Multi-stakeholder partnerships needed for sustainable development – Report

Dr. Grobicki handing over the report to AMCOW President Hon. Buyelwa P. Sonjica

A new report on water security in Africa published by the Global Water Partnership (GWP), created to foster the implementation of  integrated water resources management (IWRM) says multi-stakeholder partnerships hold the key to sustainable development.

Titled “Water Security for Development: Insights from African Partnerships in Action”, the report outlines the lessons of a five-year programme to develop Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plans in 13 African countries.

The new report which was launched at a High-Level Ministerial Session during World Water Week on 8 September 2010 on Africa Focus Day, also highlights six policy recommendations.

These are that integrated approaches to water management and other development interventions should be undertaken as part of the broader national development planning process and that cross-sectoral coordination and responsibility for integration should be anchored in a government institution with capacity to influence and mobilise other sectors. The report adds that higher-level government bodies such as ministries of finance and economic planning, the cabinet and the prime minister’s or vice president’s office are good locations for facilitating integration.

The second policy recommendation is that integrated approaches to water management should of necessity be aligned with high-priority national development processes with broad cross-sectoral and stakeholder support, even if these are outside the water sector.

It adds that thirdly, such approaches must be flexible, realistic and structured as continuous processes rather than individual projects.

The report further recommends governments to take into account country differences and accommodate variations of scope and budget, based on the country’s development context.

It also calls for water-related climate change adaptation into water resources management plans and not to treat climate change as a separate issue, in order to avoid duplication and fragmentation.

The report maintains that the capacity of local institutions must be built to address climate change adaptation as part of the water security agenda in development planning and decision-making processes, in line with national development priorities.

Lastly, the report calls for the development of economic arguments for financing water resources management, adding that opportunities for accessing adaptation funds for financing water resources management must be explored.

Receiving the report from the GWP Executive Secretary, Dr. Grobicki, the AMCOW President, Hon. Buyelwa P. Sonjica, acknowledged the contribution of Global Water Partnership to the process of improving water management in Africa.

The Executive Secretary for her part, stated that “Water, which is central to development, food security and crucial for meeting the MDGs must be managed better. Stakeholder partnerships are foundational to advancing water security, confronting global challenges such as climate change, and accelerating progress towards internationally agreed goals such as the MDGs.”

She said “While results differed in each country, in all of them progress was made in highlighting the importance at policy level of the contribution of water resources management to the development agenda.”

Dr. Grobicki maintained that “The GWP programme gave rise to a multitude of lessons not just relevant to the water sector, but to all social change processes driving sustainable development for the benefit of people and their communities.”

The lessons learned centre around the importance of understanding the development context, having a strategic road map, ensuring sustainability and developing capacity. In addition, the report provides policy recommendations for decision-makers that, if applied, could not only strengthen water management but also improve national development processes.

Commenting on the report, Alex Simalabwi, the report’s lead author, said “It’s not just what you do,” but “it’s also how you do it.”

He lamented that too many development initiatives are handed down from above by donors or governments with no buy-in from local communities, recommending that “It shouldn’t be top-down or bottom-up, it should be an equal partnership with multiple stakeholders who all have an interest in negotiating a win-win outcome.”

“The tighter the integration of water management planning with other development activities, the better the outcome,” noted Simalabwi. “Water is connected to everything—food, energy, health, industry—it is the world’s lifeline. So how it is managed in relation to competing uses is what policy-makers have to fix their minds on,” he stressed.
By Edmund Smith-Asante

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