I recently attended a meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative (WGI) in Paris (see http://www.oecd.org/gov/regional-policy/Terms-of-Reference%20-OECD-WGI.pdf). The objectives of the WGI are broad and include: advising governments on reforms through policy dialogue, providing a technical platform for dialogue and knowledge sharing and a mechanism to raise governance issues in global circles, supporting governance targets from 6th to 7th World Water Forum, and last but most importantly, to help prepare OECD Principles on Water Governance. My major task was to bring a GWI perspective to the latter, in particular as these principles are likely in future to have weight within government and donor circles.
My immediate concern was to bring a perspective from our agricultural focus and, in particular, our work on empowering smallholder farmers. However, as I absorbed the discussions a number of wider issues and challenges also become apparent. First, I emphasized when invited to do so the need to understand more fully power structures and politics that shape and craft resource governance. At present, their approach seemed somewhat ‘power blind’, and I suggested a need to consider a ‘good water politics’ as well as water governance. What, in short, are the political economy drivers of change that shape the rights, duties and obligations surrounding water governance. Second, I emphasized that there is s need for a specific focus on and/or engagement in agricultural water –it is not ‘just another sector’, but provides for 70% of global withdrawals. As a result, it is really part of ‘everyone’s water governance’ and will increasingly become so in future years. Finally, I stressed that there were some curious omissions in the principles, including lack of reference to water security and ‘nexus debates’ on water-food-energy relationships. In that sense, the principles seemed a little stuck in the past.
Anyway, it is difficult to say whether any results were achieved by my inputs, though it seemed that some of my comments were at least registered by those at OECD leading the process. I also used the opportunity to meet with interesting constituencies of interest (in agriculture) from a number of countries and institutions, including the Asian Development Bank and the Union for the Mediterranean. Suffice to say, that there’s a strong constituency of support out there for privileging the position of farmers and those working within them in such debates. So, roll on the next World Water Forum in Korea (see http://eng.worldwaterforum7.org/main/) and farmers, please make your presence felt. You’re the key to future water governance at local, national, regional and global scales!
Dr. Alan Nicol
GWI EA, Uganda