Workshop on "Water & Politics" - February 26-27, 2004
The way water and politics interact is critical for the decision and implementation of water reforms. Politics, defined here as the process through which relations of power are constituted, negotiated and, reproduced, is indeed in the background of all public decisions and action. Although obvious to water practitioners, this political component has not received sufficient attention so far. On the contrary, international discourse often exerts a strong depoliticising effect by focusing on neutral concepts, which avoid controversies that need to be developed and properly addressed. That is why the World Water Council (WWC) has initiated a “Water and Politics” project that aims to raise awareness of the importance of political issues in water reforms and to identify how politics can be a tool for the water community.
In the framework of this project, the WWC and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) have already launched pilot activities in some countries or basins to identify the institutional and political power structures and to facilitate discussion between local technical and political people. Selected dialogue areas are located in Mexico (Costa de Chiapas), Tanzania/Kenya Pangani River Basin, Volta River in Ghana and Burkina Faso and the Mekong River Basin (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam).
The workshop will help to further develop the project on Water and Politics by identifying priority areas to be investigated and priority action. In particular, what can we learn from political science that can help our understanding of the implementation of water reforms? How could this knowledge be useful to those in charge of preparing these reforms? Which are the most critical issues that could benefit from this programme? Finally what specific actions could be initiated by the Council in this field?
The workshop will bring together water practitioners, political scientists and politicians in charge of deciding and implementing water reforms. It will look at the problem from three different perspectives:
- What can we learn from political science that helps us to identify and tackle the political components of water reforms? Which are the power structures in place that need to be understood, convinced and/or influenced? What are the main political aspects to understand? What can we learn from the history of water reforms in this respect?
- What are the issues that could benefit from a better understanding of politics? Are they primarily related to the debate, to the decision-making process or to the implementation of water reforms?
- What type of action can be initiated by the Council and its members jointly? Can we facilitate the political processes themselves and in this respect what can we learn from the on-going projects initiated with IUCN? Or should the Council embark on a specific action such as for instance on corruption and transparency in the water sector?
Bernard Barraqué: LATTS - ENPC, France
Jerry Delli Priscoli: U.S Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works, USA
Brett Orlando: IUCN - World Conservation Union, Switzerland
Anthony Turton: GIBB-SERA Chair in Integrated Water Resource Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa