Water & politics issues
Water & Politics issues
A means of circumscribing “Water and Politics” is mapping the related issues. The censing of important questions should allow a better understanding of the problems at stake and lead to a coherent definition of directions and priorities for the WWC’s future activities. The issues listed bellow are considered by the WWC as critical in order to consider “Water & Politics”.
1) Historical perspective on water policies:
Changes in political context may lead to change in water policy. In some cases the opposite occurs and water issues themselves lead to significant political changes. How should water reforms be interpreted from a historical point of view? What can be understood of the evolution of water policies? How and when did water issues come up in environmental politics?
2) Dialogue and participation of stakeholders:
Stakeholders generally have different points of view, each of them therefore have their own ideas and values to defend in negotiation processes. In some situations stakeholders are willing to discuss between themselves and with authorities, in others they refuse. What presides the transition from confrontation to dialogue? How do you pass from obtruded zero sum games to win-win approaches?
Whilst a “participative approach” has become an obligation prior to any decision-making, it is essential to better understand what is at stake behind the notion of participation. To what extent does participation model the outcomes of dialogue? Does vast participation favor creativity in the debate or does it add undesirable messiness? What part does participation play in capacity building? To what extend can public participation be considered as a political marketing tool, reinforcing of the “acceptability” of a political decision?
Because speech and participation belong to the political realm, where direct democracy doesn’t exist, they pass by representativity. How are representatives chosen? What Voice do the poor have regarding debate on water? What part do women play in this process? What are the canals of exclusion and those of reproduction of elites regarding water issues?
Of course dialogue between stakeholders is liable to the state of Democracy and the general political context in a country. The development of Democracy in a country directly affects previous points such as negotiation, participation, representativity.
3) Public decision processes:
What is the role of power structures in decision-making? What part do the media play in the policy changes? Where and how does lobbying take place? What influence does expertise have on decision-makers? According to the state of development of a society, the public decision process will not be the same. The importance given to so-called public opinion changes according to the political climate of a country. History has forged a preeminent place for lobbying in some places, whereas elsewhere lobbying remains a quasi-occult process. Expertise often ceases to be put forward as a ‘scientific’ and ‘objective’ approach and is more and more presented as the expression of a clearly politicized point of view.
4) Asymmetries of information and power control:
Information plays a central part in power games; power structures do not only manage resources but also control large sums of information. Parties do not always gain interest by diffusing all the information they possess. Voluntary retention of information can help the most informed party obtain a dominant situation in a negotiation process. The questions of transparency and circulation of knowledge are therefore central, and, in order to understand where power lies, the implications of asymmetries of information should be further analyzed. Where do these informational asymmetries lie? What part do these asymmetries play in power-games? How is information retained or kept secret? How do those that informational asymmetries favor manage to take advantage of their situation in negotiations? What are the incidences of these informational asymmetries on decision-making?
5) Ethics of public action:
Illicit practices such as corruption or intimidation often interfere in public action processes. How can transparency be favored regarding water issues? In condemning these practices, we should study the ethics surrounding water management and its public action.
6) Water policy paradigms:
Consensus models are based on win-win situations. The IWRM approach uses the participation, negotiation and consensus model to arrive at water management solutions that provide win-win solutions. Recurrent references to consensual and un-confrontational vocabulary concerning water’ might lead to “depolitization” of the debate. However, especially in water scarce areas, choices have to be made. This means that there will be losers and winners. Politics and power play an important role to arrive at these choices. Against the possible risks of an over-consensual approach, it is important to insist on the “politics” contained in all water issues.
7) Decentralization processes:
Decentralization is a critical process for water management. Beyond the subsidiary principle, sub- sovereign levels (regions, cities, water basins…) need to play a role. However, transfer of power is obviously a difficult process. How do delegations of power occur? When they do take place, what latitude do local water policies have?
8) Relations between politics and governance:
What are the criteria of water policy successes? How does water politics interfere with governance? What does the idea of good water governance imply?
9) Relations between law, regulations and implementation of reforms:
How does the adaptation of legal frameworks occur? What are the possible regulatory methods regarding water issues? How should actors coordinate for effective water policy implementation? What tools are available for a better understanding of these questions?
10) Cultural aspects:
What is the influence of culture on water policies? How are cultural elements embedded in policy-making? What are the repercussions of culture and the values it conveys on political choices?