and that industrial and
domestic uses depend almost entirely on groundwater, the long-term consequences
of continued groundwater depletion overshadow those of Lake Chapala drying up.
While it is difficult to accurately portray the degree of groundwater depletion in
the basin, as various studies by the CNA report widely differing data on annual
extraction and recharge rates, what is clear is that 30 of the 40 aquifers in the basin
are in deficit. In the Middle Lerma region static water levels have been dropping at
2.1 m/year on average for the past thirty years (Scott and Garcés-Restrepo 2001).
Studies from the CNA indicate that total groundwater extractions in the basin exceed
recharge by some 641 MCM, which accounts for some 71% of the total water deficit
in the basin (CNA 1999a). Studies by the Comisión Estatal del Agua de Guanajuato
(CEAG; Guanajuato State Water Commission) indicate that the situation is even
more alarming, as in Guanajuato alone there is an annual and increasing deficit of
around 1200 MCM (CEAG 2001). In addition, pollution of aquifers around the
major cities of Guanajuato and land subsidence of up to three cm a year are visible
signs that the groundwater situation is worrying. In various areas wells are drying
out as water tables continue to decline. Nevertheless, ever deeper wells are still
being drilled throughout the basin, as well as around and in Lake Chapala in order to
irrigate some 30,000 ha of the former lake bed.
Although the Council signed a coordination agreement to regulate groundwater
extraction in the basin in 1993, progress on the ground has been slow (CCCLC 1993).
The weak control of the CNA over groundwater extractions and the high social and
political costs of reducing groundwater exploitation are primary obstacles. Although
the Constitution mandates the federal government to intervene in overexploited
aquifers by placing them under veda, thereby prohibiting the sinking of new wells
without permission from the federal government, the experience with vedas has been
disappointing (Arreguín 1998). For example, the number of wells in Guanajuato
160 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
alone increased from approximately 2,000 in 1958 to 16,500 in 1997, although the
drilling of new wells in the whole state was already forbidden in 1983 (Guerrero
Based on the recognition that vedas had not worked and to counter the continued
depletion of groundwater in the basin, CNA started promoting the formation of
COTAS in selected aquifers in the Lerma-Chapala Basin in 1995 (Marañón and
Wester 2000). Through the establishment of COTAS, the CNA sought to organize
aquifer users with the aim to establish mutual agreements for reversing groundwater
depletion, in keeping with Article 76 of the water law regulations (CNA 1999b).
Based on recent developments in the State of Guanajuato, where the CEAG
enthusiastically promoted the creation of COTAS (Guerrero 2000; Marañón and
Wester 2000), the structure of the COTAS has been defined at the national level in the
rules and regulations for river basin councils (CNA 2000). In these rules the COTAS
are defined as water user organizations, whose membership consists of all the water
users of an aquifer. They are to serve as mechanisms for reaching agreement on
aquifer management taking into consideration the needs of the various sectors using
groundwater (CNA 2000). As with the RBC, government has played an active role
in forming and promoting the COTAS, but with a much larger involvement of state
In the State of Guanajuato 14 COTAS (of which 11 fall in the Lerma-Chapala
Basin) have been formed with the financial, logistical and technical support of
CEAG (Hoogesteger 2004). While CEAG has encouraged the COTAS to set
their own agenda, it has retained an important influence on the COTAS. Because
agriculture is the major and supposedly least efficient groundwater consumer, most
of the discussions in the COTAS in Guanajuato revolve around increasing irrigation
efficiencies and reducing water use by the agricultural sector.
In the State of Querétaro the COTAS have been created in a relatively top down
manner (Marañón and Wester 2000). Decision-making comes primarily from the
State Water Commission whereas user participation has been minimal. The city
of Querétaro has a supply deficit of 47 percent, the aquifer is overexploited and
agricultural users have refused the State Water Commission’s intentions of buying
their water. The discussions in this COTAS are mainly on reducing water use for
irrigation and wastewater reuse.
On paper COTAS are platforms where all the users of an aquifer meet to reach
agreements on aquifer management. However, user participation has been quite
low, notwithstanding attempts by the State Water Commissions to involve as many
stakeholders as possible. In part, this is due to a lack of reliable information on the
owners of pumps in an aquifer and the lack of infrastructure and human resources on
the part of the COTAS, making it difficult to summon all the users. Hence, during the
formation stage of the COTAS only well-known people were invited to participate
(Marañón and Wester 2000). In the majority of the cases, the representatives of
the agriculture sector in the COTAS are commercial farmers or agro-industrialists.
This procedure, which has not brought together all the pumpers in an aquifer but
rather builds on a small group of leaders that are not necessarily representative,
has hamstrung the effectiveness of the COTAS. Although nearly all stakeholders
agree that the situation is grave, this has not yet translated into a multi-stakeholder
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Surface and Groundwater Management 161
process to reach a negotiated agreement on reductions in groundwater extractions.
Hence, the overall impact of the COTAS has been minimal. None has yet devised
mechanisms to significantly reduce groundwater extractions and the tough issue of
how to reach agreement on an across-the-board reduction in pumping has not yet
been broached.
Furthermore, many participants and staff of the COTAS and CEAG have become
frustrated because COTAS have little power to make a real difference in groundwater
extractions. This is because they have no faculties to control groundwater extractions
and have to rely on the goodwill of users and other institutions, particularly the
CNA. As the CNA is the only government agency that can issue pumping permits,
and is responsible for the enforcement of aquifer regulations, groundwater users
are keen to maintain good relations with the CNA. The CNA has taken a backseat
in the COTAS, and has emphatically not given them a mandate, thus sending the
message to groundwater users that the COTAS are irrelevant. CEAG has continued
to promote the COTAS, in the hope that it can wrestle some control over groundwater
away from the CNA. However, as long as the CNA continues to give preference
to the lucrative business of legalizing ‘irregular’ pumps instead of throwing its
weight behind the COTAS, the chances of a negotiated agreement on reductions in
groundwater extractions are bleak.


To understand multi-stakeholder processes and the emergence, functioning and

sustainability of MSPs, it is necessary to focus on institutional practices, and how
these have been formed historically. This chapter brings out that MSP’s for water
management created by government agencies can emerge quickly and show longevity,
but at the same time are very dependent on the role the government plays for their
effectiveness. While they are set up to deal with resource management problems that
affect interdependent stakeholders, this does not necessarily mean that an agreement
can be reached within the MSP. The legacy of the bureaucratic-authoritarian state in
Mexico and the highly centralized management of water in the past make it difficult
for the CNA to play the role of facilitator and enforcer. Rather, decision making over
water management at basin level is highly politicized and dominated by unilateral
actions by the federal water agency.
As water management tends to be highly centralized in many countries,
with water bureaucracies dominating decision-making, the experiences with
MSPs for water management in Mexico are not particularly encouraging. In this
regard, the emergence and demise of the GTEPAI initiative teaches important
lessons about multi-stakeholder and integrated water management decision-
making processes. It shows that a democratization process has taken place in
water management since the start of the Mexican water reforms, reflecting wider
changes in Mexican society. However, this is a fragile process, which is easily
derailed by power politics and interest group behaviour. While agricultural water
users are ready to negotiate agreements on surface water allocations based on
the recognition of mutual dependency, the antagonistic position of the Jalisco
162 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
government has blocked negotiations and severely undermined the legitimacy
of the RBC. The perception that the federal water agency is siding with Jalisco,
through its approval of water transfers from irrigation to Lake Chapala, has
further weakened the RBC.
The multi-stakeholder processes in groundwater management are less clear
cut. Although groundwater use is not as politicized and contested as surface water
allocation in the Council, individual interests prevail over the common good. What
really happens underground is depoliticized by mystifying studies, biased discourse
and weak law enforcement, which works to conceal an enormous interest in
underground water and independent access to this ‘liquid gold’. The marked absence
of groundwater management on the agenda of the CNA and the Council and the
thwarted efforts of the CEAG to make groundwater management platforms work
give substance to this conclusion.
In water management, creating polycentric governance structures based on
substantive stakeholder participation is fraught with contradictions. On the face
of things, stakeholder platforms democratize river basin management by giving
voice to a multiplicity of interested actors. However, much depends on the
existing institutional arrangements from which stakeholder platforms for river
basin management emerge and operate in, as many roles, rights, and certainly the
technologies and physical infrastructure for controlling water are already in place.
If there is not a full recognition of interdependence by stakeholders, including water
bureaucracies, and the need for concerted action, MSPs will remain paper tigers.


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de la Cuenca Lerma-Chapala, CNA, Guadalajara.
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Lerma-Chapala, Vol. 1, No. 5, CNA, Queretaro.
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Superficiales, Consejo de Cuenca Lerma-Chapala, Guadalajara.
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of Institutional Responses to Reduce Groundwater Exploitation in Guanajuato,
MSc Thesis Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University,
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of Market-Oriented Irrigation Interventions in Central Mexico, PhD Thesis
Wageningen University, Wageningen.
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Latinoamericana No. 17, International Water Management Institute, Mexico
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Chapala Case Study – Attributions and Experiences in Water Management in
Mexico’, Water International, Vol. 22 (3), pp. 140–152.
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de la Cuenca Lerma-Chapala, Mexico, Universidad Iberoamericana-Leon,
Paters, H. (2004), Farmers Efforts to Manage Decentralization and Save Surface
Water in the Lerma-Chapala Basin, MSc Thesis Irrigation and Water Engineering
Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen.
Rap, E., Wester, P. and Pérez-Prado, L.N. (2004), ‘The Politics of Creating
Commitment: Irrigation Reforms and the Reconstitution of the Hydraulic
Bureaucracy in Mexico’, in Mollinga, P.P. and Bolding, A. (eds), The Politics of
Irrigation Reform. Contested Policy Formulation and Implementation in Asia,
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164 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
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Chapter 11

Less Tension, Limited Decision:

A Multi-Stakeholder Platform to
Review a Contested Sanitation
Project in Tiquipaya, Bolivia
Nicolas Faysse, Vladimir Cossío, Franz Quiroz,
Raúl Ampuero and Bernardo Paz


The Tiquipaya Municipality is situated in the peri-urban zone of Cochabamba City, in

Bolivia. 26,000 inhabitants live in the valley part of the municipality. Drinking water
is distributed by community-based Water Committees, without the intervention of
the Municipality. With the exception of the city centre, the whole municipality lacks
a sanitation network.
In light of a very fast urbanization process, Tiquipaya and the nearby Municipality
of Colcapirhua decided in 2001 to design a US$ four million inter-communal water
and sanitation project called MACOTI. A sanitation network will provide bulk
treated water to the Water Committees. The project was funded through a loan from
the National Fund for Rural Development (FNDR), which itself got a loan from
the Inter-American Development Bank. The project was heavily criticized by many
Water Committees, for the following reasons: (i) the project was not publicized and
there were presumptions of corruption; (ii) the 25 year duration of the loan was
judged too long and the interest rate too high; (iii) the project was initially to take
over the assets and the management of the Water Committees’ infrastructure, without
any compensation. The local irrigation farmer association, ASIRITIC, was also
opposed to the project, for the previous reasons and because the project would speed
up the urbanization process and may take control of the upstream lakes managed
by ASIRITIC, in order to get the water needed to operate the water and sanitation
This lack of agreement led to a series of conflicts in 2003, with the Army called
to intervene at one stage of the conflict. As a consequence, the Mayor had to resign
and a group of communities which were part of the project, called the Chillimarca
Villas, decided to walk out of the project and set up their own alternative sanitation
project. The Vice-Minister of Basic Services looked for a negotiated solution to
the conflict. In June 2004, during workshops with the opponents of the project, he
166 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
proposed to organize a Technical Roundtable in Tiquipaya (Mesa Técnica in Spanish)
to undertake an in-depth review of the project and achieve a negotiated agreement.
The Negowat project was a European Union-funded research project that aimed
at developing and testing methodologies to support discussion on access to water and
land use in peri-urban areas. In Bolivia, it was mainly composed of Centro AGUA, a
research centre of Cochabamba University, and the CIRAD Research Institute. The
Negowat team proposed its help in the organization of the Technical Roundtable,
which was accepted by the Vice-Ministry, the Tiquipaya Municipality, and various
social organizations of Tiquipaya.
This chapter presents the implementation of this Technical Roundtable. A generic
methodology for Multi Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) was designed to support the
process and is presented in a first section.

A Methodology for Intervention in the Design and Evaluation of an MSP

The methodology presented here was designed with a focus on short term MSPs,
although many of the aspects it considers would also be relevant to a permanent
one. In this methodology, there is also an attempt to formalize the evaluation phase,
which is often done in an informal way in the case studies describing MSPs. The
methodology presented here is based on an Habermasian approach (see Faysse
2006), which entails that more importance is given to getting the communication
right than to power relationships. This means that such methodology is pertinent in
situations where there are no large power asymmetries between stakeholders.
Though there are negotiation roundtables functioning without facilitation, most
frequently an organization will intervene in the design of the negotiation process and

Figure 11.1 Activities of the facilitator for the design and facilitation of
an MSP
Less Tension, Limited Decision 167
facilitate the roundtable. This is the case considered here. Clearly, process design
and facilitation are not the only activities that the facilitator may plan in order to
pave the way for a negotiated solution of the common problem.
The main points of the methodology are summarized in a check-list, which
helps to keep in mind the key points to be addressed without adopting an ill-placed
normative stand. Other authors such as Hemmati (2002), Sextón (2003), or Susskind
and Cruishank (1987) also propose helpful ideas for the design of MSPs.
The section is organized as follows. First, MSPs are presented in terms of their
objectives and the facilitation activities to be considered. These activities are then
presented in the same order as they are to be undertaken: baseline analysis, ex-ante
evaluation, MSP design, and organization of the sessions (see Figure 11.1). The
last section presents the methodology for the monitoring and evaluation of the

Table 11.1 Possible design objectives of an MSP

Intermediary goal Examples of Design Objectives
Regarding The process enables Define the objectives and
the process stakeholders to i) participate design of the process with the
itself in the definition of the design participation of the stakeholders
of the MSP; and ii) have an Make MSP process and results be
impact on the solution of the considered by formal authorities
problem through the MSP
Regarding Stakeholders have the Promote that participants are
stakeholders capacity and the legitimacy genuine representatives and
to participate, and accept accountable to their constituencies
to pay attention to other Improve the power balance
participants’ point of view among representatives
Ensure that participants have
adequate information and
access to human, material
and financial resources for
an effective participation
Ensure that participants know
and respect each other

General Structure of a MSP

Though MSPs can be very different from each other, the general objective of an
MSP can be defined as follows: to enable the empowered and active participation
of stakeholders in the search for solutions to a problem that affects them. This
objective can be split into two intermediary goals (see Table 11.1). Given these two
intermediate goals, the participants in an MSP may define design objectives. Design
objectives can be also defined by the facilitator, in order to plan the intervention
activities. Table 11.1 presents examples of common design objectives.
168 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Baseline Analysis

The baseline analysis will serve as a basis for the whole design of the process, from
the decision of the facilitator to intervene or not, to the agenda of negotiation during
the sessions. It can encompass at least the four following elements.

Analysis of the common problem and the stakeholders The baseline analysis will
usually start with an assessment of the problem and a mapping of all stakeholders
involved, their interests and positions regarding this problem. In practice, it may
be difficult to identify stakeholders, as they may not be organized or unable to
express their interests (Steins and Edwards 1999). Stakeholder groups are not easily
delimitated, identified or grouped (Bickford 1999) and the definition of a group
involves unstable and complex processes of self identification and representation
(Edmunds and Wollenberg 2001). If necessary, getting a historical perspective of the
problem may be considered.
It may be useful to validate the stakeholder analysis with the groups themselves,
for instance showing them the list of groups as seen by the facilitator and asking if
any group were left out.
Analysis of stakeholder positions should be achieved before the design of the
intervention, but it is also a task to be followed up during the process, because
stakeholder characteristics may change.

Assessment of on-going negotiation processes In order to evaluate existing

negotiation processes set up to solve the problem, three characteristics are of special
interest: whether they are public, whether they involve authorities and whether they
are linked to an official decision-making process.

Analysis of the reasons for failing to reach an agreement In a generic way, four
different reasons may be considered to explain why the stakeholders did not find a
solution yet to the common problem:

• Lack of information: For instance, in situations of groundwater over pumping,

information regarding the recharge and the amounts pumped by users will
likely be necessary.
• Lack of legal or management system: In the same case of groundwater depletion,
the lack of a legal system to back an agreement up or a management system to
implement it will probably prevent the success of the negotiation process.
• Lack of willingness of some stakeholders to enter into negotiation.
• When there is an attempt to set up a negotiation, failure to achieve a consensus
regarding the negotiation design: Some stakeholder groups may complain
that they are not given enough options in the negotiation, that they do not have
sufficient access to information, or that they do not have sufficient control
over the decision that is to be made within the MSP.

Analysis of stakeholders’ willingness to reach an agreement The previous analysis

may be completed by assessing stakeholders’ willingness to reach an agreement.
Less Tension, Limited Decision 169
Ex-ante Evaluation of the Intervention

During the ex-ante evaluation, the facilitator will assess if an intervention is

necessary and opportune, and (if the answer is affirmative) what could be its role in
the process.

Evaluation of the opportunity to intervene The facilitator will need to evaluate

whether its intervention is really needed and may lead to positive results. An ill-
prepared intervention may increase the conflict instead of solving it, or may reinforce
existing power relations instead of weakening them.
The facilitator will also need to evaluate the risks of the MSP itself. First, it
may be of interest to try to identify ex ante the risks that would lead to the failure
of the MSP. Second, participation of the weaker groups in the MSP may lead
to negative outcomes for them (Edmunds and Wollenberg 2001). Finally, it may
be also possible that the conflict is too strong to allow the use of an MSP-type
approach to solve it.

Evaluation of the kind of intervention needed Intervention should be planned in

accordance with the analysis of the reasons for a lack of agreement. If there is a
lack of information, the facilitator may collect the needed information and organize
capacity-building events for stakeholders to understanding the issue. For instance,
in California, in several cases of groundwater depletion, the State only committed
itself to providing information regarding the dynamics of the groundwater system,
and let stakeholders negotiate afterwards without its intervention (Blomquist
1992). If a legal or management system is lacking, the facilitator may involve the
organisations able to set up these systems in the discussion. If some stakeholders
are not willing to negotiate, the facilitator may design the “negotiation space” in
such a way that each stakeholder would prefer an agreement to no agreement.
Finally, if there is no initial consensus over the negotiation process, the facilitator
may pay special attention to get the MSP design discussed in a comprehensive way
with all stakeholders.
The facilitator will also need to choose its stand in relation to the solution-
seeking part of the process. Susskind and Cruishank (1987) differentiate between
facilitation, where the organization supports the process (e.g. organizes the
meetings), but does not provide any proposal contributing to a commonly agreed
solution; and mediation, where the organization puts proposals on the table as an
input for the discussion.
Undertaking parallel activities with some stakeholders may sometimes be
useful. These activities would be dis-linked to the negotiation process, and would
be undertaken in order to create trust or to enhance stakeholders’ willingness to sit
at the MSP table.

Position of the facilitator The legitimacy of the facilitator is dependent on the

acceptance by all stakeholders of its role in facilitating the MSP process. A facilitator
is never completely neutral: trying to achieve this would be pointless. What matters
is that stakeholders accept the facilitator as a neutral organization.
170 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Design of a MSP

This section presents a framework for the structure of an MSP. This may serve three

• to design the MSP if the facilitator is in charge of it;

• to adapt an existing MSP to the solution of a specific problem;
• to set a frame for the evaluation of an MSP structure and functioning.

Stakeholders must reach an agreement on the design of the MSP. The degree
of involvement of participants in the MSP’s design can be chosen between two
extremes: on one side the participants design themselves the MSP, with the
facilitator only supporting the discussion. On the other side, the facilitator designs
alone the MSP. Another choice to make is whether there will be a formally signed
agreement on this design.
The following subsections present some key points to consider in the design of
the MSP. For each of these points, it will be necessary to define (a) stakeholders’
involvement in the decision-making regarding the design; (b) the degree of
flexibility once the MSP has started. Six points can be outlined when designing
an MSP. This section reviews these points, according to the order shown in Figure

Figure 11.2 Main points to be considered for the design of an MSP

Less Tension, Limited Decision 171
1. Definition of the convening organization and the facilitator It may be of
interest to differentiate between the organization inviting, i.e., the organization
in charge of calling for the MSP, and the facilitator, in charge of facilitating the
discussion. For the first one, what matters is the weight it gives to the process,
while for the second one it is being accepted as neutral. These two roles could
be played by a single organisation, or two ones, depending on the local context.
Though the facilitator may take the lead in terms of organizing the MSP, delegating
responsibilities to other participating organizations would be helpful to get them
committed to the process.

2. Basic structure of the MSP The aim and scope of the MSP must be very clear
to all stakeholders involved. At least one official objective of the MSP should be
defined, possibly complemented with several design objectives. The decision power
of the MSP can range from a mere role of socialization and capacity-building (but
in that extreme case it may not be considered an MSP) to a role of fully-fledged
decision-making body. Stakeholder groups may refuse to participate if they do not
trust the process will have any impact.

3. Negotiation structure It is of interest to analyse, for each stakeholder group,

what it will get if there is no negotiation, i.e., the Best Alternative to A Negotiated
Agreement (cf. Ramírez, 1998). In order to get all stakeholders interested in coming
to the MSP to negotiate, it may be possible to add more issues to the initial common
problem. Other points of concern are:

• Structure of the sessions It will be necessary to organize the order in which

the themes under discussion will be addressed. There may be a single body
of participants or an alternating sequence of plenary sessions and work with
smaller groups.
• If decisions are taken, which kind of decision-making rule MSPs function
often with the consensus rule, the reason being their frequent lack of formal
insertion in the official decision-making process. However, this is not a
universal rule.
• Tools to facilitate the discussion and the negotiation It is possible to
differentiate four types of tools. First, some tools facilitate the definition
of a shared initial assessment of the situation and the common problem.
This involves for instance: i) improving stakeholders’ understanding of
the technical and social aspects of the problem and of other stakeholders’
points of view; ii) help reveal stakeholders’ actual interests in the problem.
Examples of such tools are role-playing games or the RAAKS methodology
(Salomon and Engel 1997). Second, some tools facilitate the discussion
itself. This can be a set of rules of debate, or an invitation to participants to
prepare background papers before the sessions. Third, tools can support the
comparison of possible alternatives during the negotiation of the agreement.
Fourth, tools are used to create social links among participants, e.g. sharing
a meal (for other typologies of these tools, cf. Morardet and Rio 2003 or
Grimble and Wellard 1997).
172 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
• Rules to organize the debates Some rules may be defined to organize the
debates, for instance the definition of a bye-law for debating agreed by all
participants at the beginning of the negotiation process (see Hemmati 2002).

4. Relationship between constituencies and their representatives This issue is

one of the toughest in defining and implementing an MSP, since the relationship
between representatives and their constituencies is often weak. Effective social
control is based on a satisfactory circulation of information, both top-down and
In a bottom-up way, the issue is how representatives are elected or designated
and how the latter learn the opinions of his/her constituency, especially to know
if they would accept an agreement under negotiation at the MSP. The top-down
direction relates to how the representative is accountable and how he/she informs
about what took place at the negotiation table.
In the common cases where this relationship is not satisfactory, the facilitator will
have to decide whether to intervene to improve it. An example is the situation where
the group is not organized. For instance, in large-scale basins, it may be difficult to
get representation of small-scale water users for a water-resource management MSP.
In such a case, the facilitator may help organize this stakeholder group.

5. Link with unrepresented stakeholder groups and the general public In the case
where some stakeholder groups are not represented, the facilitator may use specific
media to inform them about what takes place at the MSP.

6. Specific activities of the facilitator Some stakeholder groups may be less

knowledgeable of the issues dealt with in the MSP, and they may come to the
negotiation table without other stakeholder groups paying attention to their points of
view (Edmunds and Wollenberg 2001). Therefore, it may be necessary to organize
capacity-building events for these groups’ representatives before the process
implementation. The facilitator may need to collect additional information in order
to support the negotiation process.
It is necessary to define if the MSP will have a fixed duration or if it may
get prolonged in the case difficulties appear to reach an agreement. Based on
this decision, the facilitator needs to plan the requirements in terms of financial
and human resources. This may be done for its own activities, as well as for the
participation costs of the stakeholders. In several cases of MSPs in developing
countries, though participants are not paid, transport costs are reimbursed. Such an
assessment is needed if funding organizations are expected to support the process.
Finally, publicizing the source of the funds used by the facilitator to support the MSP
may be important in order to show a neutral position.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The evaluation of an MSP can be defined as the analysis of the achievement of its
objectives and the efficiency of actions undertaken during its course in the view
of implementers and stakeholders involved. Though the former seems to place
Less Tension, Limited Decision 173
evaluation as the final stage of an MSP, to include evaluation activities all along this
type of processes is unavoidable. The MSP evaluation can be useful to:

• assess the established objectives and actions taken by the facilitator during the
implementation process;
• know the results and effects of the overall process and stakeholders’ perception
about it;
• contribute to a better design and implementation of future MSPs through
documentation of experiences.

Results are defined here as the short-term consequences of actions undertaken along
the process. In that sense, they are related to the design objectives of the platform,
allowing the evaluation of their achievement. Effects are defined as more long-term
products of the whole platform, and therefore can be used to assess the achievement
of the MSP’s general objective. Both results and effects could be influenced by
external factors as much as by actions taken during the platform process.
Evaluation activities will consist of the definition and construction of indicators
and the gathering of information through the monitoring of the process, its results
and effects. Efficacy refers to the success of the platform, i.e., the degree to which its
objectives were attained. Efficiency is used to evaluate the performance of actions
and efforts undertaken (Quintero 1995) to achieve the outlined objectives, including
an analysis of time and financial resources used to reach some results. Evaluation
indicators have the purpose of measuring and/or qualifying the efficacy of objectives
and efficiency of carried out actions, given the results and effects of the process.

The Mesa Técnica MSP

This section presents the design, implementation and evaluation of the Mesa Técnica
MSP. It follows the same structure as the methodology presented in the previous

Baseline Analysis

This section presents a summary of the conflict and stakeholder analysis. The
Negowat team already knew the local context, because of past projects managed
by Centro AGUA and CERES. A specific baseline analysis was carried out, as
summarized below (Quiroz and Cuba 2004).
In Bolivia, communities are legally structured by way of OTB (Base Territorial
Organization). The Valley part of Tiquipaya is composed of 46 OTBs. The
Municipality was split between groups supporting the project and others opposing it.
The majority of the OTBs from District 5 were opposed to the MACOTI project. The
other part of District 5 and the whole District 6 supported the project and had created
a Committee for the Defence of the Sanitation, in order to counter the first group.
The Representatives of District 4 also decided to walk out of the project in August
2004, but on the contrary the main Water Committee present in this District, with
174 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management

Figure 11.3 The valley area of Tiquipaya

around 1500 connections, supported the project (see Figure 11.3). Finally, municipal
elections were due for December 2004, and many actors used the MACOTI theme
as an opportunity to show his/her presence in the local political arena.
In June 2004, there was no on-going discussion between the supporters and the
opponents to the project. According to the groups supporting the MACOTI project,
the Chillimarca Villas did not want to pay the required share of the project, while
ASIRITIC would be opposed to any sanitation project, as it would accelerate the
urbanization process, and therefore would decrease ASIRITIC’s power. The groups
opposing the project argued that the two Mayors, during the period 1998–2003
and in 2004, did not want to organize a public debate about the project. Generally
speaking, there was indeed a lack of willingness as well as capacity on the part of the
Municipality to organize a Negotiation Roundtable.
The Vice-Ministry wanted an agreement, because they needed projects to be
implemented in a climate of social peace. That is why they proposed the Technical
Roundtable. The Tiquipaya Municipality were interested in getting an agreement,
to be able to start the works without a new conflict and to prove its goodwill to the
Vice-Ministry and the funding Banks.
ASIRITIC accepted to participate in part in the idea of trying to initiate a
discussion on the urbanization process and the means to control it. The Chillimarca
Villas were officially out of the sanitation part of the project. However, the funding
Less Tension, Limited Decision 175
of their alternative project was not secured. They needed to negotiate changes in the
MACOTI project, in order to secure their return in case funding of the alternative
project would fail.
The stakeholder groups supporting the MACOTI project were not interested at
first in participating in the Negotiation Roundtable. They eventually did it to support
the Municipality, albeit under the condition that the Technical Roundtable would not
impede the initiation of the works.

Ex-ante Evaluation of the Intervention

Evaluation of the opportunity to intervene The Negowat team evaluated some

of the possible risks ex ante: (i) some stakeholder groups boycott the Technical
Roundtable and do not accept its legitimacy; (ii) no agreement is reached regarding
the Technical Roundtable methodology; and (iii) the socialisation of the information
about the project leads to an increase in the conflicts. There was no real risk of
forcing agreements on weak stakeholder groups, since on both sides, there were well-
organized and well-connected groups. Actually, during the Technical Roundtable,
only the first two risks appeared important and much time was devoted to discuss
with stakeholders the methodology for the Roundtable itself.
The representatives at the Technical Roundtable underlined that there was a risk
that their presence would be interpreted as an acceptation of the project. This was
officially discarded: attendance to the sessions did not mean acceptation. Actually,
there was a real opportunity to organize a Technical Roundtable, because: (i) the
atmosphere had calmed down 6 months after the toughest events in 2003; (ii) the
Mayor who arrived in 2004 was more open to discussion than his predecessor; (iii)
the Vice-Ministry supported officially and continuously the Technical Roundtable.

Table 11.2 Objectives of the facilitator in designing and facilitating the

Technical Roundtable

Objective 1 Identify all the stakeholders, their positions and

relations around the MACOTI project
Objective 2 Define the objectives and design of the process
with the participation of the stakeholders
Objective 3 Promote that representatives can adapt the methodology
of the platform during the process
Objective 4 Ensure the Technical Roundtable process and results
are considered by formal authorities
Objective 5 Promote that participants are genuine representatives
and accountable to their constituencies
Objective 6 Inform the public about the development and
results of the Technical Roundtable
Objective 7 Ensure that participants have adequate information and access to
human, material and financial resources for effective participation
Objective 8 Facilitate that all participants can exert influence on decision-making
176 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Evaluation of the required form of intervention From the outset the Negowat team
was designed as the facilitator for the Technical Roundtable. The Negowat team had
to start the Technical Roundtable from scratch, as there was no on-going negotiation
process. It did act as a mediator sometimes, for instance proposing phrasing of the
resolutions that had come out of the debates, in order to be discussed and improved
by the participants.
This Technical Rountable can be considered an MSP of limited duration, designed
to address a specific topic. In this regard, the objectives of the facilitator in designing
and facilitating the Technical Roundtable are listed in the following Table 11.2.
When the Negowat team decided to facilitate the process, it sent a proposal to the
Municipality, the Vice-Ministry, ASIRITIC and the Chillimarca Villas. The proposal
was well accepted because no local organisation was accepted as both and able to
support the process. The Vice-Ministry could have been accepted as a neutral broker,
but it did not have the capacity to organize the Technical Roundtable in practice.
For the sake of being accepted as neutral, the Negowat team decided not to
make any proposal on the project itself (though they made proposals to improve the
negotiation process). However, the team had their own analysis of the weak aspects
of the MACOTI project, and made sure these points were dealt with during the
sessions of the Technical Roundtable. During this Roundtable, the representatives
did not question much Negowat’s neutrality; rather they contested the relevance of
discussing a project that was already about to start. But it proved very important to
clarify the funding of the Negowat project, i.e., it did not receive any funds from a
Tiquipaya organization or the Vice-Ministry.

Design of the MSP

Degree of involvement of the stakeholders and the facilitator Originally, the

idea was to agree on an MSP design during an informal meeting with some 10
key representatives of the different stakeholder groups, and then call for a plenary
meeting with all OTBs, Water Committees and ASIRITIC to validate this design.
Though an MSP design was indeed agreed during the informal meeting, it became
evident that tensions were too strong to reach consensus in a plenary session with all
groups involved. The Negowat team then took a two-step approach.
First, during 3 weeks, several meetings were held with representatives of all
stakeholder groups in the conflict, to learn under which conditions they would accept
to participate and to convince them of the importance of the Technical Roundtable.
Second, once a draft design was ready, three meetings were organized in each
District. This enabled to discuss the MSP design in a much calmer way, but it did not
permit in-depth changes in the design based on participants’ comments.
The MSP design was not officially signed by the stakeholders. The Negowat
team wrote a short document that presented the aim and design of the Technical
Roundtable, and distributed it to all participating organizations. No comments were
made during the first session, therefore the design was considered accepted.

Definition of the organization and the facilitator The Negowat team played the
role of facilitator, with the Tiquipaya Municipality and the Vice-Ministry as formal
Less Tension, Limited Decision 177
inviting organizations. Though in practice the Negowat team assumed the whole
responsibility of organizing the meetings, the presence of the Municipality and the
Vice-Ministry was a key element in providing legitimacy to the process. It provided
stability as well: one of the first invitation letters sent to all stakeholder groups was
signed by the Vice-Ministry, the Municipality and the groups opposing the MACOTI
project. The group supporting the project disliked, because it had not been invited to
sign the invitation letter, and at first rejected the proposal of a Technical Roundtable.
The process would have stopped if there had not been the support of the Vice-

Status and scope of the MSP The official objective of the Technical Roundtable
was to: 1) create a space for socialization, analysis and discussion of the Inter-
Communal project; 2) to make suggestions for improvement. The decision-making
power initially proposed by the Negowat team was that the Technical Roundtable
would just have the capacity to present proposals to the Municipality Councils of
Tiquipaya and Colcapirhua, that would afterwards accept them or refuse them. The
decision was made on the grounds that: (i) many groups had no legal status, while the
relationship between the constituency and its representatives was weak; (ii) District
6 feared that the Technical Roundtable might lead to proposals that would harm
the project. From the first session on, the participants requested that the Tiquipaya
Municipal Council automatically implement the decisions they would take. The
Council did not want at first, but eventually accepted to issue a note indicating this
Another heavily discussed issue was the question whether the works would be
stopped during the Technical Roundtable. There was a strong social pressure in
District 6 and part of the District 5 for the works to start as soon as possible. From
the Negowat team point of view, this issue was not of such importance since the
conflict was more on the financial and institutional aspects. However, ASIRITIC and
the Chillimarca Villas wanted this clause. It was finally decided that the works would
start only in zones that had already accepted the MACOTI project.

Composition of the platform Three themes were strongly disputed with respect
to the composition of the Technical Roundtable. First, given the existing tensions,
it was initially judged that a maximum of 30 representatives should be invited.
However, all OTBs and Water Committees wanted to have their own representatives,
which would end up with a Roundtable of 70 persons. Eventually the Negowat team
accepted this, betting that not all organizations would send their representatives (this
proved to be true in practice).
Second, leaders from District 6 initially refused the presence of the opponents to
the project, on the grounds that ASIRITIC was managing irrigation water and had
nothing to do with a drinking water and sanitation project, and that the Chillimarca
Villas did not have a say in the project since they had officially walked out. Leaders
of District 6 would also contend that they were representing all inhabitants in their
areas of jurisdiction, and therefore also represented irrigation farmers. Such a
position shows that these leaders were not used to MSPs, where stakeholders usually
participate through defined stakeholder groups rather than the classic representative
178 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
system. Eventually, these leaders accepted the presence of the two opposing groups
after the Municipality intervened to convince them.
Third, a Baseline group was eventually defined, which became the official
composition of the Roundtable. However, several persons came to the first sessions
that were not part of this baseline group, e.g. the Committee for the Defence of
Sanitation. It was eventually agreed that anybody could come and participate in the
discussion as long as the interventions would be positive and would enhance the

Negotiation Structure

Definition of the points to be discussed and the limits of the discussion The object
of the discussion was very well defined as it was focused on an already existing
project of water and sanitation. The main issue in terms of defining the boundaries
of the discussion was whether or not to get Colcapirhua on board at the Technical
Roundtable. This point was discussed in-depth during the first meeting on the design
of the MSP. The project was an inter-communal one, and many of its components
had to be dealt with at the inter-communal level. However, it was decided that there
were already many conflicts in Tiquipaya, and that adding those in Colcapirhua
would lead to an unmanageable Roundtable. Therefore, Colcapirhua was not part of
the discussion but representatives of the Municipality were invited at each session of
the Technical Roundtable.
The conflict had been existing for several months already, and discussions with
various groups enabled the Negowat team to gain knowledge of each position.
Given this information, a short ex-ante analysis of the points that the stakeholder
groups would raise was prepared before each session, as well as the way to find
an agreement. In particular, before the first session, the Negowat team organized a
meeting with representatives of the Municipality and of the designers of the project,
to see what would be the points the opponents to the project would raise, and how
the latter would answer to them.
The sessions were organized in the following order: the technical design, the
financial one and finally, the institution that would be in charge of operating and
maintaining the network afterwards.
Consensus rule was decided, so that the leaders of the OTBs supporting the
project would accept the presence of ASIRITIC and the Chillimarca Villas. If
consensus could not be reached, the proposal would simply be discarded. In practice,
consensus was always achieved for the technical and financial aspects, but failed for
the institutional one.

Tools to facilitate the discussion and negotiation Three types of tools were used.
First, in order to present some information about the project, several Powerpoint
presentations were organized during each of the sessions. Second, participants
were invited to present some position documents, which was indeed done by two
stakeholder groups. Third, in order to organize the discussions, newsprint and
slide shows were used to summarize the points addressed and the outcome of the
discussions, and to help participants focus on the topic discussed.
Less Tension, Limited Decision 179
Relationship between Constituencies and their Representatives

During the preparation meetings, the Negowat team proposed that each stakeholder
group (OTBs, Water Committees, ASIRITIC) would accredit a representative, and
would publicize its choice with a nomination letter. This was followed by almost
none of the stakeholder groups (anyway, this proposal was very ambitious given
the internal functioning of many of these groups). In practice, the Management
Committee of each group named in an informal way a person to represent them
at the Technical Roundtable, who was often a member itself of the Management
Committee. Given this situation, the Negowat team only required participants at the
Technical Roundtable to register as a titular or deputy. Eventually, this flexibility did
not harm the negotiation process.

Stakeholder Groups not Represented in the MSP and the General Public

All stakeholder groups involved in the conflict were invited to participate in the
process. Besides, each session of the Technical Roundtable took place during
a Friday and the following Saturday. At first, it was scheduled that the Saturday
afternoon would be dedicated to discussion with the public. However, nobody came
to the first Saturday afternoon session, (1) for lack of communication about the MSP
to the general public; and (2) because the grassroots users are used to meeting at
OTB or Water Committee level and rarely travel to places far from their home for
this kind of meetings. The first problem was due to Negowat’s lack of capacity to
disseminate information beyond the leaders of each group. Eventually, the main way
of communicating the progress of the Technical Roundtable was the distribution of
information bulletins between two sessions that would contain a summary of the past
session and the information prepared for the next one. This bulletin was distributed
to all OTBs, Water Committees of the valley area of Tiquipaya, as well as to the
Municipality and ASIRITIC. Furthermore, several newspapers and local television
channels were invited to attend a session, but they eventually did not show up.

Specific Activities of the Facilitator

Capacity-building No capacity-building meetings with specific stakeholder groups

were organized. The Negowat team proposed such capacity building to ASIRITIC,
which refused, because they contented that they had the capacity to undertake their
own assessment of the project. Anyway, the Technical Roundtable was as much a
place to learn about the project as a place to discuss about it.

Collection of information A summary of the MACOTI project, and especially

its financial structure, was designed by Negowat in cooperation with the designers
of the project. This summary was distributed to all stakeholder groups before the
first session. During the preparation sessions, the Negowat team clarified that the
MACOTI team took full responsibility of its content, and that in no way this summary
meant an opinion of the Negowat team regarding the project. Writing the summary
also enabled the Negowat team to gain in-depth knowledge of the project.
180 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
During the sessions of the Technical Roundtable, the participants often asked for
more detailed information, e.g. on which bases the designers of the MACOTI project
had calculated that 6,000 connections were going to be made during the first year, or
a more detailed explanation of the financial structure.

Duration of the MSP and planning of the financial and human resource
requirements At first, four sessions were planned of two days each. However,
during the process itself, a dilemma emerged. On the one hand, it was important not
to extend the process too much, in order not to tire the representatives and because,
apart from the representatives of the Municipality and from the Vice-Ministry, none
had expenses allowance to attend the meetings. On the other hand, the Negowat team
did not want to force the closure of a theme and wanted to make sure the participants
were satisfied with the discussion that had taken place. Anyway, it finally appeared
that to solve the dilemma, much time could be saved thanks to a better organization
of the discussion, especially by trying to prevent that participants would not talk
about things unrelated to the themes under discussion.
In order to organize the Technical Roundtable, three persons were needed full-time
during a period of 4 months. Furthermore, a vehicle was used to distribute the information
bulletins, invitations and documents prepared for each session among the stakeholder
groups. Around 10,000 photocopies were produced during the whole process.
The representatives of the social organizations that came to the Roundtable did
not receive any participation fee, not even the transport costs. The Negowat team
paid all the costs linked to the organization of the Technical Roundtable, with the
exception of the lunches, which the Municipality agreed to pay. It required much
effort to get the Municipality to comply with its commitment, but such – financial
– involvement was important to make sure the Municipality would develop a sense
of ownership.

Activities during the Technical Roundtable

Sessions organized Eventually, five sessions were organized. During the first
four sessions, the technical, financial and institutional components of the project
were tackled, in this order. At first, it had been scheduled to devote one session
for each of the three components, but eventually much mixing occurred, as
participants often asked information that the Negowat team had then to prepare for
the next session. At the end of the fourth session, several Technical Commissions
were named to follow up on some specific topics. Three commissions were to
work on (1) supervising the quality of the construction works; (2) reviewing the
financial structure and finding external funds to lower the total costs to be borne
by users; (3) examine the possibility to use a pipeline to be built by the nearby
Cochabamba water company, in order to decrease costs as well. However, none of
these commissions got results after 2 months. The last Commission was to review
possible institutional designs for the future organization in charge of operating and
maintaining the system. This Commission worked continuously and successfully,
and was able to propose two alternatives for the institutional design, during the
fifth and last session. This session served to present a document summarizing the
Less Tension, Limited Decision 181
Technical Roundtable and the resolutions that came out of it, and to discuss how
the process would be carried forward after the Negowat team’s departure. New
Municipal elections had taken place between the fourth and the fifth sessions, and
it was agreed that the Municipality would continue to communicate and discussion
process in some form.
During the first session, the Negowat team proposed a set of rules for debating,
mainly to make sure the debate would remain calm and participants would respect
each other. The maximum duration of any intervention was also set at 3 minutes.
Spanish is the most common language in the valley part of Tiquipaya. The other
language spoken in the Municipality, quechua, is more used in the rural area. Though
use of quechua was officially accepted in the debating rules, the language used in
practice was Spanish.

Animation of the session Often, questions during the sessions would call for more
information about the project. Therefore, between two sessions, the Negowat team
would collect the information and prepare it, mainly (but not only) with the designers
of the MACOTI project. During the sessions also, many outside contributors
were invited to intervene, for instance the FNDR, the companies in charge of the
construction and of the supervision, a demographer from the University, and a
representative of the Water Committee of Tiquipaya Old Centre.
Each discussion theme was often introduced by a presentation (for instance by a
representative of the designers of the MACOTI project). The participants were then
free to intervene and ask questions or make statements. The Negowat team would try
to organize the discussion. After each half-day or complete day, what had come out
of the discussion was summarized in the form of proposals, that would be discussed
and preferably command consensus among all members.
Although the unstructured nature of the discussion caused great delay, the
Negowat team preferred this freedom of speech to having the facilitator cut off
somebody’s intervention.

Evaluation of the Technical Roundtable

The evaluation activities were carried out independently from the implementation
of this platform as the person responsible had no responsibilities in the execution of
the Technical Roundtable. They included the participation in each of the sessions,
the analysis of document produced and the interview of nine representatives to
get their opinion on the process, after the fourth session. The main results of the
evaluation were presented during the last Technical Roundtable session and included
in a document summarizing the whole process and its outputs. This document was
distributed to the representatives and officially handed to the newly elected Tiquipaya
Municipality leaders. This section first describes the methodology used during the
evaluation and then presents the results of this evaluation.
A first step for the evaluation was the definition of efficacy and efficiency indicators
of the Technical Roundtable. It was based on a previous identification and clarification
of the general and design objectives of the platform and the actions carried out to attain
the design objectives. The official objective of the Technical Roundtable was:
182 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
To create socialisation, analysis and discussion space for the MACOTI project in order to
reach a negotiated agreement among the participants regarding a common vision of the
project and propose changes to improve it.

Though the former was disseminated as the objective of this platform, to ‘reach
a negotiated agreement among the participants about a common vision’ was very
ambitious. What actually was intended was to create a deeper understanding of the
project among stakeholders.
As the design objectives are in this case the objectives of the facilitator of the
Technical Roundtable (Negowat), this section analyses the actions of the facilitator
based on the indicators chosen for this purpose.

Compliance with General Objectives

Objective 1. To identify all the stakeholders, their positions and relations around the
MACOTI project

Indicator Result
All the stakeholders and their An important stakeholder
relationships were identified was not identified initially
Changes in stakeholders’ Yes
positions and relationships
along the process were known

The rapid stakeholder mapping carried out by the facilitator failed to identify one
key stakeholder who complained about being excluded. While this eventually did
not stop the process, it underlines the importance of gathering knowledge about the
stakeholders around a problem and their possible evolution in the course of the MSP.
Failure to consider important stakeholders can impair the legitimacy of a platform or
even prevent its establishment.

Objective 2. To define the objectives and design of the process with the participation
of the stakeholders

Indicator Result
Stakeholders’ interests and their
requirements to accept participation in the Yes
Technical Roundtable were identified
Technical Roundtable’s characteristics
Indicators Yes
include some stakeholders’ suggestions
Degree of acceptance of the Technical The process
Roundtable by the stakeholders was accepted
Less Tension, Limited Decision 183
Informal meetings were effective to check the proposal and include the
requirements of stakeholders to become involved in the Technical Roundtable.
Formal meetings succeeded to reach the commitment of all the important groups
to participate. However, it did not allow an in-depth revision of the proposed
The objectives and methodology were not questioned afterwards despite:
i) the fact that some stakeholders did not know the scope of the Technical
Roundtable at the beginning of its implementation; ii) the preparation meetings
were carried out with relatively few stakeholders. This stresses the importance of
the previous informal meetings that helped to identify the main hopes and fears
the stakeholders harboured with respect to the implementation of the Technical

Objective 3. To promote that representatives can adapt the methodology of the

platform during the process

Indicator Result
Revision of the methodology was
Efficiency allowed during the process
Indicators Methodological changes were introduced,
Few changes
based on stakeholders’ suggestions

The methodology was questioned during the implementation in an informal way.

There was no specific moment dedicated to discuss the methodology itself. However,
participants that gave opinions about it were not stopped by the moderator. Some
changes were introduced, based on outcomes of discussions in the group (e.g., the
composition of the group itself).

Objective 4. To make sure the Technical Roundtable process and results are
considered by the formal authorities

Indicator Result
Governorship and vice-Ministry
Efficacy supported the Technical Roundtable
Indicators The Municipal authorities considered
No (see general evaluation)
the results of Technical Roundtable

The Vice-Ministry gave its support to the Technical Roundtable from the
beginning. They coorganized its implementation (with Negowat) and leaned on
the Municipality of Tiquipaya to support it. The latter was fundamental to the
set-up of this platform, since it was the only organization with the legitimacy and
authority to convene the stakeholders to participate in the process.
184 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Objective 5. To promote that participants are genuine representatives and accountable
to their constituencies

Indicator Result
There is an agreement about the Yes, but not
procedure for appointing representatives accomplished
Constituencies’ knowledge
Indicators Not known
about the process
Constituencies ratify agreements
Not known
reached at the Technical Roundtable

The discussion about the procedure for appointing representatives to the Technical
Roundtable concluded with an agreement of formally nominating representatives,
but this was only accomplished by a minority among the stakeholder groups.
Most of the stakeholder groups were represented by their current leaders. The
decision-making procedure did not require consultation with constituencies
and the facilitators did not take action to inform the constituencies. When
asked about the way they informed their constituencies, several interviewed
representatives answered that they would wait until the conclusion of the
Roundtable process before informing them about the Technical Roundtable:
Others however reported that they informed them regularly about the Technical

Objective 6. To inform the public about the development and results of the Technical

Indicator Result
Direct participation of public allowed Yes, but no public came
Indicators The public received information
about the Technical Roundtable
Efficacy Public knowledge about the
In some cases
indicator Technical Roundtable

The actions taken did not succeed in keeping the public informed about the
Technical Roundtable. On the one hand, the planned open meetings did not gain
the interest of the public and on the on the other hand, the invitation to the media
(newspapers and television) did not elicit a positive response. As a result, the
Technical Roundtable was merely known to the representatives of the stakeholder
groups involved.
Less Tension, Limited Decision 185
Objective 7. To ensure that participants have adequate information and access to
human, material and financial resources for effective participation

Indicator Result
Efficiency The discussion process can
indicators be followed easily
Participants can visualize the
Not clearly
topics being discussed
Efficacy Participants are previously informed
Yes, written information
Indicators about the topics of the meetings
Participants have access to
Yes, through presentations
different professionals involved
and participation of experts
in the project and related issues
Participants give well-grounded
opinions about the treated issues

The facilitator supplied written information, made invitations to professionals with

expertise on the project and related themes, and provided communication materials
and equipment. Some presentations were not clear to the public. This led to many
questions from the participants, which in some cases were not satisfactorily answered.
The irregular attendance of many participants caused difficulties in the effective
supply of oral and written information.
Communication tools to help the discussion remain focused were not used
enough and, combined with the irregular attendance of many participants, led to
many interventions being not to the point, for example, somebody raising a point
on the financial part of the project while the point under discussion was about the
technical part. This caused a lack of focus and organization in the discussion and
many repetitions of similar arguments, which in turn made it difficult to discuss in-
depth a topic before moving to another.

Objective 8. To permit all participants to have influence in the decision making

Indicator Result
Participants can freely give opinions Yes, adequate moderation
Efficacy Participants agree with all
No, but decusuibs
indicator the decisions taken in the
are accepted
Technical Roundtable

While the set-up of the meeting allowed broad participation of the representatives,
some people evidently gave their opinions more frequently. The application of
participation rules was of great help in eliciting contributions from the others.
As the decisions were to be taken by consensus, it promoted a large discussion
about every topic during the meetings. This, combined with the lack of clear structure
to discuss every issue, caused a lack of time to discuss some topic sufficiently.
186 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Compliance with the Technical Roundtable General Objective

This section analyzes the accomplishment of the general objective. It can be broken
down into two aspects: the socialization of the project and the proposals to improve
the project.

Socialization of the project The socialization of the project was an aspect of

common interest to all the involved stakeholders. Though it was not possible to
make in-depth changes in the technical and financial aspects, a deeper understanding
of the project was reached. At the end of the process, the participants were able to
distinguish the positive and negative aspects of the project and did not reject it as a
whole anymore.
An indirect achievement of the Technical Roundtable was the improvement
in the relationship among the stakeholders with different positions regarding the
project. Against the initial doubts, the stakeholders have accepted to sit together
and review the MACOTI project in an atmosphere that became progressively more
peaceful. Though some stakeholders stated afterwards that their positions did not
change much, they were much more prone to dialogue than initially.

Propose changes to improve the project A weakness of the Technical Roundtable

was its moment of implementation: it was difficult to introduce changes in a project
already at the beginning of its implementation stage. With the exception of the
institutional part, very few changes were proposed.
The Technical Roundtable came up with two proposals for an institutional model
for the organisation that will manage the sewage system in Tiquipaya, which is
different of the initially proposed model for the MACOTI project. The weakness of
this proposal is that it was not discussed with the stakeholders of Colcapirhua.
In December 2004, a new municipal government was elected, and the new
municipal team did not feel compelled to implement the motions approved during the
roundtable. In 2005, the project also faced technical problems and significant delays
in its execution phase because of disagreements between the two municipalities, the
credit bank and the constructing and supervising companies.
In 2005 and 2006, the project management focused on the technical side. First, the
financial component, which had been discussed in detail during the Mesa Técnica,
was ignored by the Tiquipaya Municipality, which was eventually more interested
in building the project, and which expressed the idea of renegotiating the loan once
the project had been built. Second, because of the delays in the implementation, the
institutional component had not yet been tackled again in mid-2006. As a consequence
of all this, the motions that came out of the Mesa Técnica were not implemented.
Because of this, several participants were of the opinion that the technical roundtable
had turned out to be a mere simulacrum of participation.

The achievement of stakeholders’ objectives Stakeholders had different objectives

in relation with their engagement in the MSP. During the Technical Roundtable, the
following objectives were distinguished, which were reached in most of the cases.
Less Tension, Limited Decision 187
The objective of the Vice-Ministry was to boost the support for the project among
Tiquipaya inhabitants. The Technical Roundtable was seen as a way of reaching this
objective. Thus, the vice-Ministry provided organizational support and ensured the
presence of its representatives in all the platform meetings.
The Municipality of Tiquipaya also had the objective of executing the project as
soon as possible. It caused them to approach the implementation of the Technical
Roundtable with some distrust. Later on they accepted to support and participate
in the platform under pressure from the Vice-Ministry but kept their objectives in
mind. As reflected by one of their employees: ‘The Technical Roundtable served
to distract the stakeholders’ leaders while the execution of the project started’. Its
erratic participation in the meetings also reflects this position.
The group of organizations (OTBs and drinking water systems) that defended the
project sought to stop opposing groups form tabling modifications to the project that
would cause further delays in project execution. Thus, most of these organizations
participated in an irregular way or were absent.
The group of organizations that questioned the water project and decided not to
take part wished to introduce some changes in the project, especially the financial
aspect, on the basis of which they could contemplate returning to the project. This
interest promoted an active and constant participation of these organizations in the
platform, which made it more dynamic. This last group was the least satisfied with
the results of the Technical Roundtable, because of its lack of in-depth changes in the
technical and financial parts. They were, however, empowered to propose sizeable
changes in the institutional part.

General balance The MSP was built on Habermas principles (all stakeholders
should participate; the important is getting the communication right, etc.). However,
it appeared later that though power was fairly balanced between local communities,
important decision-makers such as FNDR or the construction and supervision
companies managed to remain uninvolved in the debate. In front of these actors,
probably a more strategic approach would have been needed.
Other major weaknesses were that the technical roundtable was set up when
the project was already at the beginning of its execution stage, which limited the
scope for change. Moreover, participants’ lack of capacity to criticize the technical
components of the project limited the possibilities to come up with significant
proposals for change on these issues. Finally, the municipality saw the MSP much
more as a way to ease tensions than as a real opportunity to improve the project.
However, it did manage to move from general judgments, even insults, between
local leaders and other representatives to quite detailed and positive discussions
on the different aspects of the project. Local leaders were capacitated about the
different components of the project, and a proposal for an institutional model for the
entity to be in charge of operating the water and sewerage system was formulated.
Finally, the reasons for not implementing the different motions – being the election
of a new municipal team in 2005, and delays in the execution of the project –
could not have been foreseen at the beginning of the Mesa Técnica. Therefore,
while results were limited, this MSP cannot be considered a mere manipulation
188 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Some Lessons Learned

The generic methodology presented in the first section of the document proved
useful to verify that all aspects were considered during planning, implementation
and evaluation. In turn, its practical application in this case helped us to improve
the list.
It was important to keep the structure of the platform flexible. The facilitator
made strong efforts to define the composition of the Technical Roundtable (number
and appointment of representatives) but at the end it was more useful to manage
the participation openly. This is not to say that it will be always the best solution: it
obviously depends on the particular situation.
Considering the dimensions of this project (USD2 million for the Tiquipaya
part) the cost of implementation of the Technical Roundtable was quite limited. That
justifies the conclusion that this process could have been planned during the design
stage of the project.
Finally, the main question that came out of this experience is whether MSPs are
relevant in context such as the one experimented in the Mesa Técnica, where important
power asymmetries appeared between local communities and larger government
agencies or companies. The Negowat team may have refused to facilitate an MSP
and may have supported some groups in their refusal of the project. However, with
such a conflict-based approach, the very interesting and constructive discussions
between supporters and opponents of the project on the institutional component,
would not have taken place. This leaves open the question whether it is possible to
mix an MSP with some strategic actions based on power asymmetry analyses.


John Butterworth from the IRC Water and Sanitation Institute offered some key
ideas for this document. Afterwards it was greatly improved using suggestions
made during a workshop held in December 2004 in Cochabamba. Special thanks
are expressed to Rocio Bustamante and Alfredo Duran from Centro AGUA, the
Negowat team in Brazil, and Jeroen Warner from Wageningen University.


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Chapter 12

Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in
the South African Water Arena
Eliab Simpungwe, Pieter Waalewijn and Bert Raven


The ambition of this chapter is to explore South Africa’s endeavours in implementing

Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs). This is achieved through analytical presentation
of lessons emerging from specific case studies undertaken in three different parts of
South Africa, where stakeholders are striving to respond to a government mandate
to engage in partnerships in developing strategies for managing their own catchment
water resources. South African experience illustrates the dilemmas a state may face;
when the emergence and functioning of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms is pursued
from the perspective of the state, as a democratisation and/or decentralisation
process, rather than from the perspective of the stakeholders themselves, as an
endogenous social movement by local stakeholders who decide to take control of
their natural resource management through institutions created by themselves for
themselves, to better their own lives and livelihoods. Furthermore the chapter strives
to demonstrate the complexity of achieving meaningful stakeholder participation
among different stakeholders coming from extremely diverse socio-economic and
cultural backgrounds, who share little or no common livelihood goals.
This exploration concludes that when MSPs emerge as a state initiative implemented
through the enactment of laws, all stakeholders come with ‘limitations’ in dealing with
the new arrangement. It is these ‘limitations’ that block a successful implementation
of Multi-Stakeholder Processes for Integrated Catchment Management. The State
therefore has a crucial role in developing new capacities to empower (all) stakeholders
to overcome their ‘limitations’ and become legitimate owners of the process. Each
group of stakeholders requires a different kind of empowerment according to its
own ‘limitations’ in understanding and being able to contribute effectively to the
partnership. Secondly, in order to maintain the commitment of stakeholders in terms of
both political and socio-economic support, water reforms should yield tangible results
that benefit the underprivileged in real terms.

Resolving Claims over a Vanishing Resource

South Africa is faced with an ever-increasing water scarcity situation and deteriorating
water quality. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) projects that
192 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
by 2025 South Africa will face physical water scarcity (Manzungu 2001). Covering
an area of 1,221,000 km2, South Africa lies in a semi-arid to arid subtropical climate
with a highly variable rainfall pattern and high evaporation rates. Average annual
rainfall is estimated at 497 mm per annum.1 Only 25% of South Africa’s rivers
are perennial most of which are irregular. Four major river basins, which together
cover about 60% of South Africa’s land area and account for around 40% of the
total surface runoff, are shared with neighbouring countries. With a combined mean
annual flow of 49 000 million m³ for all rivers in the country, South Africa is said
to have less than half the water yield flowing in the Zambezi River, the major river
closest to South Africa. Groundwater plays a pivotal role, especially in rural water
supplies. Nonetheless, the predominantly hard rock nature of the South African
geology means that only about 20% of groundwater occurs in major aquifer systems
(DWAF 2004).
Current water issues in the country include lack of important arterial rivers or
lakes, consequently requiring extensive water conservation and control (as a result
South Africa has resorted to dam building and extensive inter basin water transfers),
pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; sedimentation of
rivers and dams resulting from excessive soil erosion and an ever increasing water
demand threatening to outpace supply. For instance, over 50% of South Africa’s 45
million people reside in urban areas creating substantial demands for domestic water
and the low-income population continues to lay vociferous claims to their promised
25 litres per day per person of free water.
Like its people, South Africa’s water arena presents a troubled history. The
apartheid-government mooted legislations and laws that granted exclusive water
rights to a secluded group of white minority. The institutional development of the
water sector, as far back as the fifteenth century, had been characterized by restrictions
and inequitable distribution of the resource (Gakpo et al. 2001). A combination
of laws that allowed owners of properties adjoining a river to consequently gain
exclusive rights to use surface and underground water, together with a freehold land
tenure system led to heavily skewed access to water in favour of whites, a privileged
minority of private landowners (Findlay 1973; Rabies 1989).
Soon after the first democratic election in April 1994, the ANC-led Government
embarked on a democratisation of socio-economic institutions as means for improving
the lives of all South Africans. In the water arena, the 1998 National Water Act No.36
(NWA) became the main legal instrument aiming to ensure equitable, efficient and
sustainable management of water resources. The NWA was designed to replace the
formerly technocratic and centrally driven ‘command and control’ approach, with a
participatory and multi-stakeholder-driven system.

Institutional Water Management Environment in the New South Africa

Through the promulgation of the NWA in 1998, the government declared the
establishment of water management institutions and the ‘Catchment’ (a river
basin or watershed in South African usage) became the primary unit for water

1 This is well under the world average which is estimated at 860 mm per annum.
Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 193

Figure 12.1 Water management areas in South Africa

resource management. As a management strategy, South Africa was divided into

19 hydrological zones called Water Management Areas (WMA) whose boundaries
traverse provincial and local government boundaries (Figure 12.1). A WMA is a
large-scale contiguous region of the country, defined generally by macro-hydrological
boundaries, which provides the focus for national water balance planning under the
National Water Resources Strategy (DWAF 1998).
Within each of the Water Management Areas, a Catchment Management Agency
(CMA) is required to be established. A Catchment Management Agency is a self-
regulatory body with a Governing Board and an executive or administrative structure
that has the statutory responsibility, power and financial autonomy to perform a
range of catchment management functions in a declared Water Management Area.
CMAs become responsible for the implementation of Water Management Strategies
in their designated areas. To sufficiently allow for micro-level participation in the
establishment of CMA, DWAF has suggested the formation of a micro-level water
institution referred to as the Catchment Management Forum (CMF). A Catchment
Management Forum (CMF) is a non-statutory body, representative of stakeholders
and organs of state in a catchment or part thereof, which promotes catchment
management implementation through consensual participation. Even though there
is no specific mention of the CMFs in the NWA, they have become the first level of
participatory catchment management. The NWA also requires the formation of new
Water Users Associations (WUA) or transformation of the old water user boards
194 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
such as Irrigation Boards (IBs) that existed during the apartheid government, to be
reconstituted in accordance with the new regulations. A Water User Association
(WUA) is a statutory body, representative of water users in a declared Catchment
Management Area or part thereof, which has the power to develop and operate
individual water supply schemes or engage in any (operational) water-related
activity, states the NWA.
The Department of Water and Forestry (DWAF) was mandated to ensure the
implementation of this elaborate institutional framework. CMFs became the first
water management institutions to be established since as non-statutory institutions,
their establishment required no state registration and was not dictated by any
accompanying strict guidelines and stringent regulations. By the end of 2002, there
were 200 CMFs reported to have been established in various catchments (DWAF,
2002). The process of establishing CMAs and WUAs posed unsuspected challenges.
By the end of 2004, only three completed proposals for the establishment of CMAs
had been submitted to DWAF Head Offices. Six years since the promulgation of the
NWA, only one CMA (Inkomati Catchment) had been approved (DWAF 2003/2004
Annual report). As for WUAs, only 43 proposals for the transformation of the old
Irrigation Boards had been accepted by DWAF out of the 272 that were submitted by
the end of 2002. The main reason for the rejection of most proposals was attributed
to a poor public participation in the transformation process.
The NWA specifies a stakeholder approach, which recognizes the importance
of involving civil society, private sector, industry, NGOs and government
departments. Notwithstanding, South African water arena presents a complex
maze of structure, purpose and function, in which it is easy to get lost. While water
resource management is regulated by the NWA and falls under the jurisdiction
of DWAF and its participatory institutions, domestic water supply and sanitation
services are designed to be governed by a different Water Act (Water Services Act
of 1997) and controlled by provincial and counterpart local governments. Both
these legislations form channels through which the public may be participate in
water management. However it is still not clear how institutions governed by these
two pieces of legislation relate to each other considering that local governments
use political structures to achieve public participation while DWAF chooses to link
directly with civil society. Several other government departments control issues
which impact directly or indirectly on water resource management. For instance,
in the Inkomati catchment, the Department of Agriculture holds and manages
all irrigation permits for the previous Kangwane homeland. The Department of
Environmental Affairs and Tourism, which controls conservation-related issues,
also monitors estuaries and aquatic life. Different government departments have
delegated differing levels of management responsibilities to their respective
provincial and local government counterparts. Civil society is also engaged in water
management through their own institutions such as Farmers’ Unions, traditional
local water committees and other civil society lobby organisations such as the
South Africa National Community Organisation (SANCO). In addition, there is
also a number of private and public industries engaged in utilising water resources
that is too large to account here. Clearly, programmes and projects of each of
these organs do impinge on the overall management of the quantity and quality
Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 195
of water within a given catchment. The ambition of the NWA is to bring all these
organs to a consensual and collaborative management of water resources through
the prescribed institutions.

Stakeholder Participation at Micro-level

In South African water resource management framework, the notion of MSP can
be ascribed to the CMAs, CMFs and WUAs. This article will therefore use these
acronyms interchangeably with MSP. CMFs have emerged as the broad-based
micro-level ‘committees’ of stakeholders representing a wide range of users with
a stake in water within a designated catchment. The establishment of Forums in
each catchment is said to constitute the first level of cooperative governance. It
is the level at which community members forge partnership with government
departments, industries, private businesses, NGOs and WUAs that operate in the
catchment to negotiate the optimum utilization of catchment water resources.
One group of stakeholders at the micro level, whose participation the
government wants to ensure, is an emasculated group of stakeholders now
referred to as the Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDIs) or Previously
Disadvantaged Individuals (PDIs) (Faysse 2003; Mohammad et al. 2003). HDIs
are defined as South African citizens, who due to the apartheid policy had no
franchise in national election prior to the introduction of the Constitution of the
Republic of South Africa (Act 110 of 1993). Past apartheid policies completely
removed opportunities for consensual and mutual understanding among different
races. As a result, the marginalized groups, specifically the black majority, having
been excluded from decision making for a long time, were disenfranchised to the
extent that they are often unable to make a meaningful contribution to the current
situation without having to undergo some kind of capacity building.
The difficulty of achieving a well-balanced representation and active
participation of all stakeholders can be captured from the experience of establishing
CMFs in the Eastern Cape Province. An approach in Mthatha in which DWAF
took the initiative to establish a CMF with the help of consultants resulted in poor
participation from community members while a different approach in the Kat River
Valley, used by researchers from Rhodes University to facilitate an emergence of a
pro-poor community based CMF, resulted in poor participation from the government
and private sector. The Mthatha Catchment Management Forum (Mthatha
CMF), having been initiated by a government department, was characterized by
dominance of government and private sector organizations followed by a gradual
withdrawal of community representation. On the other hand, the emergence of
the Kat River Valley Catchment Management Forum (Kat CMF) placed greater
emphasis on social mobilization, ensuring that local people, including women,
were mobilized to take interest in their environment. Participatory Rural Appraisal
methods, including theatre, were used in this process (Motteux and McMaster
2002). The result was a high representation and active participation by community
members in the CMF but little interest from government and private sector.
In the Mthatha catchment, DWAF paid a consultant to function as a secretariat
and met the CMF’s running costs. With DWAF actively visible in the Mthatha
196 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
CMF, it is probable that the community viewed the CMF as a government
institution. Wester et al. (2003), commenting on the stakeholder participation in
river basin management in Mexico and South Africa, argue that in cases where the
process is driven by government agencies as the major stakeholders, the process
is essentially driven by a combination of technical and economic concerns and
interagency politics. In such approaches there is no room for less organized,
‘informal’ interests, especially poor people, to fully participate and gain access to
water resources. Wester et al.’s observation can be affirmed by a reaction made by
a community representative to the presentation of the Basin Study report made by
a consulting engineer to the second Mthatha CMF meeting. During that meeting,
community stakeholders complained that the presentation was just too technical,
such that it was difficult for them to assimilate, let alone translate the information
for their respective constituencies (DWAF 2001). On the other hand, the Kat CMF
where state organs and NGOs have shunned the initiative, exemplifies a situation
where state organisations view the CMF as an informal, community pressure group,
formed by community members to lay claims on their long lost entitlements.
Representatives from local communities join the Forums with anticipation
and great expectation of reaping practical benefits from the collaborative
initiative. Responses to interviews of local people pointed to the fact that local
people participated in expectation of action that would change their lives.
In Mthatha catchment for example, local people mentioned their desire for
better quality water, access to piped domestic water and agricultural land. In
the Kat River Valley Catchment, in addition to piped domestic water, local
people were concerned about the degradation of their environment and access
to agricultural land. Unfortunately however, government and NGOs attached
a different purpose to these Forums. They perceived them as platforms for
dialogue and planning, not for decision-making or implementation. DWAF
describes the intended purpose of CMFs as simply to initiate the participation
process that must underpin the establishment of CMAs (DWAF 1999, 2). It
is difficult to imagine how a process that makes demands on local people’s
time and money could attract their interest for the sake of dialogue as a form
of participation. The Kat CMF currently boasts a platform that has sustained
local people’s interest because it has managed to engage its membership in a
land-care project, which does not only address soil erosion problems in the
catchment but also provides an income to participants.
To further emphasize the hiccups and bottlenecks that can arise when bringing
together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, let us proceed with a visit to the
Komati Basin to explore the processes around the emergence of WUA’s and the
development of the proposals for the formation of CMAs. The Komati Basin is
a sub-catchment of the Inkomati Basin, an international basin that covers parts
of the Northeast of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. It is a warm and
humid region with huge economic interests. The largest water users are agriculture,
forestry and nature conservation (a part of the Kruger National Game Park falls
within the Inkomati Basin). The area has had a relatively short but intensive history
of struggle over water control. Virtually all commercial white farms in the area
are less than 100 years old. Like elsewhere in South Africa, their establishment
Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 197
ushered in the era of evictions, resettlements and displacement of local people to
Agriculture is by far the largest water user in this basin. The agricultural sector
can be roughly divided along the old apartheid boundaries whereby large commercial
enterprises are owned by white families located mainly in the downstream parts
of the catchment and recent (from the early 1990s onwards) government-initiated,
communal small-scale farming schemes for blacks were constructed along the
upstream banks near the homelands. In 1995, black farmers were allowed to join
the management structure of the local Irrigation Board. The Irrigation Board had
to transform to a WUA in line with the requirements of the NWA. Meanwhile,
stakeholders in the water resources of the catchment were also engaged in a process
of establishing a CMA.
The first striking observation that one makes in the Komati Catchment is the vast
asymmetry between two major stakeholder groups. White farmers are on average
highly educated entrepreneurs operating in a dynamic agricultural system. They are
historically a highly organized community who enjoy direct professional contacts
with government bureaucrats and have proven to be able to form effective lobbying
groups. Black farmers on the other hand tend to have a background of a poor
education system and high unemployment rates. Many of the current black farmers
were previously working on white farms as unskilled labourers and thus possess
limited farm business management skills. They have a far less developed political
and marketing network. Unlike their white colleagues, black farmers are largely
unaware of catchment-wide water management issues or legislative changes. Their
operations are distracted by numerous local problems, which include poor storage
facilities, lack or bad state of infrastructure, illiteracy, poor market access, etc.

The Difficult Birth of a WUA

In 1995, when small-scale farmers could join the Irrigation Board to which they
previously did not have access, three main problems emerged. The first was a
problem of representation. The Department of Agriculture without a clear mandate
or representative constituencies selected representatives for the black farming
community. As a result, many small-scale farmers felt poorly represented and were
confused about who to inform or to consult regarding water issues that bothered
them. Second, communal farmers had little knowledge of the basin’s issues and
suffered many hardships with their irrigation infrastructure. It was obvious that
they needed some education and lots of assistance. Their white colleagues, on the
other hand, were much experienced with problem solving and unless it was a major
problem, they were good at quick-fix approaches. This situation led to conflicts in
the board, more especially because both groups failed to understand each other’s
problems. The third problem was partly a consequence of the other two. It was a
problem of legitimacy. The Irrigation Board, though legislatively the lowest tier in

2 These were settlements established by the apartheid government for the habitation of
black people, They were largely marginal lands with limited socio-economic infrastructure.
As a result of emigration restrictions, these areas became extremely densely populated.
198 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
water management institutions at catchment level, is regarded in this region as a very
powerful body. It constitutes the traditional stronghold of white farmer’s autonomous
regulation. Historically, the apartheid government avoided meddling in the affairs
of such governing bodies of local economic structures as most group actions and
lobbying originated from them.
The Irrigation Board draws on many years of experience in executing day-to-
day water management operations. That history, however, also remains the main
drawback of the organization. The board is perceived to be a remnant of the apartheid-
era organizations, which are biased towards white command-and-control. There are
indications that many black farmers do not trust the Irrigation Board sufficiently
enough to contribute towards its management. It also appears that the transformation
process from the old Irrigation Board to the new WUA had not involved sufficient
public participation. As a result of inadequate representation, the vast majority
of small-scale farmers were unaware of the whole process. As evidence of this
assumption, DWAF Head Office rejected the proposal for the formation of a WUA
for the Komati basin, as it did to most of the proposals from across the country,
mentioned earlier in this chapter.

CMA Formation – Pathfinding?

Under the NWA, the inhabitants of a Water Management Area can draft proposals
for the establishment of a CMA. The Inkomati catchment was the first in South
Africa to have a proposal sent to the DWAF Minister. The process of putting the
proposal together was initiated by a group of commercial farmers way before the
promulgation of the NWA. They had realized that the NWA would severely limit
their autonomy and decided that forming a CMA offered the possibility to retain
relative independence from state interference in local water management. However
DWAF soon took over the process both in order to avoid the capture of the CMA
by a white minority and also in an effort to use the Inkomati as a pilot case for
implementation of its CMA policy. Thus the process of establishing the CMA in
Inkomati basin was often ahead of national legislation and planning.
In the early stages, stakeholder forums were established and representatives
were invited to the discussions. Numerically, there was a larger representation of
stakeholders from black communities. Forum discussions took about three years.
Some attendants of these forum discussions were appointed to become members
of steering committees that would lead the process of drafting a proposal under the
guidance of a consultant hired by DWAF. Many of the seats in steering committees
were logically, but problematically assigned to Irrigation Board members.
Problematically because the structure of the steering committees was not influenced
by the presence of large numbers of local black community participants.
Even though DWAF made serious efforts to include the stakes of small-scale
farmers in the forum discussions, a large majority of them were not aware of what
the CMA entailed and how they would benefit from it (Waalewijn 2002). This was
partly due to cultural and communication problems. The mode of communication
used by DWAF officials when dealing with water management issues was that
Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 199
which applied to the sensibilities of commercial farmers rather than small-scale
farmers. Consequently, DWAF could not achieve its good intentions of securing the
stakes of small-scale farmers. To most small-scale producers and representatives
of black communities, DWAF policies were not clear regarding the eradication of
past imbalances in water resource management. As far as they were concerned,
the role of DWAF as a facilitator was not clear enough to guarantee fair terms of
cooperation. This problem, combined with poor representative structures and the
hegemonic position of (some of) the commercial farmers, who desired co-optation
over cooperation, resulted in generating a proposal, which missed out concerns of
small-scale agricultural producers. The initial proposal for the establishment of the
Inkomati CMA was finally rejected by DWAF head Office because of its poor public
participation process.
DWAF participated as a stakeholder in the process of generating a proposal for
the formation of CMA. The majority of water management staff in the area was
employees of DWAF and in accordance with the NWA, they were to be assimilated
into the CMA. Besides being a crucial stakeholder, DWAF also facilitated the
process by coordinating meetings and appointing consultants to generate the
Both the commercial and small-scale farmers were apprehensive of this multiple
role of DWAF, that of overseer of water resources, facilitator of institutional
formation, as well as stakeholder. The apprehension was confounded by the distrust
that small-scale farmers held that stem from the suspicions that state organs carried
an institutional legacy of the past into present practices. Commercial farmers, coming
from a background in which they were dearly nurtured by the apartheid government,
shared a similar distrust in the present government organs.
Negotiations in the process of CMA formation were largely focused on
organizational issues such as the number of staff to be engaged and the size of the
offices. This was in spite of there being so many unresolved issues that affected a
large number of participants such as land claims made on most of the white farms,
unresolved compulsory water licensing procedures, controversial redistribution
of water in this water-stressed catchment, obfuscated environmental reserve, the
relationship of the CMA with other (trans) national bodies, etc.
In the Inkomati, the CMA had little legitimacy among the black community. With
little or no access to water, black communities did not see advantages of participating
in the CMA steering committee. Their representatives even contemplated to
completely withdraw from the process, having not seen any tangible benefits coming
out of it. However the process was fully acceptable to white farmers and DWAF
since on their part, they understood that the committee was only a negotiating body
and not a regulative or implementing body designed to yield immediate tangible
benefits. When the black community threatened to withdraw from the process,
DWAF started considering offering tangible benefits such as allocating more water
to emerging farmers, a solution which was to be largely temporal and could not
achieve the anticipated equity for all citizens in the catchment. Achieving equity
entailed serious re-allocation of water rights and land redistribution, a complicated
process that included involvement of many other actors as well as evoking the land
rights Act.
200 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
During the process of formation of the CMA, the tourist sector did not show
interest in being involved in water management, purporting that their activities
did not directly impact on river flow. Farmers however argued that a healthy
river and ecology was in the interest of the tourism industry too. Hence the
tourism sector needed to be represented in the CMA, more importantly, to be
listed as a financial contributor. These experiences indicate how membership of
an MSP can be contested (as white commercial farmers did), be necessary for
reasons of legitimacy (as in the case of small-scale black farmers) or be imposed
on a stakeholder out of financial motivations (as was required from the tourism

Challenges of Unity in Diversity

To further demonstrate how notoriously difficult stakeholder participation can

become in circumstances where participants have divergent livelihood goals, let
us explore the transformation of an Irrigation Board to a Water User Association
in the Lower Blyde River. Located in the Northern Province of South Africa, the
Blyde River catchment covers an area of approximately 200 km2. The Blyde River is
unique in the region because of its continuous flow of good-quality water.
Irrigation of white-owned commercial farms and domestic water use constitute
the two main competing water uses in the Blyde river catchment. The irrigation area
is located in the extreme north of the catchment. It covers an area of approximately
42,366 ha. Its importance is demonstrated by the fact that in 1997, its annual monetary
value of crops exceeded 50 million Rands (EIS 1997).
Piped domestic water is mainly supplied to residents of relatively wealthy white
communities and a few pockets of affluent blacks. Ninety percent of the population
of the catchment lives adjacent to these areas in densely populated compounds.
They occupy arid, dry marginal lands where little agriculture can be practiced.
There is poor socio-economic infrastructure and an anticipated high population
growth rate considering that 50% of the population is below 15. Approximately
10,000 people from these communities work as farm labourers on commercial
irrigation farms. Unemployment rates still remain at about 80% of the population.
Socio-economically, borders between the former homelands and white areas still
exist (USAID 2002).
Poor domestic water infrastructure is considered the most important problem
among the impoverished black communities. These communities depend on
groundwater for their domestic water supply. This groundwater is often saline and
polluted. Water is pumped from boreholes to reservoirs from where it then runs
to public village taps. Residents have to collect water from their nearest tap using
containers pushed on wheelbarrows. DWAF is still technically responsible for the
boreholes, even though it seems logical and more cost effective to delegate this
function to the local authorities. This water supply system is fraught with numerous
technical problems. The water supply systems are plagued with illegal water
connections, which disturb proper water-flow to public taps. When water supply
from boreholes fails, communities fall back on potentially highly polluted water
collected directly from the river.
Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 201
In addition to agricultural and domestic water users mentioned above, other
stakeholders in the wider area include the Phalaborwa phosphate mines that lie
further downstream, the booming sectors of (eco)tourism, private game farms,
nature conservatories (Kruger National Park, Biosphere Kruger to Canyon) and the
Maruleng local district municipality which is responsible for water and sanitation
services. Each one of these groups of stakeholders uses its own unique policies to
manage its own interests, creating an extremely diverse and dynamically complex
water management arena.
In January 2002, a WUA, a Multi-Stakeholder Platform in this regard was
established in the Blyde River Catchment. For a long time, white commercial
farmers worked in cooperation under their own Irrigation Board formed as
far back as 1952. The newly constituted WUA included three categories of
members; category A composed of affected parties such as industry and tourism,
category B were irrigation water users, mainly white commercial farmers and
category C composed of other water users such as municipalities and nature
conservationists. A Management Committee (MC) of 16 members runs the
affairs of the WUA and elects the Chairman and Deputy Chairman who serve for
a period of 12 months. Each category nominates its own representatives to the
MC. The constitution of the WUA provides that 12 of the 16 members on the MC
represent the white commercial farmers, 2 come from category A and 2 others from
category C.
The WUA is self-financed by its members through levies for water use, loans
and cost recovery systems. Only white commercial farmers are currently financing
the WUA, owing to their commercial activities. There was no representation from
emerging farmers because the irrigation scheme had not yet been inaugurated.
Representatives from category C are also constantly absent from meetings. A
municipal respondent argued that it was understandable for an understaffed
institution such as the municipality to stay away from WUA meetings in which
the main agenda was internal commercial farmer issues and the influence in the
decision making process on their part was minimal. This has left the WUA with
the old Irrigation Board membership. Thus it is difficult to differentiate the WUA
from the old Irrigation Board.
In 1997 the (former) Irrigation Board officially proposed to build a water pipeline
as replacement for the old canal system. The new South African government policy
had suspended all subsidies towards so-called ‘formerly advantaged’ irrigation
schemes. Therefore the pipeline project was to be privately financed by commercial
farmers with assistance from a commercial Bank.
The plan consisted of connecting a pipeline between the Blyde Dam and the
main irrigation network. The total length of the main network pipeline would cover
approximately 105 km, with pipe diameters varying from 1300 mm to 100 mm with
approximately 130 irrigation off-takes (EIS 1997).
DWAF’s interest in the pipeline was to save water, to empower formerly
disadvantaged people and the possibility of tapping domestic water from the same
pipeline. It was estimated that using the pipeline to supply irrigation water would
save an extra 10% of water. The saved water could then be channeled to a newly
established 800 hectares to be occupied by emerging black farmers. Based on this
202 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
interest, DWAF provided seed money for the pipeline prompting the bank to provide
the required loan.
Complicated implementation difficulties delayed the completion of the project
even stalling the work at some stage. The estimated costs to farmers reached R4000
per hectare from an initial estimated cost of R1500. It was clear that the burden of
loan repayment would rest upon financially endowed white commercial farmers.
Consequently, a number of commercial farmers withdrew their interest in the project
owing to its exorbitant cost. These difficulties pointed to a collapse of the project and
DWAF, motivated by its specific interest to attract formerly disadvantaged people
into active participation by empowering them decided to subsidize the project. It
was however clear that the major beneficiaries would be commercial farmers whose
position to use the facility was already well entrenched.
The supply of domestic water from the pipeline had created high expectations
and excitement among black communities. However, the modalities of how this
could be achieved could not be resolved. It was not even clear who was supposed
to effect this initiative. The municipality, to which most stakeholders looked up to,
had no human or financial capacity to undertake such a task. Consequently, the black
population remains further alienated and frustrated, seeing the pipeline come into
operation and yet still being left with their water predicament unresolved.


Lessons emerging from different regions in South Africa all confirm the difficulty
of establishing Multi-Stakeholder Platforms that begin to address issues affecting
all stakeholders. It is apparent that in countries grappling with issues of poverty
and where the largest population is largely dependent on agriculture, the ambition
for a Multi-Stakeholder Platform lies beyond mere dialogue and negotiation over
water resources. Sufficient mandate for MSPs that allows participants to voice their
concerns as well as take action, i.e. produce beneficial results, is desirable.
DWAF’s response for the Inkomati basin to consider allocating more water to
emerging farmers as a way of maintaining their interest in the local MSP initiative is
an indication that expert systems are beginning to learn the importance of setting the
purpose of an MSP as both a deliberative democratic initiative as well as a platforms
that produces tangible benefits to participants. Local people in the Kat river catchment
attached legitimacy to the Forum particularly because it implemented a Land-care
programme that addressed real issues and provided tangible benefits.
The South African case studies also reveal that MSPs can present a specific
advantage of social integration. Even if this exploration presents images of struggle,
capturing of institutions and co-optation, it is important to stress that a picture
where black versus white stakeholders and small-scale versus large-scale producers,
with groups bitterly opposed against each other, would be a misrepresentation of
the facts. The real situation in the Inkomati is such that people are slowly getting
used to working together. Irrigation Board members acknowledged that working
relations had gradually improved over the 5–6 years of co-governance. Some
mutual commercial initiatives have developed from a realization of interdependence
Multi-Stakeholder Dissonance in the South African Water Arena 203
of stakeholders. Poncelet (2001) has shown in his study of multi-stakeholder
partnerships, that collaborative processes constitute fertile ground for participating
actors to experience change in their subjective understandings of and relationships to
each other. The research strategy in Eastern Cape Province included joint workshops
with catchment tours between the Mthatha and the Kat CMF. The social learning that
resulted from this initiative created friendships between stakeholders from the two
catchments with a better-informed interpretation of problems among participants.
Thus MSPs provide a new arena that offers opportunities not only for negotiations
and conflict resolution but also opportunities for new alliances.
The South African experience also shows that MSPs present participants with
communication and interpersonal skills challenges. In Inkomati, DWAF staff readily
reckoned and sympathized with commercial farmers’ position because they spoke the
same language and had been to similar schools. DWAF staff however related poorly
to black emerging farmers since this group spoke no English and had little education.
This behaviour demonstrates the limited capacity of state agencies to become flexible
and innovative enough to stimulate genuine participation. In Mthatha catchment,
local community representatives felt left out in the process because the accepted
language of communication was English. It is such challenges that constitute some
of the limitations of stakeholders and impinge on the functioning of MSPs. At policy
level, DWAF seems determined to deal with these limitations. This is evident from
the number of workshops on participation and personal transformations being held
for government staff and the production of guidelines on participation (e.g. DWAF
As Multi-Stakeholder Platforms continue to emerge in different styles in the
various catchments in South Africa, policymakers and water resource management
experts in South Africa admit that it will take a while before the concept and practice
of participatory basin management is properly resolved and understood (Republic of
South Africa, 2000; see also Raven, Warner and Leeuwis 2006).


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Sciences in Tropical Land Use, Wageningen University.
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Representation in River Basin Management in Mexico and South Africa’, World
Development, 31 (5), pp. 797.
Chapter 13

Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs –

Unfulfilled Potential
John Dore


Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) are a technology for democratic governance

which can assist society to reflect on the wisdom of past actions, more
comprehensively explore and assess future options, and more openly negotiate
workable strategies and agreements. The central ingredient is informed debate
which gives ample opportunity for learning and possible reshaping of opinion.
This may lead to the creation or strengthening of bridges of understanding between
actors representing wide-ranging interests, and the satisfactory resolution of at
least some differences. The MSP may also bring into sharper focus substantive
differences of approach and priorities that may not be easily reconcilable. Either
way, by articulating these differences in the public sphere, an MSP can contribute
to a sounder basis for charting a forward path.
The vision for MSPs put forward in this chapter is for important transboundary
water-related governance, affecting Mekong Region livelihoods and ecosystems,
to be more informed and influenced by public deliberation. In this vision MSPs
would be accepted as a legitimate element of governance, providing a mechanism
for many different stakeholders in the State-society complex to explain, defend
and potentially adjust their perspective.
This is not a utopian vision constructed in ignorance of the daunting
Mekong Region political context where many substantive decisions are made
without an airing in the public sphere. The power relationships embedded in
this context, within and between countries, undoubtedly influence the extent
that meaningful MSP participation and negotiation is possible. But, it is noted
that there are some inspirational examples of MSPs at the local and national
scales. The contention is that regional water-related MSPs could also display
desirable characteristics, more conducive to socially just and ecologically
sustainable development.
This chapter unfolds in the following way. First, the Mekong Region is
introduced. Second, the relationship between governance and MSPs is made clear.
Third, the existing diversity of regional water forums in the Mekong Region is
shown, but no claim is made that all ‘earn the label’ of MSP. Some of the most
prominent forums are discussed. Some issues are of region-wide significance,
still others: transboundary, transborder, crossborder, or interbasin. This chapter
206 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
uses the term ‘regional’ to encompass any issue involving at least one of these
characteristics. Fourth, some key challenges for MSPs are identified, evident
from current practice and debate. Finally, I point to several major infrastructure-
heavy, mega-projects with transboundary dimensions. These include current
plans for large-scale hydropower development in China’s Yunnan Province, a
hydropower-reliant energy grid being promoted via the Association of South
East Asian Nations and the Asian Development Bank, a multi-faceted water grid
being explored by the Government of Thailand, and a ‘regional water stategy’
being developed by The World Bank. The governance of each would be enhanced
by a high-quality, transboundary MSP.
The core argument is that MSPs have unfulfilled potential in the Mekong
Region, within but also well beyond the realms of water-related governance.

The Mekong Region

The Mekong Region comprises the five countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR,
Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam – plus China’s Yunnan province (see Table 13.1
and Figure 13.1). The territorial area is 2.3 million km2, which is home to a
rapidly growing population of about 255 million people. Since the early 1990s
the region is enjoying an unprecedented period of relative peace between the
countries. This is remarkable, given the tumultuous recent history of the region,
and becomes particularly relevant to regional governance and the prospects for
regional MSPs.
The present dynamic of the Mekong Region is heavily influenced by its shared
and overlapping regional history. As with elsewhere in the world, the borders of the
modern nation States do not neatly subdivide cultural affiliations. The numerous
indigenous cultures of the region were heavily influenced by a fusion of Indian and
Chinese (Han) culture beginning two thousand years ago. The Mon, the Karen,
the Chin, the Burmese, the Kachin, the Khmer, the Tai, the Viets, etc. had their
languages, religions and other customs heavily shaped, whilst of course retaining
their own distinctive elements.
Significant parts of the region were isolated for much of the latter half of the
twentieth century as a result of a series of wars and internal turmoil. In the last 70
years the Mekong Region has been a battlefield for the Second World War, post-
Second World War independence struggles against colonial powers, ideological
struggles between the communists of Vietnam-Cambodia-Lao PDR (and their
allies, including at different times the former Soviet Union and China) versus other
parts of Mekong societies and the USA (who had another wide range of ‘allies’).
New nation States were created in Myanmar in 1948, China in 1949, Vietnam and
Lao PDR in 1975, and (effectively) Cambodia in 1993.
In the last 25 years there have been various invasions and skirmishes between
Cambodia and Vietnam, China and Vietnam, Thailand and Lao PDR, and Thailand
and Myanmar. These and the earlier conflicts have left many scars and continue
to influence regional perceptions. For example: Thais are constantly reminded of
their wars with the Burmese, people from Lao PDR remember various interfering
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 207

Figure 13.1 Mekong Region

Source: United Nations map number 4112, Revised January 2004.
208 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 13.1 Mekong Region country overview

Cambodia Chinaa Lao PDR Myanmar Thailand Vietnam

(x 1,000km2) 181 9,561 237 677 513 330
Population 13.4 1,285.0 5.4 48.4 63.6 79.2
($ billion) 3.4 1,159.0 1.8 4.7b 114.7 32.7
GDP per 1,790 3,950 1,540 1,500b 5,230 2,070
head ($
in PPP)c
Median age 17.5 30.0 18.5 23.4 27.5 23.1

a The data concern China as a whole (minus Hong Kong and Macau). Yunnan has a
population of approx. 43 million people (2000 census) of which more than one third
are ethnic minorities. It is the 8th largest province in China, covering an area of
394,100 km2. It shares 4,060 km of border with Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam.
Whilst the Yunnan economy is growing fast, the province remains relatively poor
compared to China’s eastern and coastal regions. In 1997 36% of the population was
classified by China’s government as still living in poverty (annual income less than
USD 77).
b An estimate as official Myanmar economic data are unavailable or unreliable.
c PPP refers to purchasing power parity, which adjusts for cost of living

Source: The Economist (2004). Data refer to the year ending 31 December 2001.

forces which made for a long hard revolutionary road, Cambodians remember
the Vietnamese territory encroachments and military invasions (or liberation from
the Khmer Rouge), and the Vietnamese remember Thailand providing air bases
for enemy bombers during their struggle with the USA. Sometimes these past
enmities are unnecessarily stirred by elites appealing to nationalism for various
political purposes.
Current social and economic conditions, ethnicity, intra-regional and international
negotiating powers all vary enormously. Aggregated national statistics do not
adequately reflect the cultural and political diversity of the region, nor the gender
and environmental complexity, but they do highlight some obvious similarities and
differences (see Table 13.1).
The Mekong Region is taken to encompass the territory, ecosystems, people,
economies and politics of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and
China’s Yunnan Province.
In the Mekong Region, disparate regionalisms have emerged from desires
related to peace, poverty reduction, disease control, infrastructure installation,
drugs, wealth-seeking, and preference for ecoystem approaches, all of which
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 209
may favour a regional logic which transcends State borders. These are reflected
in various political solidarities between actors in the State-society complex –
whether governments, bureaucrats, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the
private sector, militaries, ethnic minorities, or lobby groups.1 These are manifested
in an array of regionalisations, identifiable via many regional organisations,
initiatives, networks and coalitions. Actors in old and new regionalisations are
learning how to co-exist, compete or combat with each other.2

Water Concerns

One of the key social challenges for the region is to negotiate the reasonable
and equitable utilisation of water.3 The major river basins of the region – from
west to east – are the Irrawaddy, Salween, Chao Phraya, Mekong and Red (see
Table 13.2).4 Conflicts exist and others are looming,5 over many, often-connected
issues, such as: growth in water and energy demand, interference with natural
flows via dams, timing of dam releases for energy or irrigated production, water
diversions, altered sediment and nutrient loads, and reshaping rivers to rivers to
make navigation easier and safer.

1 The concept of the State-society complex resonates well in the Mekong Region. It
transcends the more simplistic notion in which actors have often been classified as either
State, business, or civil society. Such a classification ignores many other key groups, such as
the military and donors/funders, implies homogeneity within groups, and ignores multiple
roles. For example, business or military actors may dominate government.
2 The conceptual difference between regionalisms and regionalisations is elaborated
by Schulz et al. 2001. The point has been made that ‘the identification of new patterns of
regionalisation (co-existing with older forms) is more relevant than attempting to identify a
new era of regionalisation’ (Hettne 1999, 8). The later section distinguishing between Tracks
1–4 is an attempt to do just that.
3 There are many other challenges which transcend Mekong Region borders, such
as: pressures on forests and biodiversity, ethnic minority marginalisation, labor migration,
human trafficking, HIV-AIDS, narcotics, dealing with the pressure to embrace agriculture
biotechnology including genetically modified crops, and other impacts of international
economic integration (see Mingsarn Kaosa-ard and Dore 2003).
4 The Salween, Mekong and – to a lesser extent – the Irrawaddy have their flow
influenced by the annual Himalayan/Tibetan snow melt, in addition to the monsoon rains. The
Chao Phraya and Red are shorter rivers which originate below the snowline, hence their flow
is dependent on the monsoonal climate. Across the region, there are also countless sub-basins,
natural lakes, aquifers, and human-built dams and reservoirs. Plus there are many coastal river
basins, some of which are quite large. Collectively, they comprise the visible and accessible
freshwater ‘life source’ or ‘resource’.
5 I agree with the view that non-violent ‘conflict is not necessarily bad, abnormal or
dysfunctional’, but rather an inherent element of human interaction (Moore 1986) due to the
common incompatibility of goals, interests, perceptions or values. However, many Mekong
actors prefer to speak of disputes, or differences, as the English word conflict is tainted by bad
memories of the particularly troubled, not too distant past.
210 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 13.2 Major river basins of the Mekong Region

River basin Unit Irrawaddy Salween Mekong Chao Red

Countries China, China, Cambodia, Thailand China,
in basin Myanmar Myanmar, China, Vietnam
Thailand Lao PDR,
Basin area km2 413,710 271,914 805,604 178,785 170,888
Ave. water Million 410,000 151,000 475,000 29,800 177,000
yield m3/ y
Average people 79 22 71 119 191
population / km2
Water m3 / cap 18,614 23,796 8,934 1,237 3,083
supply / year
Large cities >100,000 6 1 9 3 3
in the basin people

Source: Water Resources e-Atlas (WRI, UNEP, IWMI, IUCN), and Mekong Region
Environment Atlas (ADB and UNEP 2004)

Governance and MSPs

Although the English word ‘governance’ has been in existence since at least the
14th century, its use was limited and for a lengthy time rather unfashionable. In the
latter part of the 20th century the word had been widely resurrected ‘as something
of a catch-all’ (Mehta et al. 1999, 18) helping explain a more complex world,
where there is:

… a growing role of active and skillful publics and their protests ... [and] greater salience
of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporations, professional societies …
[and] many other new actors now crowding the global stage (Rosenau 2004, 11).

MSPs are just one part of governance where actors with either a right, risk or
general interest (stakeholders) are identified, and usually through representatives,
invited and assisted to interact in a deliberative forum, aiming for all participants
to learn, understand alternative perspectives, and possibly negotiate workable
strategies and agreements (see Figure 13.2). An MSP may involve regular
meetings between core participants, conferences/discussions open to the wider
public, locally hosted field visits, electronic exchanges, government briefings,
films, plays, historical texts, testimony, or commissioned research. MSPs (the
term Dialogues is also commonly used; this is synonymous with the platform
conception) have been defined as:
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 211

Figure 13.2 Key concepts of MSPs

…a contrived situation in which a set of more less interdependent stakeholders in some

resource are identified, and, usually through representatives, invited to meet and interact
in a forum for conflict resolution, negotiation, social learning and collective decision
making towards concerted action’ (Röling 2002, 39).
Table 13.3 Desirable MSP characteristics
Desirable context
Well-intentioned Catalysed by a genuine need or desire to do something constructive about a complex situation or problem.
Clear purpose, and scope Clear articulation of: MSP purpose; political and practical boundaries to enquiry; the derivation, extent and duration
of mandate; and justification as to how the MSP might improve existing governance.
Sufficient political support Sufficient political space and momentum to permit or encourage establishment and support.
Sufficient time Sufficient time for the MSP to make its contribution/s.
Sufficient resources Adequate resources to pursue and achieve goals, including human, financial, informational, and intellectual.
Appropriate levels and scales Cognisant that analysis and action may best occur at various levels and scales. The appropriate level for one MSP may be predominantly within government, for another at
the local community. The appropriate scale of analysis may be local, provincial, watershed, national, basin, regional; however, cross-scale issues may also be important.
Desirable process
Inclusive Enables ‘representation’ of a wide range of ‘stakeholders’ and their disparate interests via a flexible process which may have many different facets
Facilitated Exemplifies, to the extent possible, a fair and forward moving process, guided by an independent facilitator committed to transparency
Ethical Respectful of diverse ‘ethics’ – ways of reasoning, world views and priorities of actors. However, also committed to privileging ‘goods’,
such as: respect and care for life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice; democracy, non-violence and peace.*
Both visionary and focused Encourages expression of alternative views of preferred, long-term visions for people and places, whilst also identifying and focusing on key issues.
Holistic Takes an integrated or holistic view of issues taking account of: social, cultural, economic and ecological issues, their actions and interdependencies.
Informed Utilises and shares the best available information, building the knowledge base. Whilst not essential to be integrated with
them all, the MSP should become familiar with other relevant forums, plans, agendas etc..
Deliberative Induces reflection upon preferences, without coercion, by representatives of competing points of view.
Communicative Effectively communicates high-quality, honest information to MSP participants, and the wider public sphere, State or transnational authorities.
Desirable outcomes
Options assessed Assesses nuances of positive and negative aspects of alternative options.
Rights and risks established Acknowledgement and scrutiny of the multiple rights and risks (borne voluntarily or involuntarily) of stakeholders.
More understanding More learning, understanding and appreciation by all of the positions of other stakeholders.
Workable agreements Depending on the mandate, negotiation of workable strategies and agreements for proposing to decision makers.
Discursive legitimacy MSP earns legitimacy by demonstrating these desirable characteristics!
Constructive influence Has a constructive influence on the situation, enhancing the overall governance.

* These are the pillars of the Earth Charter (ECC 2000) which resonate well with the author. However, there are many other examples of ethical/moral
frameworks to which actors may aspire, whether determined by religon (eg. Buddhist teachings), secular norms (eg. UN Declaration of Human Rights),
ecocentricity (eg. Ecosystems Approach), or livelihoods (e.g. Sustainable Livelihoods Approach).

Sources: Adapted from Dore and Woodhill (1999:43 ES), Dovers and Dore (1999: 128), with additional ideas from Dryzek (2000, 2001).
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 213
But, a problem with Röling’s definition is the inclusion of decision making in the
remit. Many MSPs are not vested with, nor do they claim, decision-making authority.
To claim such authority may invite resistance and be counter-productive. Hemmati
is aware of the danger of including decision-making. She has described MSPs as a
‘political phenomenon’ which: ‘… aim to bring together all major stakeholders in a
new form of communication, decision finding (and possibly decision making) on a
particular issue’ (2002, 63). Supporters of MSPs believe:

… there is integral value in messier, participatory arenas which value negotiating and
social learning within a more open democratic process which encourages exploration and
bounded conflict (Dore et al. 2003, 176).

An important characteristic of MSPs is that they be a site of ‘authentic deliberation,6

meaning debate between people with different world views and prioities which
‘induces reflection upon preferences in non-coercive fashion’ (Dryzek 2000, 2). But,
there is a range of other desirable characteristics for each of context, process and
outcomes which are introduced in Figure 13.2 and elaborated in Table 13.3.

Water Governance Forums in the Mekong Region

In all the waters of the Mekong Region, local communities, governments, civil
society organisations (local, national, regional and international), business interests,
donors and international agencies have interests which they wish represented in
governance. Few would claim that historical or current regional water governance
is adequate, which partly explains the interest of some actors – but not all – to make
‘genuine’ MSPs part of regional governance orthodoxy. There is a hope that using
MSPs may contribute to greater transparency, and more informed, and equitable
For now, there are many regional water-related governance forums, but few
MSPs. How might they be better understood? While some of them are ‘old’ style,
State-centric and grounded in State interventions, others are qualitatively different
and ‘new’ with lead roles being taken by non-State actors. The new wave of younger
regionalisations is coexisting with older types. The terminology of tracks 1–4 is one

6 To the deliberative democrat, John Dryzek, deliberation is ‘multifaceted interchange

or contestation across discourses within the public sphere’ (2001, 652) where discourses are
seen as ‘shared sets of assumptions and capabilities embedded in language that enables its
adherents to assemble bits of sensory information that come their way into coherent wholes’
(1999, 34). MSPs provide a mechanism for such ‘contestation across discourses’. In so doing,
they are in accord with the social learning perspective, the ‘building blocks’ of which are: the
constructivist paradigm, an orientation towards reflection and action, and commitment to a
holistic approach (Maarleveld and Dangbegnon 2002, 70–75). Just as MSPs are diverse in their
purpose and emphasis, so is the ‘broad church’ (Hay 2002:208) of constructivism which ‘both
seeks and serves to restore politics and agency to a world often constituted in such a way as to
render it fixed and unyielding’ (2002, 201). So it can be seen that deliberative democrats, the
social learning school, and constructivists have much in common. Each approach emphasises
the role of ideas as significant in reshaping the world.
214 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 13.4 Goverance forums – Tracks 1–4

Track 1 Track 2 Track 3 Track 4

Summary Formal and Governance Research, Civil society
informal processes dialogue and organisations
processes of involving advocacy supporting
governments State, UN efforts led (where
and associated family, by civil possible)
bureaucracy, donor/lender, society, less locally-led
including civil society, impeded by or governance
inter- and interactive subordinate to processes.
intra- State forums but State actors.
forums. In led by an
the eyes of actor closely
States these aligned with
are ‘official’ States ensuring
and most States remain
legitimate. privileged
In eyes of Official Semi-official Unofficial Unofficial
Dominant For the most Trying to Activist, Activist,
logic part, still enhance the optimistic localist; low
implicitly effectiveness about the expectations of
accepting the of States by potential of State capacity
dominance widening the MSPs to find and intent;
of rational, field of ideas and assist more explicit
self-interested and influences. negotiate concerns
behaviour, better ways about power
particularly in forward for imbalances,
international society. domination
affairs. and cooption.

Source: Adapted from Dore (2003: 412)

way of differentiating the forums. Track 1 depicts the ‘old’ type of forum. But the
spectrum in the Mekong Region has widened to now include more examples akin to
tracks 2, 3 and 4.
Each of the Tacks 1–4 can be discerned at the local/national scale, and also
the regional scale. Each can adopt an MSP approach to address any particularly
complex problem. However, at the regional scale in the Mekong Region, Track 1
has shown little inclination to use an MSP approach, mostly remaining hostage to
the ‘traditional’ political norms manifested in international diplomacy and national
conventions where State actors see themselves as the only legitimate representatives
of a country’s citizens – in water issues, self-interested State approaches dominate.
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 215
Track 2 and track 3 are more likely to take an MSP approach to tackle regional
issues. Track 4 users are more likely to see regional platforms as advocacy stages.
As with track 1, in track 4 the multi-stakeholder and deliberative elements tend to be
downgraded, with other political strategies and approaches being considered more
effective (see Table 13.4).
To illustrate the present situation, in the next few pages I will refer to a sample of
the wide array of regional water governance forums in the Mekong Region.7 There
is plenty of room for improvement, and no shortage of regional opportunities to
experiment more with an MSP approach.

Track 1

There are many Track 1 water-related governance forums in the Mekong Region
(see Table 13.5). Within countries the State government and bureaucracies dominate
water governance. There are also many bilateral negotiations between government
representatives which are pure Track 1, vitally important, but not the focus of
this chapter. The comments here are restricted to the most obvious transboundary
example, that being the Mekong River Commission (MRC) which has a State
government mandate in the Lower Mekong Basin (the territory of the Mekong River
Basin, excluding Myanmar and China).
The 1995 Mekong River Agreement (Governments of Cambodia-Lao PDR-
Vietnam-Thailand 1995) created a formal inter-government forum committing
signatories to cooperate in all fields of sustainable development, utilisation,
management and conservation of the water and water-related resources of
the Mekong River Basin, including but not limited to irrigation, hydropower,
navigation, flood control, fisheries, timber floating, recreation and tourism. The 1995
Agreement put water utilisation negotiations and basin development planning on
the agenda. Amongst others, a third agenda item which has emerged is the need for
transboundary environment assessment in the Mekong Region. Various dialogues
– relatively exclusive – are occurring around each of these tasks. None resemble
ideal-type MSPs.
Thus far, all have been primarily the domain of State agency officials, international
donor representatives, many international consultants, and just a few local consultants.
If you believe that these actors will adequately represent the interests of all Lower
Mekong country citizens, such exclusiveness may be untroubling. However, many
local and international actors do not have such confidence and are pressing the MRC
secretariat to be more inclusive, meaning greater involvement of civil society, and to
allow for more open to alternative knowledge and ideas. This is not so easy for the
secretariat to do, as to a large extent their scope is set by their governing Council,

7 Whilst this chapter is focused on the regional scale, it is not meant to deny or
overshadow the existence of an equally diverse plethora of water governance forums focused
on the national and sub-national scales. Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 are also discernible at these scales.
To acknowledge these, some promising national/sub-national MSP examples are included in
the section discussing Track 3. These examples are provided partly to inspire transboundary
efforts which could be similarly motivated and constructed.
216 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
and most of the staff – from either riparian countries, or international recruits – are
understandably cautious about moving out of synch with national processes. There
is insufficient political support from the member States for the MRC to be proactive
in controversial areas. Member States continue to act unilaterally whenever possible,
and either bilaterally (stronger members – Thailand and Vietnam) or multilaterally
(weaker members – Lao PDR and Cambodia) as a last resort. Nevertheless, some
complex interdependencies and donor support keep the MRC cooperation alive.
The fact that China and Myanmar are not members of the MRC further cripples
the organisation, particularly at a time when China is building a substantial cascade
of dams on the upstream portion (Dore and Yu Xiaogang 2004). A united front from
MRC member countries towards effective dialogue with China has also been scuttled,
at least in part by effective bilateral diplomacy by the Chinese circumventing and
undermining the MRC forum. China has demonstrated considerable power and
influence over downstream countries to stop protests emanating from MRC.
Indicative of the marginalisation of the MRC within some of its own member
States, the commission was also excluded from playing any role in the track 1 forum
which negotiated the signing of a commercial navigation agreement for the Mekong
River, between the four upstream riparian countries (Governments of China-Lao
PDR-Myanmar-Thailand 2001). The signatories, from transport and communication
ministries, have since presided over the installation of Chinese-funded extensive
new navigation aids, and blasting of rocky navigation impediments. Improving
the navigability of the river, and the alteration to the natural flows – depending
on the operations of the hydropower dams – will come at a cost to the integrity
of the ecosystem, with as yet unquantified livelihood costs for river-dependent
It would be reasonable to expect some level of protest, or at least enquiry, from
downstream government elites via their river basin commission. However, Cambodia
has pragmatically accepted Chinese offers for railway support in exchange for
muting its disquiet. Similarly, the Thailand government and associated bureaucracy
has also refrained from supporting the MRC to become more proactively involved,
accepting boat-building and river transport contracts from the Chinese, whilst at the
same time continuing with plans for more tributary interventions of their own. Lao
PDR is caught in the middle of the navigation project between China and Thailand,
unempowered and with few obvious benefits to the country.
The MRC will not proactively lead any MSP process relating to Thailand’s
resurgent plans for water resources development, which have Mekong (and other)
basin implications. Thailand’s reluctance to publicly share its national water
resources development agenda with neighbours caused a crisis in the Mekong River
cooperation in the early 1990s (Bui Kim Chi 1997, 302–316). More than ten years
later the MRC secretariat is still unable or unwilling to provide any comment on
the the basin-wide, cross-basin and cross-border implications of various Thailand
development possibilities. Of course, influential actors in Lao PDR, Vietnam – and
to a lesser extent Cambodia – have plans of their own which are already substantively
changing the river basin.
The MRC has also struggled to sustain a proactive role in a recent high profile
conflict between Cambodians and Vietnamese caused by loss of life and other
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 217
problems stemming from the operation of the Yali Falls dam, situated on a stretch of
the Se San River in Vietnam’s territory. In theory, MRC would be able to play a key
role in fostering deliberative processes which could lead to more informed decision
making. In practice, due to a lack of political support, it has not yet been possible
for the MRC secretariat to countenance leading MSPs which are fully informed and
holistically assess all options.

Track 2

Relevant to the Mekong Region are the Track 2 forums led or inspired by groups
such as the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP), that have convened meetings exchanging information on issues such
as water allocation policies and practices in Asia-Pacific, including all Mekong
countries (ESCAP 2000). Between 2000 and 2005 ESCAP has continued leading
national ‘strategic water planning’ processes in partnership with others, such as
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Slightly less formal have been the track 2
regional forums held under the auspices of the Global Water Partnership, namely the
Southeast Asia Regional Dialogue on Water Governance in 2002, and the ensuing
South East Asia Water Forum in 2003. Both the ESCAP and GWP forums mostly
involve government officials, UN agencies, natural sciences technical experts and
international NGOs. Thus far there has been virtually no participation by local civil
society (see Table 13.5).
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is also initiating track 2
water governance initiatives as the key component of its new ‘Asia-Pacific’ (but
Mekong Basin focused) Regional Environmental Governance program, attempting
to play the role of honest broker facilitating between governments, communities and
different interest groups, and/or capacity building others (such as the various parts
of the Mekong River Commission) to do the same. UNDP have yet to prove they can
catalyse and sustain Mekong Region MSPs, but they now have another chance.
The most important of the Track 2 regional initiatives is the ‘Greater Mekong
Subregion’ (GMS) economic cooperation initiative facilitated by the Asian
Development Bank (ADB). This GMS programme has brought together the six
countries to focus on the coordinated development of infrastructure (ADB 2001,
2002). Many ‘master plans’ have been completed which are unrealistic dreams, or
visionary guides, depending upon your point of view.
The GMS program was endorsed at the November 2002 summit meeting
of the political leaders from each of the Mekong Region countries. The forward
workplan at that time outlined ‘flagship projects’ requiring more than $900 million
in investment financing and almost $30 million in technical assistance. The flagships
are intended as multi-disciplinary, large-scale interventions with high visibility and
significant economic impact on the GMS economies. There are 11 projects relating
to: north-south, east-west and southern economic corridors (roads plus associated
infrastructure); completion of a regional telecommunications ‘back bone’;
regional power grid completion plus power trading arrangements; private sector
‘participation and competitiveness’ boosting; cross border trade and investments
support; implementing a region-wide Strategic Environmental Framework (SEF)
218 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 13.5 Recent regional water-related governance forums (Tracks 1–2)

Track 1 Track 2
Mekong River Commission ESCAP technical meetings about water
inter-government processes allocation policies, GMS development
between Cambodia, Lao PDR, cooperation 2001–2009 etc.
Thailand and Vietnam. Global Water Partnership regional
Negotiations between transport ‘dialogues’, such as the Chiang Mai
ministries leading to signing of 1st South East Asia Water Forum
Navigation Agreement between 2003, and Bali 2nd South East
China, Burma/Myanmar, Lao Asia Water Forum 2005, building
PDR and Thailand 2000, and on earlier national dialogues.
subsequent river modifications. UNDP Asia-Pacific regional
Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) environmental governance initiatives
Leaders Summit 2002 which signed 2004+ inc. support to Mekong
an agreement to establish an electricity River Commission and crossborder
grid between Mekong Region and local community ‘dialogues’.
some other ASEAN countries. Asian Development Bank
ASEAN Mekong Basin Development (ADB) processes, such as:
Cooperation 1996+, thus far □ the GMS program of economic
focused on railway, not water. cooperation activities 1992+
Bilateral negotiations between □ development of the Strategic
governments, such as: Environment Framework
□ Thailand with its neighbours (SEF) for the GMS 2001+
over proposed water diversions and □ fostering establishment of Tonle Sap
associated dam and tunnel constructions lake/basin management authority 2004+
□ Vietnam and Cambodian □ review of ADB policy on
governments formal meetings decision-making about large scale
over Se San River dams water resources projects 2005+
downstream impacts 2000+

(SEI et al. 2002); and supporting country efforts to control floods and ‘manage’
water resources; and tourism.
The main participants in the GMS initiative are State government representatives,
ADB bank officials and consultants. A significant role is also played by shareholder
member governments that contribute financially to the Bank, principally USA and
Japan. The latter augments its influence via extra mechanisms such as the Japan
Special Fund. A primary aim is to entice the private sector to become more involved
either supplying funds (eg. money market) or implementing projects. In recent years
civil society has taken an active role on the periphery of this Bank-led process eg.
parallel forums coinciding with the annual meeting of the Bank’s Board of Governors
etc. Civil society has faced the question of whether to become more involved with
ADB or to maintain its critical advocacy from outside. Critical advocacy has resulted
in changes to the ways in which the GMS program operates, in particular with regard
to transparency, expansion into social areas such as health, and willingness to engage
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 219
with non-State actors. However, insiders admit that the ADB still struggles to initiate
and sustain dialogue efforts which in any way resemble MSPs.

Track 3

Lack of faith in Tracks 1 and 2 by parts of civil society has led to the emergence of
Tracks 3 and 4, both of which may proceed with or without direct State involvement.
In the eyes of States, track 3 is ‘unofficial’ but this does not, and should not, deter
activists optimistic about the power of discursive forums to enhance the quality of
problem identification and solving, or, more positively, goal-setting and attainment.
There is an increasing number of examples in Mekong Region countries of civil
society led governance forums in water and water related areas, such as energy and
fisheries. At the local/national level these include MSPs about Se San hydropower,
Cambodian fisheries law, and community-led research and watershed management
(see Table 13.6).
There are also many track 3 initiatives focused on the regional scale. Again,
space precludes doing more than discussing one example, with its couple of
offshoots. World Resources Institute (WRI) and Stockholm Environment Institute
(SEI) were the drivers of the Resource Policy Support Initiative (REPSI) – mostly
via a WRI office in northern Thailand, at which I was based. My role was to
support the construction and facilitation of a two year dialogue on environmental
governance which emerged from a meeting about cooperation on international
rivers, held in Yunnan in 1999 (He Daming et al. 2001). A wide range of regional
actors were recruited/invited to participate in a process intended to learn about,
and where necessary challenge, the ways in which decisions are made about
‘environment’ issues in Mekong Region countries (Badenoch 2001).8 The Regional
Environment Forum (REF) is a WRI-led evolution from REPSI which has a more
explicit role for local organisations in the management of the initiative, with
Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) and Cambodian Institute for Cooperation
and Peace (CICP) taking leading roles. Despite this supposed local independence
the initial outputs of this forum (REF participants 2002) have closely mirrored the
general WRI environmental governance agenda, exemplified in the The Access
Initiative (Petkova et al. 2002), which closely parallels the European Århus
Convention (UNECE 1998). In 2004 WRI has closed its regional office, and SEI is
now countering with its own new network initiative. Of the two, SEI in particular
sees a niche for itself as a ‘boundary organisation’ occupying a mediating space
between science, policy, business (Guston 1999, 2001) and perhaps even civil
society advocacy groups.
IUCN – The World Conservation Union is increasingly using its convening
capacity in the Mekong Region to focus on significant water-related governance
challenges. An example was a recent ‘high-level roundtable’ at the 2004 World
Conservation Congress held in Bangkok. IUCN is an unusual hybrid organisation

8 Whilst to funders REPSI was focused on the uplands, to encourage the participation
of a wider range of regional actors it was necessary to broaden the geographic scope to
encompass the Mekong Region.
220 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Box 13.1 Recent civil society-led local/national MSPs

Cambodian fisheries law dialogue

The adoption of Cambodia’s Community Fisheries Sub-decree, drafted between 2000 and
2004, is critical if there is to be non-violent and ‘sustainable’ accessing of the extraordinary
Tonle Sap fishery. The drafting has involved an MSP including small-scale fisher
representatives, plus local and national officials. Critical facilitation has been provided by
NGOs such as Oxfam Great Britain and the local Fisheries Action Coalition Team. The
MSP has been supported by various international organisations such as the Environmental
Justice Foundation, other Oxfams and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Critical
context for the MSP was the political support provided by Prime Minister Hun Sen since
2000. Progress has been made in a process shaped by civil society actors working with
sympathetic government officials.

Thai Baan action research and dialogue

Villager-led research groups are now operating in northern and northeast Thailand. This
movement is commonly referred to as the Thai Baan research. The villagers are the researchers.
Those helping them are research assistants. Thus, traditional research hierarchies are being
turned upside down. Thai Baan is boosting the understanding of communities and government
officials of the links between rivers, wetlands and rural livelihoods. Thai Baan groups are
being supported by partnerships between local organisations such as the Chieng Khong
Conservation Group, regional NGOs such as the South East Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN),
tambon and provincial officials, and other organisations such as IUCN and Oxfam America.
This chain of MSPs is focused on the local scale. Thai Baan has rapidly gained credibility
by ‘bringing in’ and respecting the knowledge of local fishers and farmers, and effectively
communicating their knowledge to other actors through photo exhibitions, Thai and English
booklets and videos.

Se San hydropower dialogue

The Se San Protection Network (see (Hirsch and Wyatt 2004) is an initiative of ‘downstream’
Cambodian villagers in the Se San River Basin seriously affected by operations of Vietnam’s
Yali Falls dam. The network is gradually succeeding in working cooperatively with formal
State actors such as the Cambodian National Mekong Committee Secretariat, and the
Cambodian Standing Committee for Coordination on Dams and Canals along Cambodia –
Lao PDR, Vietnam, Thailand Borders. External support to the network is being provided by
NGOs such as Both Ends, the Oxfams, and the Australian Mekong Resource Centre. Civil
society groups have created and are sustaining their efforts to lead a constructive MSP.

Yunnan community-based watershed management

The Lashi watershed management committee in Yunnan Province brings together local
communities and government officials in an MSP to aid watershed decision making
(Igbokwe et al. 2002, Lazarus 2003). The establishment process has been facilitated by
Green Watershed, a local Chinese NGO, with support from Oxfam America. The MSP
started in sixteen villages with awareness raising through watershed management trainings,
participatory rural appraisal activities, gender training, historical reviews and trust building
among two ethnic minority groups. It has now advanced to tackle more difficult subjects,
such as an upcoming county-level project to raise the level of the small dam (dike) to
increase the water flow to Lijiang town and the potential impacts on local livelihoods (such
as loss of fisheries, water, agricultural crops and land). Having established a solid base it is
now scaling up to be more relevant to other townships and the whole of the watershed and
is seen by parts of the Chinese government as a model learning site.
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 221
being a union of some 80 state government and 1000 non-state organisation
members. IUCN’s secretariat can use its membership base as a justification for
a discussion format quite unlike the normal inter-government meetings on offer.
Engaging in the Bangkok deliberation were Ministers from 5 of the 6 Mekong
countries (excluding Burma/Myanmar), and many non-State representatives, some
of whom delivered focused presentations on substantive and controversial issues
such as Nu-Salween river development in China, Burma/Myanmar and Thailand;
water basin diversions, with special reference to Thailand; and threats to the
Tonle Sap freshwater lake in Cambodia. IUCN is committed to supporting water-
related MSPs at different scales throughout the Mekong Region, in part as the
regional manifestation of its global Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) (see www.
waterandnature.org). They recognise that MSPs need to have a diverse, but robust,
knowledge base. For this reason IUCN remains keen to continue its support to
local research institutions in the Mekong Region. Many of these institutes are now
collaborating in a water governance network whose joint activities are undertaken
via M-POWER (Mekong Program on Water Environment and Resources) which
is coordinated from Chiang Mai University’s Unit for Social and Environmental
Research (www.sea-user.org).

Track 4

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between Track 2 and Track 3 forums, but

Track 4 is quite different. It reflects the position of what are often called ‘localists’,
increasingly prominent in water governance. In general, civil society localists assert
the significance of the rural community and local governance as an opposition to
discourses propounding economic growth, urbanisation and industrialism (Hewison
2001, 22). They usually have a greater emphasis on self sufficiency and lower
expectations of government, often believing that States and dominant elites are
neither sufficiently legitimate, competent or inclined to adequately represent local
communities. Suffice to say that there are numerous localists in the Mekong Region
acting constructively in communities where the State is largely absent, until such
time as large projects or resource extraction opportunities arise.
A recent, high-profile Track 4 water governance forum was the ‘Dialogue on River
Basin Development and Civil Society in the Mekong Region’ embodied in forums
held in Australia and northeast Thailand. The forums included policy researchers,
government agencies from Mekong countries, Mekong River Commission,
Murray-Darling Basin Commission, NGOs and other advocates, farmers, fishers,
plus representatives from many different people’s movements and campaigns. The
dialogue took a critical look at the types of knowledge included in decision making
processes and the development paradigms of States. It aimed to shake up the Track
1 river basin management commissions. The meeting in Thailand, in particular,
provided a stage for airing the grievances of local communities negatively affected
by some of the development in the region (Local people 2002). The Vietnamese
National Mekong Committee (VNMC) attended and issued the first public apology
from Vietnamese government officials to those affected by the Yali dam tragedy (see
Table 13.6).
222 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Table 13.6 Recent regional water-related governance forums (Tracks 3–4)
Track 3 Track 4
Forums of the Mekong Learning Dialogue on River Basin Development
Initiative 1998+, concentrating on and Civil Society in the Mekong 2002
community based natural resources run by coalition of NGOs including
management, and transboundary Towards Ecological Recovery and
learning partnerships between a group Regional Alliance (TERRA) and the
of Mekong Region universities. Australian Mekong Resource Centre.
Forums of the Oxfam Mekong NGOs partnering in campaigns
Initiative and its partners which challenging the sensibility of
have concentrated on trade, poverty the energy paradigm embedded
reduction strategies, infrastructure in the ASEAN/GMS electricity
and capacity building. grid proposal, as at 2004.
Annual meeting of the Regional Meetings of the Dam Affected
Environmental Forum 2002+, driven People and their Allies – Rasi
by World Resources Institute, focused Salai, Thailand 2003.
on environmental governance. International Rivers Network
Mekong Region water governance advocacy against projects such as
network 2003+ focusing on Nam Theun 2 dam in Lao PDR.
crossborder research partnerships Probe International advocacy
and dialogue about water and food, against the approach being taken
water and energy, water and nature in projects such as the GMS/
via M-POWER (Mekong Program on ASEAN electricity grid.
Water Environment and Resources). Activities of the Rivers Watch
Southeast Asia consultations in East and Southeast Asia (RWESA)
World Commission on Dams, and network which focuses on linking
follow-up, such as IUCN-supported communities and advocacy efforts
Dams and Development dialogues related to dams and river development.
in Mekong countries 2001+
IUCN-convened Mekong Region
roundtable at World Conservation
Congress, Bangkok 2004.

The Ubon Ratchatani and Brisbane events did not emerge from a vacuum, and
should be seen as just a part of an ongoing political struggle led by those opposed
to the dominant water resources development paradigm. They were moments when
stakeholders with different views and interests came together, but these actors are
already, and will remain, involved in the highly political, often polarised, governance
processes surrounding Mekong Region development decision making. Each
participant has a history shaped by and shaping past events, represents particular
views and has different objectives and preferred strategies for interacting and
negotiating (or not).
The 2nd International Meeting of Dam Affected People and their Allies was also
held in northeast Thailand the following year. Again a localist discourse dominated
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 223
(Dam affected people and their allies 2003). This is not meant to infer that track 4
leaders/participants only ‘support’ their own forums and ‘reject’ others. Rarely are
issues so clearly cut. For example, the declaration from Rasi Salai expressed clear
support for the track 3 World Commission on Dams process. However, regional-
scale track 4 forums in the Mekong Region have thus far been more associated
with assembling and profiling public testimony for lobbying purposes and discourse-
shaping, and less optimistic or interested in engaging in any genuine deliberation
with most actors representing either developmental States or business interests.

Issues Concerning MSP Prospects in the Mekong Region

An investigation of water forums, seeking an understanding of MSP prospects, turns

up many issues. In this section just a few will be discussed. Comments are made
about some of the issues related to context, process and outcomes.

Context – Windows of Opportunity

Proponents of MSPs have no magic formula to sweep away the many hurdles to
trying the approach more widely in the Mekong Region. The countries are now
ruled by various forms of multi-party, single-party and military junta systems of
government. Cambodia is a pseudo-democracy, trending back to authoritarianism,
with internal violence on the increase. China is a single party system, but there is
increasing political space permitted for questioning leadership decisions, and the
media is increasingly opening up. Lao PDR is a single party system, led by mostly
military figures, where no internal public dissent about national policies is permitted
– although it should be noted that very recently new types of citizen organisations
are being allowed to form. The Burma/Myanmar government is a military junta
which strictly controls internal media, and suppresses dissenting views as a threat to
national security (or regime survival). Thailand’s citizens have hard-won democratic
freedoms. Vietnam is a single party system, but where recently there has been a
substantial expansion of political space. The dominant political culture does not
provide the most supportive setting for regional MSPs to realise their potential,
however, already at the local/national level there have been some praiseworthy MSP
efforts which provide a basis for cautious optimism.
Advocates of ‘well motivated dissent’ have also been encouraged by particular
events in 2004 which may have opened the door for the MSP approach to be more
seriously incorporated into regional water governance. In China, Premier Wen
Jiabao responded to extensive domestic lobbying and suspended plans to develop
the Salween River hydropower cascade until a more complete impact assessment
of the proposed development is undertaken. In the following year more than 60
projects were halted in China by the State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
and ordered to go through an impact assessment process, which has at least some
deliberative character. These positive moves have been offset by a reassertion at the
provincial level of the power of government officials, many of whom resent any
interference by central government or civil society actors.
224 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
In Thailand, protests resulted in the government altering its privatisation plan
for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) which is a major
regional water resources development actor. In Cambodia, the government has
finally joined the chorus of concerns from local and international actors about
the future of the Tonle Sap Lake fishery in the Mekong River Basin, which is
threatened by upstream dams (and local over fishing). In Lao PDR, debate about
whether to build the Nam Theun 2 dam spilled over regional borders, with the
World Bank feeling compelled to conduct multi-stakeholder briefings, albeit in an
attempt to ‘sell’ the benefits of the now-approved project. All of these examples
are connected threads of the Mekong Region water and energy web. Key actors
are now engaging more openly in a battle for transnational discursive legitimacy
in which regional MSPs could play a valuable role.
In any regional MSPs, there is a need to clarify the scope for negotiations. In
water governance the need to negotiate is integral due to ‘the mundane fact that
modern societies are complex, multicultural, and populated by individuals who are
often quite sensitive about their personal rights’ (Baber 2004, 333). However, formal
negotiations are not an essential element of MSPs, as MSPs may not have any formal
decision making or formal negotiating mandate. Far from being problematic, this
may actually give participants more space to explore options and propose workable
A concern for some people heavily committed to the learning possibilities of
MSPs is that widening the scope to allow negotiation encourages MSP actors to act
in a self-interested manner. This is seen as regressive by those committed to MSP
participants being completely impartial, and MSPs being a-political ‘time-outs’ from
an external world where all negotiations should take place. But, MSPs do not have to
unrealistically deny that actors have interests that they will continue to pursue, inside
or outside the MSP. Nor do MSPs have to function as an impartial jury. It is quite
plausible for ‘parallel learning and negotiation trajectories (to be) taking place
at more or less the same time’ (Leeuwis 2000:950) either in the same or separate
forums. MSP facilitators need to be quite explicit about all this.
There are some general preconditions before substantive negotiations can take
place: divergence of actors’ interests; actors’ recognition of mutual interdependence
in resolving problems; and actors capability of communicating with each other
(Leeuwis 2000:951). At the regional scale, the first condition is invariably met –
actors do have different interests. Mutual interdependence is another matter – in
reality there is often independence-dependence. For example, an upstream water
user such as China or Vietnam is able, with relative impunity, to act independently
of dependent downstream neighbours, such as in Lao PDR or Cambodia. The final
point about communication is central to MSPs. A platform without effective modes
of communication will be an MSP failure.

Process – Legitimacy from Representation and Political Responsibility

Legitimacy has been usefully defined as ‘moral justifications for political and social
action’ (Atack 1999:855). A key aspect of MSP legitimacy relates to the inclusiveness
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 225
of an MSP process. This relates to notions of accountability, representation and
political responsibility.
For many commentators, actor participation in an MSP is only legitimate if they
are, or are formally representing, a ‘direct’ stakeholder. Agents of the State, such
as government or bureaucracy officials, have a formal constituency whom they
can usually claim to represent. Similarly, company executives are, or should be,
accountable to shareholders they are entrusted to represent. However, this framing
is often used to deny bestowing legitimacy on actors who do not claim to represent
others, whose status as a stakeholder may be contested, but who have much to offer
in improving the quality of public debate. Civil society groups in the Mekong Region
are often challenged in this way.
Political responsibility is a normative concept that differs slightly from
accountability in that accountability has formal obligations embedded within
its definition (Jordan and Van Tuijl 2000, 2053). The concept of political
responsibility offers a way forward through the ‘legitimacy’ impasse encountered
when some actors challenge an actor’s accountability, and right to be involved
in an MSP.
The NGO Focus on the Global South (FOCUS – http://www.focusweb.org),
active in the Mekong Region, is an illustrative example. FOCUS is neither bound
– nor empowered – by an external mandate. In the absence of a formal legitimising
mechanism such as membership endorsement, they have to clearly define their
position. FOCUS’s commitment to addressing the marginalisation of large numbers
of people throughout ‘the South’ has defined their constituency; however, they do
not claim to ‘represent’ these diverse peoples, as they recognise they have no such
mandate. But, they do have their own accountability mechanisms, linked to political
responsibility for particular interests. This argument has been persuasively made by
an NGO member:

… the right to speak claimed by NGOs is not necessarily derived from a strict or formal
notion of direct representation of particular group interests but rather from a commitment
to a set of values and insights which form the basis for an analysis of particular situations
and a strategy to act on that analysis. Sometimes these are best expressed as impacts on
local people or environments… (For example) there would be no inherent contradiction
for an NGO to make submissions and arguments relating to a proposed big dam even
when no ‘local’ group shares those views – the arguments should be taken up in public
debate and dealt with on their own merits (Greeff 2000, 75).

In the absence of formal accountability to constituents, and without necessarily

claiming to represent another, the notion of political responsibility is sufficient to
claim legitimacy as a social actor wishing to participate in regional MSP.

Outcomes – Consensus, Consent, Consultations

In many MSPs, where diverse representation has been obtained, there is confusion
about whether the goal is consensus. For example, the WCD sought ‘consensus’,
at least between the commissioners, driven by a view that ‘without consensus, a
commission will be seen to have reproduced divisions among stakeholders, rather
226 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
than transcending them’ (Dubash et al. 2001, 4). However, if consensus is ‘unanimous
agreement not just on a course of action, but also on the reasons for it’ it follows
that ‘in a pluralistic world consensus is unattainable, unnecessary and undesirable.
More feasible and attractive are workable agreements in which participants agree
on a course of action, but for different reasons’ (Dryzek 2000, 170). Using this
definition, failure by an MSP to reach a complete consensus should not be seen as a
disappointment, provided that progress is made in the search for an acceptable and
workable agreement.
Fundamental disagreements about rights will remain problematic. This is part
of the MSP context, and is not a criticism of the approach. For example, water-
related MSPs are still grappling with diverging opinions about the principle of free
prior informed consent (FPIC) which is often now included in generic international
declarations. If accepted, FPIC explicitly recognises indigenous and tribal
peoples’ rights to give or withhold their consent to activities affecting their land
and water resources. FPIC holds that consent must be freely given, obtained prior
to implementation of activities and be founded upon an understanding of the full
range of issues implicated by the activity or decision in question (MacKay 2004).
In MacKay’s view, articulated in a briefing note for the World Bank’s Extractive
Industries Review (EIR), but applicable also to the water resources development

Decisions about when, where and how to exploit natural resources are normally justified
in the national interest, which is generally interpreted as the interest of the majority. The
result is that the rights and interests of unrepresented groups, such as indigenous peoples
and others, will often be subordinated to the majority interest: conflict often ensues and
the rights of indigenous peoples are often disregarded (MacKay 2004).

The issue is whether the rights of local resource users/occupiers have primacy? If so,
FPIC is a right to veto development. The final EIR report supported FPIC. The Bank
response was that they too support FPIC, but they ‘stole’ the acronym and redefined
it as free prior informed consultation! (World Bank 2004 annexed responses – points
15–16). FPIC was also a hot issue for the World Commission on Dams (WCD).
Adoption of ‘gaining public acceptance’ as a strategic priority recommendation of the
final WCD report represented a compromise by the commissioners and a restriction
of the FPIC principle. FPIC becomes critically important to any MSPs which is
mandated with decision making powers. Non-acceptance of FPIC significantly
reduces the negotiating power of local resource users/occupiers.
FPIC is closely related to the concept of ‘meaningful participation’. Both are
highly relevant to MSPs. According to Goodland (2004), ‘meaningful participation’
became mandatory in World Bank assisted projects from the late 1980s and early
1990s. He claims the Bank interpreted this to mean the people being consulted about
a proposal had a right to say no. If this was the case, it would appear that the trend is
now in reverse. As with Dryzek, the international financial institutions (IFIs) seem
to be accepting that consensus is just not always possible. The ADB provides a good
example of what is at stake. Their current policy for large water resources projects
says (ADB 2004):
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 227
Paragraph 32: ADB will adopt a cautious approach to large water resource projects –
particularly those involving dams and storage – given the record of environmental and
social hazards associated with such projects. All such projects will need to be justified in
the public interest, and all government and non-government stakeholders in the country
must agree on the justification. Where the risks are acceptable and ADB’s involvement
necessary, ADB will ensure that its environmental and social impact assessment procedures
are rigorously applied. Any adverse environmental effects will be properly mitigated, the
number of affected people in the project area will be minimised, and those adversely
affected will be adequately compensated in accordance with ADB’s policy on involuntary
resettlement. In line with its energy sector policy, ADB will continue to extend its
support for technically and economically feasible hydropower projects that form part of
a country’s least-cost energy development plan, provided their environmental (including
impact on fisheries) and social effects can be satisfactorily managed in accordance with
ADB policies.

The Bank now sees this policy as unworkable because of (in the Bank’s words) the
‘impractical requirement for all stakeholders to agree on the justification of large
water resources projects’. In 2004 ADB proposed the following revision (italics

… All such projects will need to be justified in the public interest and stakeholders must
be provided the opportunity to comment regarding the justification with their views
considered. The ADB will promote the participation of government, civil society and other
stakeholders in the country towards this end. Where the risks are acceptable…

This is a significant shift in approach by both the World Bank and the ADB. They
have backed away from endorsing MSPs which have negotiating mandates. They
now support only consultative/advisory MSPs. For a brief period, MSP policy of the
IFIs had strengthened the negotiating positions of less powerful actors. However,
the IFIs are now reaffirming the priority they attach to the decisionmaking authority
of governments.
Whilst noting the oscillation of the IFIs, it should be clearly noted that even a
shift towards accepting consultative/advisory MSPs in the Mekong Region would be
a significant step forward, as at present regional water governance is largely devoid
of multi-stakeholder deliberative processes.


Something needs to be done to lift the standard of regional water governance in the
Mekong Region. Despite many types of regional water forums, large-scale water
resources development is still deficient with negative domestic and transboundary
impacts consistently ignored or outweighed by decision makers. Important next
steps for the region would be to add robust regional MSP elements – giving space
for the airing and scrutiny of all perspectives – to the governance of, for example:
the Salween in China, Burma/Myanmar, and Thailand; the GMS/ASEAN electricity
grid impacting on all six Mekong coutries, and Thailand’s nebulous water grid, plans
for which directly affect several of its neighbours.
228 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Salween River – Prioritising Big Business, Natural Heritage or Human Rights?

Substantial hydropower expansion is part of Chinese national planning and Yunnan’s

role is key. Yunnan is seen as having 24% of China’s hydropower potential for ‘medium’
and ‘large’ sized projects (He Jing 2002). In late 2003 much more information filtered
into the public domain outlining extensive hydropower development proposed for
the Salween which flows from China into Burma/Myanmar. The upper watersheds
of the Salween, Mekong and Yangtze are known as the Three Rivers region, declared
a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2003.
There are advanced plans for a cascade of thirteen dams on the Chinese reaches
of the presently undammed Salween River, which, if built, would have a profound
impact. The China Huadian Corporation is one of the ‘big 5’ power generation
companies receiving assets from 2003 onwards which were previously ‘owned’ by
the giant State Power Corporation. The ‘right to develop’ the Salween River is seen
by Huadian as one of the transferred ‘assets’ now in their portfolio. Since major
energy industry reforms were announced late 2002 there has been a stampede by
the ‘big 5 + 1’ – not forgetting the Three Gorges development group – to secure
their assets, principally coal-related, and move to develop their new assets, including
‘rivers for hydro’ in various types of partnership with local authorities (Dore and Yu
Xiaogang 2004).
The decision-making and approvals processes were initially far from transparent.
The economic justification unspecified, and the ecological and cultural risks
downplayed (both in China and further downstream). Moreover, the lines between
public and private interest and ownership have become increasingly blurry as the
energy companies blend State authority with private sector competitive opportunism.
Remarkably, as the plans entered the public domain, broader civil society – beyond the
usual officials, business operatives and ‘experts’ – became much more involved.
There are five other dams being promoted downstream of China, including Ta
Sang – planned to produce 7,000 megawatts. The Ta Sang dam, involving many
actors including the Bangkok-based MDX company, is already controversial due to
numerous reports of human rights abuses of the Shan people in the dam area by the
Burma/Myanmar military. Another two are planned for further downstream where
the Salween forms the border between Burma/Myanmar and Thailand. Without any
public debate, officials from both those countries have supposedly already committed
in August 2004 to jointly ‘develop’ the river (Pradit Ruangdit 2004).
All this has major implications for local livelihoods in each of these countries and
a proposed regional electricity grid (see below). The situation is ripe for a regional
MSP to ensure the driving assumptions, proposed development benefits, tradeoffs
and transboundary impacts are more fully considered.

GMS/ASEAN Electricity Grid – The Best Option?

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Electricity Generating Authority
of Thailand (EGAT) are the major promoters of two overlapping schemes known
as: the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Power Interconnection and Trade,
and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Power Grid. An inter-
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 229
governmental agreement forming an electricity grid was signed in 2002 by the
leaders of the six Mekong Region countries. ADB has prepared a list of USD 4.58
billion worth of loans and grants for financing 32 grid and grid-related projects in the
Mekong Region (Ryder 2003:3). A further USD 43 billion would be needed for the
twelve hydropower dams and the transmission system (IRN 2004:10). Proponents
cite the logic of ‘no alternative’. Opponents challenge the economic and technical
justification. Embodied in the plan is a massive change in the way in which water
resources are developed throughout the region.
In the last 10 years of planning, there has been practically no involvement by
civil society in any related governance process. This is now changing as local,
national, regional and international actors are becoming involved. For the ADB,
the grid should become a test case of their Strategic Environment Framework (SEI
et al. 2002), intended to guide bank investments in the Mekong Region water and
transport sectors. A properly conducted, regional MSP focused on the electricity grid
would be a very constructive governance intervention.

Thailand Water Grid – For Irrigation, Agribusiness Transformation or Urban


At present contained primarily within the domestic political arena of Thailand, are
the intra-government negotiations concerning the demand and distribution aspects
of Thailand’s proposed, but somewhat vague (at least in its publicly presented form)
national water grid. A key driver for the grid is the increasing water scarcity in the
Chao Phraya River Basin which is the principal food bowl of Thailand, and provides
much of the water for the capital city of Bangkok. Many parts of the ‘grid’ have
been previously conceived, designed and touted in the past. Recently, new life has
been breathed into quite a few of the old plans but publicly available information is
Numerous potential diversions have implications for the river dependent
communities in Lao PDR, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. The future of
millions of Thai farmers is also unclear as the only way of funding such a scheme is
if water pricing policies are introduced and agribusiness contract farming is given
access to the ‘new water’. So is it water for a new ‘war on poverty’, or water for
agribusiness, or water for Bangkok? Whose water is it anyway? Many wish to shift
the debate about the water grid into the public sphere. A regional MSP about the
Thailand water grid would allow these types of questions to be addressed.

The World Bank’s Mekong Region Water Resources Assistance Strategy

The World Bank is now back into funding large-scale water resources infrastructure.
This is evidenced in the contents of the Bank’s Water Resources Assistance Strategy
(WB 2004), the substantial forward budget allocations, and the subsequent burst
of efforts to develop national and/or regional strategies in places such as Pakistan,
India and China. The Mekong Region is one of the places designated to receive a
regional strategy. In 2004 there was a pseudo-consultative process involving donors,
governments and civil society. The blueprint is being developed and is scheduled for
230 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
release in 2005 or 2006. The implications for the region could be very significant.
Again, it would seem that a more genuine MSP could lead to more informed public
deliberation and choices.


MSPs are rooted in a belief in the added value provided by deliberation which is
inclusive, information-rich and flexibly facilitated, actively promoting analysis
of different views. However, MSPs are seen by some as disrespectful of, and at
times subversive to, existing public decision making structures. MSPs in the
Mekong Region led by civil society have been accused of being undemocratic, and
too empowering of interest groups with policy positions which may differ from
dominant policy positions within State governments or parts of their associated
bureaucracy. Advocates claim the opposite, that in fact these types of processes
are complementary to formal State decision making processes, serving as a counter
weight to many undemocratic water-related governance forums and, thus actually
‘deepen democracy’.
There is some new political space in the Mekong Region created by globalisation,
and corresponding ‘new regionalisms’ which is providing oxygen to MSP approaches.
However, proponents will invariably continue to meet resistance from State actors
and others with vested interests reinforced by the status quo. Many State actors still
believe, or at least rhetorically pretend, that domestic-led criticism is unpatriotic,
and – despite an emerging body of international water law – crossborder enquiry/
criticism of water resources development plans is an unacceptable encroachment on
hard-won State sovereignty. This political resistance to MSP approaches, grounded
in self-interest and transboundary geopolitics, should not be underestimated. Other
forms of advocacy will remain important to encourage more and less powerful actors
to give MSPs a chance to fulfill their regional potential by being sites for authentic
deliberation, learning by all actors, and (possibly) negotiation.


In addition to this global Ashgate production, the paper is being included in a set
of Mekong papers on wider water governance issues by the M-POWER network
(www.mpowernet.org). This paper has benefited from interaction with and many
suggestions from various colleagues, especially Louis Lebel, Mary Jane Real, Jeff
Rutherford, Kate Lazarus, Noel Rajesh and Masao Imumura. Others such as Mingsarn
Kaosa-ard, Surichai Wun’Gaeo, Yu Xiaogang, Steve Dovers, Jim Woodhill and
Jeroen Warner have also helped shape the ideas. The writings of John Dryzek and
Niels Röling have been especially helpful. Of course, all errors or misconceptions
are my responsibility.
Mekong Region Water-Related MSPs 231

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Chapter 14

Against the Conventional Wisdom:

Why Sector Reallocation of Water
and Multi-Stakeholder Platforms
Do Not Take Place in Uzbekistan
Kai Wegerich


Currently integrated approaches to water management, reallocation of water

resources between sectors and multi-stakeholder platforms are common
frameworks in the hegemonic discourse of the international water community.
The paper argues that none of these paradigms have manifested themselves in
Uzbekistan. On the contrary, reallocation of water from the agricultural to the
urban sector to meet rising demands does not take place, and water scheduling in
the tertiary cities in Uzbekistan is common practice.
While in the literature attention is drawn to strategies how to make multi-
stakeholder platforms more efficient and how to increase the participation of
stakeholders, this paper focuses on the political aspects in Uzbekistan which do not
support the creation of multi-stakeholder participation for water management.
The remainder of the paper is structured into six sections. It continues with a
short theoretical section on the political aspects of water management, which is
followed with a description of the water situation in Uzbekistan. Here the focus
is on water availability and the water utilization of the urban sector. The third
section focuses on the organizational structure of the different water departments
on the national level and the power structure between the departments since
independence. The section is followed by a small case study of the water
management organization, and the problems of water supply in two tertiary
cities in the Khorezm Province in Uzbekistan. The fifth section focuses on the
relationships between the state and civil society and the strong influence of the
state on the creation of civil society organizations. The last section concludes
that the institutional development of the Uzbekistan Communal Services Agency
shows that since independence its influence on decision making over water
allocation has been undermined. Multi-stakeholder platforms are not wanted,
and the currently hegemonic water management frameworks are not yet on the
agenda in Uzbekistan.
236 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Multi-Stakeholder Platforms

Ohlsson and Turton distinguish between three historical stages of water


• supply management, to ‘get more water’

• demand management which increases the end-use efficiency, to achieve
‘more use per drop’
• a second step in demand management towards ‘allocative efficiency’ to get
‘more value per crop’ (Ohlsson and Turton n.d., 2).

Allocative efficiency would imply the reallocation of water from the agricultural
to the urban and industrial sectors. Perry et al. (1997, 12) states the conventional
wisdom: ‘For the most part, in the real world, water is allocated first to municipal
and commercial use, and third to agriculture’.
On the other hand, conflicts over scarce water resources occur between the
agricultural sector and the urban and industrial sector. The conflicts arise because
‘thirsty cities, drought and crisis suggest that these transfers do not catch up
with growth in demand’ (Molle, e-mail discussion 16.09.04). Perry’s statement
foregrounds the political argument that the non-agricultural sector has more
influence and power compared to the agricultural sector; therefore their interests
prevail. Water allocation between the sectors is based on political decisions.
Water allocation to the sectors could be renegotiated between the sectors: as
Mosse emphasizes, ‘existing systems of water use are supported by structures of
authority’ (Mosse 1997: 499). Multi-stakeholder platforms could question this
authority and change the structure of the system from a hierarchical structure to a
horizontal structure. As Currie-Alder (this volume) argues, with multi-stakeholder
platforms the ‘top-down approaches operating with hierarchical structures must
shift to a more horizontal network structure where responsibilities and roles are
more freely shared with others’. This would directly question the role of the state
and the form of governance of the state.
Data on Uzbekistan suggests that the current water demand of the urban and
industrial sectors outstrip its water supply. Hence, the water allocation to the
sectors would have to be renegotiated and multi-stakeholder platforms could be
arenas for negotiating water allocation. However, even though it is recognized that
the current supply to the urban sectors is insufficient, re-negotiations between the
sectors do not occur. Instead of fixing the problem through reallocations between
the sectors, the international agencies (World Bank and Asian Development Bank)
focus only on productive efficiencies, which would increase the efficiency of the
supply side and decrease the demand of the users in the urban sector. Hence, the
political renegotiation of water allocation between the sectors and the change of
the structure of authority is avoided. The case study on Uzbekistan will show
that as the current system is manifesting and expanding the hierarchical authority
line for water management, the reproduction and therefore manifestation of the
existing authority line gives no space for horizontal platforms and stakeholder
Against the Conventional Wisdom 237
Water Situation in Uzbekistan

Even though Uzbekistan has only a few rivers originating within its own territory,
the country is utilizing the transboundary Syrdarya and Amudarya rivers and their
(former) tributaries for the agricultural, industrial and urban sectors. The water
allocation limits for the Amudarya riparian states were set in 1987 and have been
reaffirmed after independence in 1991.
In Uzbekistan agriculture is mainly based on irrigation. In 1989, 4.3 million
hectares were irrigated, that is about 82 per cent of cultivated land. The irrigated
land produces more than 90 per cent of crop production. Of the total irrigated area,
56 per cent is situated in the Amu Darya river basin (compare SIC ICWC 1999, 41).
The data in Table 14.1 show that Uzbekistan is at the stage of supply management of
water. The country tries to utilize water beyond its official water distribution limits
(cf. Wegerich 2005b).

Table 14.1 Amu Darya distribution limits and actual utilization

Water Distribution Average official Average unofficial
Limits 1987 BVO data 1993-99 BVO data 1991-01
km3 % km3 % km3 %
Kyrgyzstan 0.4 0.6 0.15 0.29 - -
Tajikistan 9.5 15.4 7.32 14.47 7 10.6
Turkmenistan 22 35.8 21.52 42.53 20.6 29.8
Uzbekistan 29.6 48.2 21.61 42.71 42.8 59.6

According to a DFID study, in Uzbekistan the agricultural sector uses 94 per cent of
total utilised water. Only four per cent are used in the industrial sector and two percent
in the urban sector (DFID 2001: 17). A recent Asian Development Bank report states
that ‘the distribution system tends to be old, in varying stages of disrepair, and prone
to high levels of leakage. … Water rationing is common in all cities’ (ADB 2001, 5).
The utilization in the urban sector ranges between ‘250 liters per capita per day (lcd)
to nearly 1000 lcd. … The use is in addition to the supply of between 200 to 400 lcd
of hot water’ (ADB 2001: 6).1

1 The figures of the ADB include industries, losses and wastages, and even though the
Bank is making a general statement about the water utilization in urban areas in Uzbekistan,
their project is only based on two provincial capital and one district capital cities; hence
it is questionable whether the data merely reflects the situation in the three cities (Djizzak,
Gulistan and Karshi) or also include other cities. In addition, as the ADB points out, only 1.8
per cent of domestic consumption is metered, hence it is questionable whether the above data
is reflecting actual household consumption.
A report by Development Alternatives, Inc. argues that the official figures do not
distinguish between industrial and urban supply. According to the report 25 per cent of the
supplied amount is utilized by industries. In addition the leakage losses are estimated to be
between 11 to 30%, or even higher (DAI 1996: 43).
238 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Research conducted in the Khorezm province in 2004 suggests that public
water supply in tertiary cities (district capitals) is very unreliable and that
households rely heavily on groundwater, to compensate for the public water
supply shortages (Wegerich 2006). The findings also show that potable water and
not privately pumped groundwater is used for watering gardens, and therefore
contributes to the shortages of supply. The ADB report points out that ‘poor
condition of irrigation systems leading to the alternative use of potable water for
garden and land watering’ (ADB 2001: 5). The data collected suggests that water
shortages occur mainly during the spring and summer period while during the
autumn and winter period water supply is sufficient. This would imply that the
shortages are not based on leakages, but that either the agricultural and the urban
sector are in competition over the water resources, or that the fixed supply limits
for the urban sector are insufficient to meet the demand during the summer period.
However, the latter would also suggest a competition between the agricultural
and the urban sector. Considering that Uzbekistan is in a transitional period
facing financial constraints, it seems likely that the investments in operation
and maintenance of the infrastructure for potable water and irrigation of urban
gardens have decreased. The next section will show that this is not only based
on financial constraints, but that it is the government’s policy to strengthen
the agricultural sector and to weaken the urban sector and their water supply

The Changing Organizational Setting of the Water Sector Stakeholders

After independence the Ministry for Water Resources was responsible, amongst
other things, for water policy and strategy development and implementation,
water resource planning and the formulation of water legislation. In addition, it
was charged with the provision of water resources to the various sectors of the
economy (WARMAP Project 1995: 34). The Ministry of Communal Economy
was dealing with municipal water supply and sewage. Hence, at the time of
independence the Ministry for Water Resources provided water resources to the
Ministry of Communal Economy. Both Ministries were structured hierarchically
with their branches on the provincial and district levels. The Ministry of Water
Resources distributed the surface water resources through their provincial and
district departments to the collective farms and the Ministry for Communal
Management distributed the potable water resources on the provincial and
district level through two organizations to the urban areas, industries and to the
households in the rural areas (WARMAP Project 1997: 10). These organizations
were Vodokanal, which was responsible for water distribution to the urban
areas and industries, and Agrovodokanal, which delivered water to the rural
In 1997 the Ministry for Agriculture and the Ministry for Water Resources were
merged and the Ministry had ‘no autonomous body for water management in form of
a department or association’ (SIC 1999: 18). The new Ministry for Agriculture and
Water Resources was responsible (among others) for:
Against the Conventional Wisdom 239
• ‘Intensification of economic reforms in the water sector, extending the
economic independence of water enterprises, combining their interests with
agricultural enterprises for rational organization of agricultural production;
• Accounting and supervision of effective water use in all water consumption
• Water planning and allocation among all economic sectors and provinces,
setting up the limits of water diversion and consumption in all water
consumption sectors and control of observation’ (SIC ICWC 1999: 18).

The list of responsibilities shows that the Ministry for Agriculture and Water
Resources stayed in charge of water provision to all the sectors. However, the main
emphasis of the Ministry became the water provision for the agricultural sector.
Even though there were two Ministries which had to compete about water resources,
and although the Ministry for Communal Management provided services to the high
value users, the Ministry for Agriculture and Water Resources was responsible for
water planning and allocation. This emphasizes the focus on agricultural production
instead of water delivery to the urban areas and industries. As O’Hara observes,
Uzbekistan’s GDP declined from 1989 to 1998 by 20 per cent; the ‘economic crisis
... placed even greater importance on agriculture, which has been and continues to
be the mainstay of the economy’ (O’Hara 2000: 366).
Since independence the budget of the Ministry of Water Resources had declined. It
was estimated that the budget of the Ministry was only sufficient to cover 50 per cent
of the operation and maintenance costs of running the system (Bucknall et al. 2001,
iv and 6). The merger further decreased the financial power of the water department
within the Ministry as well as its ability to make decisions for water allocation and
distribution (compare Wegerich 2005a). Hence, the agricultural department within
the Ministry grew stronger and had direct influence in terms of water allocation.
Under Presidential Decree No 2791 (19 December 2000) the Ministry of
Communal Services was transformed into the Uzbekistan Communal Services
Agency (UCSA). ‘The department responsible for water in the ministry was
reorganized into a general directorate responsible for operation and development
of interregional trunk water mains only. All other responsibilities for the delivery of
drinking water were devolved to the oblast (province) and city levels’ (ADB 2001,
39). An ADB member of staff working in Uzbekistan stated that the transformation
was a ‘downgrading’ (Mamatkulov, ADB, e-mail correspondence).
On 21 July 2003 the cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan passed
a resolution which introduced a new water management framework. According
to this resolution the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources is supposed to
introduce a ‘rational management of the surface water resources on the territory
of the republic by the basin principle, the application of the market principles and
mechanisms of water use’ (Resolution N320, Attachment N5, II3). The resolution
could be interpreted as water reallocation to high-value users. However, as the
name of the Ministry suggests, the main focus of the Ministry is still very much on
agriculture. The head of the Communal Services Agency is nominated by decree
of the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources (Resolution N320, Attachment
N5, III7). Hence, the Ministry for Agriculture and Water Resources does not only
240 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
allocate water to the urban and industrial sectors, but also appoints the head of the
Communal Services Agency.
To sum up, there seems to be a governmental policy of decreasing the financial
means and decision-making power of the Communal Services Agency. Contrary to
this the ADB report states that ‘as water is a basic need, the Government is giving
improvement to the water supply a high priority in its program’ (ADB 2001: 5).

Vodakanal and the Vodakanal Branch of Khorezm

The city vodakanals receive their water through the provincial departments. The
territorial communal exploitation agency (TCEA) in each province ‘is responsible
for large capital development and infrastructure programs in the oblast and is in
charge of the province vodokanals, which manage the city vodakanals. “The TCEA
reports to the province government, ‘but maintains a working relationship with
UCSA in reforming the communal services system’ (ADB 2001: 39).
The TCEA in Khorezm is responsible for the public water supply to the urban
centers in Khorezm Province. According to the corporate development plan (CDP)
of the Khorezm TCEA, the total water supply coverage of the urban areas was 96%
in 2003, and it was anticipated that the coverage would increase to 98 % in 2004. The
CDP states that there were only 5 water supply failures in 2003, and it was anticipated
that the number of interruptions would be reduced to 3 by 2004. In addition, the
plan states that in 2003 the reaction time following a pipe burst was shorter than 4
hours, and that it was anticipated that this would decrease further to under 2 hours in
2004. The CDP was developed in cooporation with a World Bank project; after the
termination of the project, the CDP has been continuously updated.
The data of the CDP Khorezm TCEA suggest, that the organization can provide
sufficient water supply to the cities in Khorezm Province, and that interruptions
of the public water supply are negligible because of their small number. Also the
reported short response time to interruptions implies that there are no shortages of
public water supply.
However, research conducted in the district cities Khanka and Khiva indicated
that water supply is not sufficient. Both cities receive water from the same source, the
Tuyamuyun reservoir. Khanka is geographically closer to the reservoir than Khiva.
While in Khanka the majority of interviewees stated that they had on average more
than 6 hours of water supply per day, in Khiva the majority of the interviewees stated
that they had on average less than 6 hours of public water supply per day. These
differences cannot be explained by the seasonal variation (see above), but would
have to be explained by management shortcomings to sustain the infrastructure and
to respond to infrastructure breakdowns. There could also be a second explanation:
water is distributed according to the first-come-first-served principle. Hence, over
utilization ‘upstream’ leads to water shortages ‘downstream’ in the public water
supply system. This would indicate that the public water supply faces the problem
of a common pool resource and is in need of stronger regulations and enforcement
mechanisms in terms of sharing allocation and sharing utilization. Above all, it
demonstrates that the cities are in competition with each other over water resources.
Against the Conventional Wisdom 241
The organizational map indicates that there is a hierarchical structure, which ends
at the city level. Even though there are indications about the interactions above city
level, it does not seem that there are formalized network interactions, which could
be utilized also in terms of information exchange and coordinated bargaining for
water resources.

The State and its Influence on Civil Society

‘Soviet policies and institutions in Central Asia created, transformed and

institutionalised regional political identities’ (Jones Luong 2000, 1). These regional
political identities persisted after independence, which ‘ensured that the very same
actors, interests and the basis for evaluating power asymmetries would continue
to dominate decision-making in the post Soviet period’ (Jones Luong 2000, 1).
Jones Luong’s argument is confirmed by Spoor who argues that the vested interests
of the political economy of the cotton sector has affected decision making after
independence (cf. Spoor 1998, 411). Weinthal argues similarly, ‘Uzbekistan sought
to keep the general population on the farms and engaged in cotton production to
ensure their hold on social control and stability. [...] Uzbekistan could not jeopardise
the foreign revenue earned by cotton sales abroad’ (Weinthal 2001: 26). The state had
to continue with the full control over cotton production and sales because it allowed
the elite to reinforce regionally-based patronage networks (cf. Weinthal 2001, 29).
Two forms of civil society organizations can be identified in Uzbekistan: local
NGOs and community based organizations (mahallas). Even though these different
organizations are described by international donors (World Bank, Asian Development
Bank) as representing civil society, it is questionable that they represent the interests
of civil society or whether these organizations are used by the government to
promote a foregrounded or even its own agenda. The International Ecology and
Health Foundation (ECOSAN) which was established in 1992, and claims to have
5 million members, is state-sponsored and, Weinthal states, ‘while I was in Nukus,
Karakalpakstan, in August 1994, some members of the Union for the Defence of
the Aral Sea and Amu darya suggested that the creation of this official NGO was
to counter the rise of indigenous social movements and for the government to have
its own showpiece NGO to present to foreign delegations’ (Weinthal 2002, 165).
Describing the rise of NGOs in the environmental disaster zone near the Aral Sea she
argues that ‘indeed the rise of NGOs provides a good measure for the development of
local civil society. The Central Asian leaders also recognize this, and as a result, have
sought to co-opt local NGO activities and only allow them to have an environmental
and educational component, rather than a political one.’ She concludes that ‘these
NGOs do not act as a form of opposition to government policies’ (Weinthal 2002,
170). Even though during the Soviet Union the state order on cotton production
(i.e. the farmer has no option but plant cotton on his/her plot) was identified as
‘colonization’ by Moscow, after independence the state order on cotton production
continued. However, the local environmental organizations do not question irrigation
agriculture and state order on cotton production. Their focus is not on the causes of
the environmental problems, but on their consequences.
242 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Massicard and Trevisani (2003) write on the role of the mahallas. The law of 2nd
September 1993 defined the status of the mahalla in the framework of a reorganization
of the state. Massicard and Trevisani point out that the role is integrated in the vertical
hierarchy of state authority. The head of the mahalla is strongly recommended by
the governors of the administrative unit, and can be dismissed by the governors as
well. Hence, the election of the mahalla is not a bottom-up process. They argue
that ‘through the mahalla offices, a two dimensional broadening of the state has
taken place, one which can be interpreted as a symptom of the latter’s propensity
to monopolize the norms and rules of every area of social life. This evolution is
important as it demonstrates – more than the Mahalla itself – how the state attempts
to create, in the form of the Mahalla offices, new fields of control through which it
can intervene’ (Massicard and Trevisani 2003: 208).
Considering the reasoning of Weinthal on NGOs and their co-optation of the
NGOs by the government, as well as the environmental organisation mobilised
by the government mobilized for its own purposes and Massicard and Trevisani’s
reasoning on the mahallas, it seems that these organizations are strongly integrated
into the hierarchical structure of the state and could not be considered as platforms
for local voices which challenge the policies of the government.
In the cities of Khiva and Khanka the water shortages did not lead to a unification
and mobilization of the customers. Instead the households found strategies to cope
with the water shortages at the individual level. Households use hand pumps for
groundwater extraction. Although the urban households blame the allocation of
water resources to agriculture for the shortages, they focus on individual strategies
rather than on collective action. Hence, it seems that the urban households are
aware that the mahallas would not or could not represent their interest against the
established power structure. In addition, as Weinthal reasons, NGOs do not challenge
the political establishment, therefore it seems likely that they would not challenge
the hegemony of the agricultural sector and its thirst for water.

Conclusion: Why Reallocation and MSPs do not Happen

Despite integrated approaches to water management, reallocation of water resources

between the sectors and multi-stakeholder platforms being common frameworks
in the hegemonic discourse of the international water community, the data of
Uzbekistan emphasises that all these approaches are not yet on the agenda. The
evidence suggests that the current authoritative structure does not allow horizontal
platforms which could challenge the current political agenda and the manifestation
of the political structure in agriculture.
The historical data on the institutional development of the Uzbekistan Communal
Services Agency on the other hand show that since independence its influence on
decision-making on water allocation has been undermined, its role has decreased
from Ministry to Association, its financial support has changed from governmental
funding to consumer fees funding and even the head of the association is appointed
by the Ministry of Agriculture and Water resources. Hence, the influence of the
department has been continuously decreased. This was more than just an occasion, it
Against the Conventional Wisdom 243
was a long political process in which the power of the agricultural sector grew. The
rising importance of the agricultural sector after independence is reproduced in the
downgrading of the former Ministry of Communal Services.
The current top-down influence of the authorities on NGOs and mahallas
indicate that the raise of influence of the civil society is seen as a threat to the
system. Multi-stakeholder platforms which would be symbolic of a change from
authoritarian, vertical management to participation and democratic, more horizontal
management are not encouraged, because they would also challenge the current
vertical structure of the political decision making and the manifestations of the
structure, such as agricultural production and cotton monoculture. The top-down
influence is manifested at all levels. This influence puts the members of one level
into competition with each other, rather than allowing them to unite and to manage
the water resources as a common pool resource. The fact that the different cities in
Khorezm are competing for water resources and utilize the resources in a seemingly
un-institutionalized manner only underlines how unwanted horizontal cooperation
Instead of relying on the public water supply, urban users found alternatives to
compensate for the shortcomings. It can be assumed that having these alternatives
prevented them from questioning and challenging the current system of water
distribution and management However, it is questionable whether the focus on
technical efficiency and an increase of the water tariffs will solve the water problem
in the urban areas. First of all, the costs for implementing these changes are high,
and water consumers will not be able to finance it. The ADB report on the three
cities states that 45% of the total population are poor. The household gardens, which
have to be irrigated, are an important source of the livelihood strategies of the urban
population. Increasing the prices of potable water, but not maintaining the irrigation
channels in the cities might increase the vulnerability of the poor. The long process
of increasing productive efficiency is in sharp contrast with the urgent needs of the
urban population. Therefore, this strategy might have the opposite effect: instead of
creating stability, it may well create political instability.


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water supply project, RRP: UZB 35496.
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poor people’, Department for International Development, London.
244 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
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Central Asia’, http://www.duke.edu/web/licep/2/luong/luong.pdf.
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society’, in Everett-Heath, T. (ed.), Central Asia: aspects of transition, Routledge
Curzon, London, pp. 205–219.
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ecology and locality in a tank-irrigated landscape in South India’, Development
and Change, 28, pp. 467–504.
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Group, Occasional Paper No. 19, pp. 1–8.
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sector in the Central Asian Republics’, consulting report, Tashkent, pp. 1–54.
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Soviet Central Asia’, Development and Change, Vol. 29 (3), 409–435.
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Uzbekistan’, Water International, Vol. 24 (2), pp. 104–115.
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or a problem’, IWMI Research Report 14, Colombo.
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use prices to promote equity, efficiency, and sustainability’, Water Policy, Vol. 4,
pp. 1–17.
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Department for Water Resources in Khorezm, Uzbekistan’, Physics and Chemistry
of the Earth, Vol. 30, pp. 455–462.
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Offene und verdeckte Probleme – heute und in der Zukunft’, in Neubert, S.,
Scheumann, W., van Edig, A. and Huppert, W. (eds), Integriertes Wasserressourcen-
Management (IWRM): Ein Konzept in die Praxis überführen, Nomos-Verlag, pp.
Wegerich, K. (2006), ‘Groundwater utilization as adaptive capacity to public water
supply shortages: Case study of two cities in Khorezm, Uzbekistan’, in Tellam,
J.H. et al. (eds), Urban Groundwater Management and Sustainability, Springer,
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Chapter 15

Unpacking Participatory NRM:

Distinguishing Resource Capture
from Democratic Governance
Bruce Currie-Alder


A participatory approach that seeks to involve multiple stakeholders in natural

resource management (NRM) does not guarentee more equitable and effective
outcomes in practice. Research has shown that people can and do organize
to promote collective action for managing natural resources held in common
(Ostrom 1990). This research has identified governance principles for forming
institutional arrangements and evaluated case studies to validate this list and
provide insight into how common property users define their membership,
exclude outsiders from resource use, and monitor each other’s activities,
distribute costs and benefits, and reduce incentives for free-riding (Agrawal 2002,
Dietz et al. 2003). Nonetheless, the relative value of scarce resources can also
prompt powerful groups within society to assert control over and capture natural
resources in order to appropriate wealth and enhance their position (Khagram et
al. 2003) and participatory NRM can either empower local people to make their
own decisions or reproduce existing power inequities (Sithole 2002). Thus a key
challenge for NRM research is to unpack participation to distinguish initiatives
that lead to resource capture from initiatives that democratize NRM for those
people whose livelihoods directly depend on access to natural resources.
This paper unpacks participatory NRM using examples from the literature and
research projects funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre
(IDRC). The following sections describe how the performance of participatory
NRM depends upon the mixture of stakeholders involved, and how NRM addresses
both the shared objectives and stakeholder incentives. Later sections descibe the
challenge of evaluating participatory NRM, which depends upon stakeholder-
supported interpretations of: (1) the efficiency, equity, and effectiveness of
participation in achieving outcomes; (2) the rights, responsibilities, and role of
each stakeholder in the process; and (3) the scale, scope, and structure of the
management process. Finally, four key insights are presented for designing future
initiatives in participatory NRM.
246 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Unpacking Participation

Participation is a process through which a powerful stakeholder begins to share

responsibility with other interested stakeholders. The powerful stakeholder, often
a governmental agency, may voluntarily seek the participation of others, or it can
be coerced to accept such input. For example, in Mexico, watershed councils are
promoted by the federal government as a means to implement integrated water
management, yet protests by producer groups and NGOs forced the federal
government to accept a consultative council for the Terminos Lagoon Protected Area
(Currie-Alder 2004). As such, participatory NRM encompasses a spectrum of power
relations among stakeholders stretching from one extreme where control over natural
resources is concentrated in a single powerful stakeholder to another extreme where
other stakeholders inform, influence, or perform NRM. Towards the midpoint of the
spectrum, no single stakeholder can act unilaterally, instead management actions and
decisions must be negotiated.
Participation may occur formally or informally. In addition to formal recognition
on behalf of the powerful stakeholder, participatory approaches can create informal
situations where other stakeholders fulfil responsibilities for performing tasks. For
example, on the northern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the Actanchuleb
reserve was established by local fishers and lies outside the formal state and
national-level protected areas (Fraga et al. 2002). Such examples set a precedent and
can establish a custom of participation that can cause stakeholders’ expectations to
increase over time. Stakeholders can feel empowered to acquire a greater role or new
responsibilities; thus participation can create positive feedback and an initially weak
form of participation may evolve into a stronger one.
Participatory NRM can be bottom-up, top-down, or a combination of both. In
top-down participation a powerful stakeholder seeks to share responsibilities, while
in bottom-up participation stakeholders pressure for a greater role in management or
share responsibilities in the absence of an existing authority. Government convened
advisory boards are top-down, and community-based NRM tends to be bottom-up,
while co-management regimes are a mixture of both. Yet participatory NRM also
tends to be context specific, making comparisons difficult. Different authors have
proposed different typologies for participation (Borrini-Feyerabend 1996, Biggs and
Farrington 1991, Arnstein 1969), yet the key to understanding participatory NRM
lies in the relationships among stakeholders.

Identifying Stakeholders

‘Stakeholders’ are individuals or groups who stand to lose or gain from the
management process and thus possess some form of personal investment in NRM
outcomes. Often this ‘stake’ considered is a livelihood dependence on the resource in
question, yet the nature of a stakeholder’s relationship to these resources can change
over time as peoples’ interests and positions are fluid and dynamic. Participants can
switch ‘stakes’ and stakeholders can change roles depending on changes in their
understanding of each other and of the dynamics of the natural resource base.
Unpacking Participatory NRM 247
Not all stakeholders are equal, and there is no simple distinction between who
is and is not considered a stakeholder in participatory NRM. Stakeholders can
be powerful individuals or groups that have a significant influence on NRM, and
may include wealthy landowners, industry, and government. Stakeholders may
also have had a previously limited or unrecognized role in the formal management
process. Such stakeholders may include non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
indigenous peoples, and civil society in general. In the Social Analysis System,
Chevalier (2003) suggests using the criteria of power, interests, and legitimacy to
distinguish the degree of saliency of potential stakeholders. This method offers
the potential to reveal the complexity of social reality at a given moment; yet
by exploring stakeholder perceptions, the method can also influence how people
perceive their situation and can be repeated to capture how these relationships
change over time.

Shared Objectives vs. Stakeholder Objectives

Participatory NRM must consider what motivate peoples to participate. Bulkeley

and Mol (2003) describe four goals for adopting participatory NRM: (1) to bridge
scientific and experiential knowledge, (2) to clarify stakeholder perceptions
of the problem, (3) to promote learning, and (4) establish commitment among
stakeholders. These goals are perceived to be superior to unilateral action on behalf
of any single stakeholder, and require stakeholders to share their perspectives,
interests, values, knowledge, or acceptance of the management process.
Nonetheless, it is essential to ask what motivates a stakeholder to share, especially
when there are powerful incentives against working together – such as inequalities
in power, wealth, access and control over resources – or when stakeholders are
unaware of either the potential benefit of collective action or the collective cost of
non-cooperation (Singleton 1999). Thus participatory NRM must balance shared
objectives, intended to achieve a collective benefit for multiple stakeholders, and
the stakeholder objectives including the more personalized benefits that motivate
individuals and groups to participate.
Shared objectives may include improving the understanding, legitimacy and
capacity among multiple stakeholders (Box 15.1), yet stakeholders also become
involved in participatory NRM as a means of achieving more personal goals. For
example, individual stakeholders may seek prestige and the recognition of others,
training to acquire needed technical and administrative skills, entitlement to access
to and use of resources upon which their livelihood strategies depend, or to maintain
their cultural identity and practices related to resource use. The combination of shared
objectives and stakeholder incentives represent the value added of participatory NRM
as compared with more centralized management process. Both shared objectives
and stakeholder objectives are often implicit in the decision to adopt a participatory
approach, yet these objectives must be stated explicitly and revisited periodically to
ensure stakeholders commitment.
Such incentives for participation are balanced against incentives for resistence,
conflict and confrontation. Stakeholders who lack formal power may opt for more
248 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Box 15.1 Shared objectives

Understanding Participatory NRM is a means to cope with complexity

and share understanding among stakeholders. Holling (2001) describes a
paradigm for ecological research that interprets natural and social systems as
interconnected ‘panarchies’ that function simultaneous at multiple scales and
exhibit dynamic behaviour and possess multiple equilibria. This paradigm
suggests that NRM needs to foster the ability of people and ecosystems
to adapt to change, rather than the predictability and control of natural
resource yields, thus participatory NRM seeks to improve understanding by
incorporating multiple sources of knowledge held by different stakeholders.
Legitimacy Participatory NRM is a means to build acceptance of the
management process among multiple stakeholders. Participatory NRM
allows different voices to be heard, each of which requires outcomes that are
relevant to their own needs and interests. Participatory NRM can be a way
forward in situations deadlocked by distrust where no single stakeholder has
sufficient legitimacy to act alone in managing natural resources. Participatory
NRM explores how different stakeholders have different rights and power
over natural resources.
Capacity Participatory NRM is a means to build the capacity of
stakeholders to become involved in the management process, including
opportunities to gain skills, exchange experiences and share information.
As a disproportionate share of the costs and impacts of NRM outcomes are
often borne by disadvantaged groups (Sithole 2002), participatory NRM can
also empower these stakeholders groups to define and defend their customary
rights and practices related to resource use. Participatory NRM can foster
self-governance by increasing the skills of individuals and groups to gain
voice within management.

covert forms of social negotiation ranging from protest to sabotage in order to

strengthen their voice and assert their rights to resources (Sithole 2002). Thus, the
existence of participatory initiative is insufficient to guarantee the involvement of
all relevant stakeholders, and facilitators must strive to make participatory NRM
inclusive and sufficiently attractive for stakeholders to value the process over
alternate forms of social negotiation. Moench (2002) states that people with diverse
livelihood options are less likely to seek social change through protest; nonetheless,
stakeholders may still pursue alternate forms of negotiation while involved in
participatory NRM, especially if such action enhances their position (Singleton
An appreciation of stakeholder objectives, both for and against participation,
and a dose of creativity can facilitate a participatory NRM even under apparently
adverse conditions. Understanding the incentives that motivate stakeholders
is essential in Latin America and the Caribbean given the region’s active civil
society and historical practices of social protest. As the complexity of management
Unpacking Participatory NRM 249
challenges surpasses the capacity of governmental NRM agencies, new niches
have opened for non-governmental stakeholders to take a more active role in
NRM. Yet, if the motivations of these new stakeholders are ignored, they can lose
their desire to participate.

Evaluating Participation

The success of participatory NRM depends, in part, upon the extent to which it
achieves shared objectives and responds to stakeholder incentives; nonetheless,
there are other means of evaluating participation. For example, Conley and Moote
(2003) suggest that participatory NRM be evaluated by monitoring three categories
of outcomes, including improvements in the participatory process, environmental
quality and social-economic conditions. Such evaluations cannot be value-free and
impartial; instead they must be foster reflection and learning among stakeholders
through group discussion and other shared activities. In particular, it is useful to
explore stakeholder understanding of certain key concepts. In the participatory
evaluation method of ‘Outcome Mapping’, participants build towards consensus on
team vision, mission, boundary partners, progress markers, and monitoring (Earl,
Carden and Smutylo 2001). Participatory NRM is enhanced when participants
discuss and have mutually compatible understanding of: (1) the efficiency, equity, and
effectiveness of participation in achieving outcomes; (2) the rights, responsibilities,
and role of each stakeholder in the process; and (3) the scale, scope, and structure
of the NRM process.

Achieving Outcomes

In evaluating participatory NRM it is essential to understand that different stakeholders

can have different notions of effectiveness, equity and efficiency. Fostering dialogue on
the meaning of these criteria can improve stakeholder understanding of participation
and suggest indicators for monitoring the process.
Effectiveness is the extent to which participatory NRM achieves desired outcomes,
including the extent to which participatory NRM both satisfies shared objectives
and individual stakeholder objectives. For example, the Sustainable Development
Consultative Council (Consejo Consultivo de Desarollo Sustentable) in Tabasco,
Mexico, appears to be efficient and equitable, as this Council operates with little
funding and all stakeholder representatives have ample opportunity to contribute
to group discussions. Yet the absence of a single key stakeholder, in the form of
the state legislature, means the Council is ineffective as its proposals are seldom
implemented (Currie-Alder 2004). Even in the absence of improved environmental
quality or changes in stakeholder behaviour, participatory NRM may be considered
effective if it contributes to the shared objectives of understanding, legitimacy, and
Equity is the degree of fairness in the distribution of costs and benefits among
stakeholders involved in achieveing the outcomes of participatory NRM. Different
stakeholders can have different notions of fairness. Equity can mean an equal share in
250 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
costs and benefits among each stakeholder, a proportional share based on the extent
of a stakeholder’s participation in the process, or a situational share depending on a
stakeholder’s needs or dependence on the resource. For example, in Andean irrigation
systems managed by indigenous people, Trawick (2003) observes that in times of
abundance water is distributed in proportional shares according to each farmer’s
position in the social hierarchy, yet in times of scarcity available water is distributed
in situational shares depending on the size of farmers’ fields. Measuring equity
requires defining the criteria used for valuing and distributing the resource. When
participatory NRM is supported by international donors, participation is expected to
lead to improved resource access for the poor and empower disadvantaged groups in
order to obtain greater voice in NRM.
Efficiency is the ratio of management outcomes to the costs of achieving those
outcomes. Yet this ratio can be interpreted in different ways, including: Pareto
efficiency where improved outcomes ensure that no stakeholder is adversely affected,
Kaldor-Hicks efficiency where those who benefit from an outcome compensate
those who are adversely affected by it, and allocative efficiency where resources are
allocated to maximise the net benefit attained through their use. For example, one
study of the El Angel watershed in Ecuador, considers the ratio of income generated
to the quantity of water used in agriculture and is thus a form of allocative efficiency
(Evans et al. 2003). In practice, measuring efficiency is complex as it invloves
defining which outcomes and costs are considered and assigning comparable
values to each. For example, desirable outcomes can include building trust among
stakeholders, enhancing resource productivity, or maintaining environmental
services, while costs include the financial costs of the management process as well
as the costs of stakeholders’ time, energy, and personal expenses. Considerations of
efficiency depend upon the timeframe considered. Participatory NRM is generally
assumed to require greater shorter-term costs to set up than more centralized NRM,
yet result in longer-term benefits and avoid potentially costly resolution of disputes
resulting from centralized NRM. For example, Alurride et al (2002) note that the
lack of legitimacy and stakeholder support lead to the costly repeal of national water
legislation in Bolivia.

Stakeholder Participation

How stakeholders are involved in participatory NRM is at least as important as

the outcomes achieved. Participatory NRM must engage and negotiate multiple
perspectives on, and relationships to, natural resources held by different stakeholders.
Thus, participatory NRM is a political activity in which the representation of
stakeholder interests and the accountability of decision makers are vital to achieving
outcomes (Agrawal and Gibson 1999). Indeed Olson proposed that efficient and
equitable outcomes in public choice processes, of which participatory NRM can
be considered a special case, result when the mix of stakeholders involved is
representative of the collective interests of society (1982, 37). As an entry point
for engaging the politics of stakeholder interaction, successful participatory NRM
fosters dialogue among stakeholders towards understanding each other’s rights,
responsibilities and roles.
Unpacking Participatory NRM 251
Rights are the entitlements that each stakeholder possesses -including property,
cultural, and legal rights- that define their relationship to natural resources. Rights
provide a means of distinguishing stakeholders based on the level of control over
or connection to a particular natural resource. Property rights include claims to use,
manage, or alienate natural resources (Agrawal and Ostrom 2001). For example,
each member of the fishing cooperative in Actanchuleb reserve has a right to fish
within the reserve, a network of local elders, known as the Fuerzas Vivas, has
a quasi-formal right to manage the reserve, but cannot sell or give away these
fishing grounds (Fraga et al. 2002). Cultural and legal rights may also influence the
relationship between actors and natural resources, for example many indigenous
groups have preserved or reinvented a culture of living within the landscape that
grants its members a social licence to interact with natural resources even in the
absence of formal recognition to do so by government agencies. The absence of
rights –whether property, cultural, and legal– is not sufficient reason to exclude
potential stakeholders from participatory NRM when disadvantaged groups and
other stakeholders have interests and needs that are tied to their acesss and use
of these resources. Nonetheless, discussion of formal and informal rights can
enrich stakeholder understanding and assist in assessing whether key stakeholders
are excluded from management or whether some stakeholders participate in a
disproportionate or inappropriate manner.
Responsibilities describe how stakeholders contribute to the management
process, including the activities they perform and the support they give to the process.
Where rights describe what a stakeholder is entitled to do, responsibilities describe
the activities a stakeholder performs. In weaker forms of participation, stakeholders
are merely responsible for informing NRM authorities of their perspectives and
interests, while in stronger forms of participation stakeholders take responsibility
for tasks such as convening meetings, collecting and analyzing data, budgeting,
planning, or allotting resource use.
Roles are defined by a stakeholder’s responsibilities and describe their overall
purpose in participatory NRM. Roles describe how stakeholders perceive their
participation and are defined by the sum of the responsibilities they fulfil. While
stakeholders can include local people, NGOs, producer groups, and government
agencies, any of these groups may play a range of roles such as decision-maker,
planner, data collector, enforcer, advisor, critic, etc. Roles imply both the degree to
which a stakeholder participates in the NRM process and the relative influence he or
she has in decision-making.
Roles and Responsibilities can change over time. Stakeholders may initially
adopt a role of critic and take responsibility for identifying weaknesses in
existing policies and practices; yet as participation matures, stakeholders can feel
empowered and adopt new roles, such as planner or data collector. The dominant
managerial role of government NRM agencies is challenged with the inclusion
of other stakeholders. As participation matures, government NRM agencies must
adopt a new role to coordinate activities and facilitate communication among
others who fulfill management responsibilities. With experience and learning, over
time stakeholders can renegotiate their rights, acquire new responsibilities and
adopt new roles.
252 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management
Nature of Management

The nature of NRM is potentially transformed by the participation of stakeholders.

The diversity of perspectives and interests that different stakeholders contribute
to participatory NRM reveals how the natural resources are connected to
social and ecological processes. Participatory NRM may begin with a narrow
focus on a single resource within a defined geographic space, yet meaningful
participation will challenge these boundaries. Without understanding these
potential consequences of participatory NRM, stakeholders may feel frustrated
as the scale, scope and structure of management shift over time.
Scale refers to the spatial and temporal boundaries of management, or the
expanse of management in time and space. The temporal and spatial limits
of management are challenged both by greater understanding of ecological
processes and the diversity of perceptions and interests brought to the table
in a participatory approach. For example, the Carchi Consortium, a multi-
stakeholder forum for discussing NRM issues in northern Ecuador, initially
focused on subsection of the El Angel watershed. Yet as researchers learned the
importance of local conflicts over water, and local people became more involved,
the Consortium extended its boundaries to consider the higher-elevation Páramo
wetlands (Poats et al 2002). Such scale-forcing is to be expected in participatory
NRM when stakeholders learn how different natural resources are embedded
in multiple processes extending across time and space (Holling 2001). This
scale-forcing potential for expanding NRM boundaries is particularly prominent
with highly fugitive or mobile resources, such as wildlife and water, that cut
across political and administrative boundaries. Additionally, as the interests
of different stakeholders have different geographical footprints, the overlap of
these footprints in participatory NRM can also force management to consider
larger scales of time and space.
Scope concerns the conceptual and institutional boundaries defining what and
who is considered in management: the resources managed, the goals of NRM,
and the stakeholders involved. Where scale describes management in time and
space, scope describes what is to be managed and by whom. Scope expands when
more stakeholders become involved, and the overlap of stakeholder interests can
expand the scope of the NRM process to include additional resources, challenges
and objectives. For example, the Terminos Lagoon Protected Area in southern
Mexico was established by a presidential decree which states that the area’s
purpose is to protect wildlife habitat, yet the involvement of local stakeholders
in designing the management plan expanded the scope of the NRM to encompass
additional goals related to regulating activities in the oil industry and promoting
community development (Currie-Alder 2004).
Scale and scope can combine to trigger a continually expanding management
horizon. As more actors introduce more objectives and more resources into
the management process, these objectives and resources force management to
consider larger temporal and geographic scales. As mentioned above, the scale
considered by the Carchi Consortium, shifted to consider the Paramo ecosystem
and adjacent watersheds. Yet this shift in scale also triggers a shift in scope,
Unpacking Participatory NRM 253
as the new scale forces the Consortium to engage new stakeholders initially
excluded from the process, such as large landowners, the provincial government
and the municipal governments (Waldick 2003).
Expanding scale and scope will encounter a limit, however, as transaction
and information costs of participatory NRM increase. It takes time and energy
for stakeholders to meet and decide how natural resources are to be managed,
and these costs increase as more stakeholders enter the process and are spread
over greater distances. Additionally, the understanding of natural processes over
larger scales –or even the data to describe these processes– may simply not
exist. Institutional constraints or arbitrary decisions may determine the limits to
expanded management scale and scope. Scaling-up management to encompass
larger geographic areas can depend upon the participation of a key stakeholder
and a barrier is reached if they cannot be enticed into participating in the process.
In such situations, participatory NRM must either remain at a more restricted scale
and scope, or invest time in building relationships and courting the participation
of the key stakeholder.
Structure describes the relationships between stakeholders, including the
flows of information and decision-making. With participation, the NRM process
undergoes a structural shift away from hierarchies, contained within a single
organization, towards networks connecting multiple stakeholders. Centralized
NRM concentrates responsibilities within a single organization, often a government
agency, which has a pronounced internal hierarchy. Through participation, the flow
of information and management responsibilities initially contained within this
single hierarchy are distributed among other stakeholders. These new stakeholders
may have more horizontal internal structures -such as ejidal assemblies in
Mexico or many NGOs- or they may possess their own internal hierarchies -such
as municipal governments, other governmental NRM agencies, or universities.
Nonetheless, participatory NRM implies that the hierarchies within organizations
become secondary to network relationships between different stakeholders. Top-
down approaches operating within hierarchical structures must shift to a more
horizontal network structure where responsibilities and roles are more freely
shared with others.
The network among stakeholders that exists within participatory NRM
requires powerful stakeholders to surrender some control over the management
process. With greater sharing of responsibilities among multiple stakeholders, it is
increasingly difficult for any one stakeholder to dominate NRM. As the network
develops, stakeholders can question conventional assumptions and practices. Going
participatory can be perceived as threatening to agency control as outcomes do not
necessarily coincide with existing policy and programs. Ironically, this reduced
control over the management process may cause such a powerful stakeholder
to resist or withdraw from participatory NRM precisely when social learning
begins. It is thus necessary to enter participatory NRM with a degree of flexibility.
Government agencies must define a set of core values that are non-negotiable, such
as the framework of existing legislation, but accept that other aspects of NRM may
be transformed through meaningful participation.
254 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management

Olson’s coalitions (1982) represent two extremes:

• the distributional coalition being resource capture by an elite for private

• the encompassing coalition is representative of society’s interests and leads to
democratic governance.

In practice, participatory NRM is often somewhere in between these extremes as not

everyone is a stakeholder, nor are all stakeholders necessarily interested in all aspects
of NRM. The following are four key insights for the design of future initiatives in
participatory NRM.

1. Effective facilitators must foster dialogue among stakeholders regarding

each other’s rights, responsibilities and roles, and seek opportunities for
experimentation and adaptation. Participatory NRM needs to tap the creativity
and energy of stakeholders to explore and define their own role in management.
Facilitators need to assist stakeholders to understand each other and the host
of factors that define the framework within which participation can occur,
including legislation, economic incentives, and market conditions. Participatory
NRM encounters barriers when stakeholder disagree as to the purpose of their
participation, yet dialogue that explores stakeholder perceptions (Table 15.1 and
15.2) can reduce frustration and burnout. In particular, facilitators must work
with stakeholders to determine how participatory NRM will be evaluated and
building awareness of the potential shifts in the nature of management.

Table 15.1 Unpacking participatory NRM

1. Who participates? Stakeholders involved in the process.
2. Who does not participate? Stakeholders excluded from the process.
3. What is the purpose The collective, shared objectives of participatory NRM,
of participation? including: understanding, legitimacy, and capacity.
4. Why do they participate? The individual objectives that motivate stakeholders
to participate in the process, including: prestige,
training, livelihoods, and/or culture.
5. How do they participate? The activities shared in participatory NRM,
such as monitoring, research, planning.
6. Are there power imbalances? Differences in power, capacity and/or
authority between stakeholders.
7. Does scale-forcing occur? Changes in the scale or scope of
management due to learning.
8. What are the barriers The factors that limit stakeholder participation,
to participation? that can suggest which strategies facilitators
should use to overcome these barriers.
Unpacking Participatory NRM 255
2 To facilitate the emergence of democratic governance, participatory NRM must
seek a mixture of stakeholders that reflects wider society where the process remains
tractable, but has sufficient participation to achieve shared objectives. Initially as
each new stakeholder enters the process, there is a high marginal benefit from their
participation since their inclusion adds a significant proportion of perspectives and
interests excluded from centralized NRM. Yet there is a point of diminishing returns
where the benefit of involving new stakeholders is outweighed by additional costs
in communication and negotiation. Forming encompassing coalitions, therefore,
is a matter of finding a balance where participatory NRM remains tractable, but
has sufficient participation to enrich the management process and achieve shared
objectives. The point of optimal participation depends upon the costs, benefits and
outcomes considered in evaluating the process.

Table 15.2 Evaluating participatory NRM processes

Achieving Outcomes
Effectiveness To what extent are the desired outcomes achieved?
Equity How are costs, benefits and power
distributed among stakeholders?
Efficiency What is the ratio of outcomes to the costs of achieving them?
Rights What are each stakeholder’s entitlements to natural resources?
Responsibilities What tasks does each stakeholder perform?
Roles What is the purpose of each stakeholder’s participation?
Nature of Management
Scale Which spatial and temporal scales are considered?
Scope Which resources and stakeholders are considered?
Structure How are the relationships among different
stakeholders organized?

3. The appropriate scale, scope, and structure for participatory NRM shift over time as
stakeholders learn, rights and responsibilities are redistributed, and roles change. The
scale and scope of participatory NRM depend on factors such as the natural resources
involved, the legal framework for participation, and the willingness of key stakeholders
to participate. In general, the integration of stakeholder objectives will force participatory
NRM to expand in scale and scope, and shift from hierarchies to networks. With
learning, there is a tendency for the spatial and temporal scale of management to expand
outwards, crossing boundaries and encompassing multiple stakeholders each with their
own jurisdiction and entitlements. This phenomenon of scale-forcing necessitates the
inclusion of additional stakeholders and where the internal hierarchies of government
agencies become secondary to the network among stakeholders (see Figure 15.1). Top-
down approaches to NRM are structured as hierarchies while bottom-up approaches
are structured as networks. Bridging the gap between these structures through
participatory NRM creates networks in which the internal hierarchies within different
stakeholder groups are embedded in a more horizontal web between stakeholders.
256 Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management

Figure 15.1 Envisioning participatory NRM

4. Such changes prompt a shift in the structure of NRM towards networks where
government agencies must scale down and grassroots organizations must scale up
to fit. For grassroot organizations, engaging government and powerful stakeholders
can enhance the effectiveness of participatory NRM initiated from the bottom-
up. Governments can contribute legal support for grassroots-initiated NRM,
institutionalizing and making participation less vulnerable to external disturbance. For
government agencies, involving other stakeholders can help bridge the gap between
government and local commmunity visions and increases the legitimacy of government’s
role in resource management. As government agencies transfer responsabilities to
other stakeholders, participatory NRM can challenge established policies. Government
must define a core set of values which are non-negotiable, yet when the outcomes
of participatory NRM assist in achieving the agency’s mandate, government must be
willing to adapt its policies to match the learning among stakeholders.


Participatory NRM that encourages democratic governance is a transformative

process. The conceptual framework presented in this paper – based on the literature
and supported by examples from Latin America – proposes that participatory NRM
processes that encourage democratic governance include: a mix of stakeholders that
reflects wider society; dialogue among stakeholders regarding each other’s rights,
responsibilities and roles; shifts in the nature of management over time; and a
Unpacking Participatory NRM 257
requirement for stakeholders to scale down or scale up to fit. Conversely, the absence
of these characteristics can signal that participatory NRM merely legitimates a
process that facilitates resource capture, or at very least fails to tackle core issues
regarding the power relations among stakeholders.
The understanding offered by this framework can lead to better management
by identifying and tackling with weaknesses in participatory NRM. Processes that
do not demonstrate these characteristics can be enhanced if stakeholders critically
examine different aspects of the power relationships among them, including:

• who is excluded from NRM;

• tension between collective objectives and stakeholder incentives;
• distribution of rights, responsibilities and roles in NRM;
• criteria for evaluating the effectiveness, equity and efficiency of NRM
outcomes; and
• shifts in the scale, scope and structure of management.

Conversely, awareness of these characteristics of democratic governance can

assist stakeholders involved in such processes to avoid frustration and burnout. In
particular, a government agency can perceive changing roles and shifts in the nature
of management as a challenge to its authority, yet such an agency should be willing
to adjust its policies so long as participatory NRM assists to achieve its mandate and
encourages democratic governance.


My thanks to Philippa Wiens, Simon Carter and Merle Faminow for their comments
on earlier drafts. This paper was made possible through the support of the International
Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa.


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Chapter 16

Towards Evaluating MSPs for

Integrated Catchment Management
Annemiek Verhallen, Jeroen Warner and Leo Santbergen

The Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Catchment Management

project (MSP-ICM project) set out to track the emergence, functioning and
sustainability of multi-stakeholder platforms. We started the book with three
research questions:

1. Are MSPs compatible with integrated water resource management

2. Do multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) make a difference?
3. Can (and should) MSPs be sustainable?

As a starting point, let us be reminded that MSPs are beasts finding their multiple feet
(like centi- or millipedes) in a widely varied habitat with multifarious challenges.
From a systems (cybernetics) perspective, a multi-stakeholder platform deliberately
brings in extra diversity, and due to the multiple interactions between the actors, extra
complexity. After Ashby’s Law (Ashby 1964), we can say that the complexity of the
governing system aims to reflect the complexity of the system to be governed – both
the task at hand and the policy environment habitat. As hinted by the ‘sustainability’
aspect of our project’s mission, there is a time element here: if the MSP manages
to be adaptive over time in the face of change and uncertainty, we can understand
MSPs as complex adaptive institutional organisms as they move between the Scylla
of order (energy) and the Charibdys of chaos (entropy) – given that, in Dourojeanni’s
lucky phrase, MSPs are slow to grow and quick to die.
In this concluding chapter we shall answer these three research questions stated in