On 15 December, IUCN’s Asia Regional Environmental Law and Water and Wetlands Programmes held a joint workshop to work with partners to brainstorm the fundamentals of a transboundary water governance assessment framework. The workshop was sponsored by the Mekong Regional Water Dialogues project, funded by the Government of Finland.
More than 20 participants attended the workshop including government officials from Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, along with regional water experts, and representatives from ADB, UNDP, and GTZ. IUCN Country Office staff from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand also participated.
IUCN convened the workshop because national and regional dialogues have brought out the fact that there are significant gaps in understanding of the term ‘transboundary water governance’. The term ‘governance’ is widely used by conservation organizations, development banks and agencies, governments and academics, and there are almost as many definitions as there are people using the term. This definitional ambiguity has inevitably introduced haziness to policy formulation and to implementation of projects dealing with governance issues and reduces the effectiveness of national and regional efforts to achieve equitable benefit sharing of regional water resources.
Workshop participants considered regional experience to date with transboundary water governance, drawing on examples presented by UNDP, ADB, and the Government of Thailand. IUCN launched a discussion on how to define “governance” in the context of transboundary water resources and offered a working definition and a framework for assessing governance.
Participants endorsed the framework, agreeing that it offers a useful and simple way to understand transboundary water governance at multiple levels: sub-national, national, and international. It can be used by a wide range of stakeholders including government, aid agencies and individual practitioners, both as a generic tool for broad assessment which can also be applied to specific regions and transboundary waters.
In 2010, it has been agreed after discussion in working groups that IUCN working with partners will apply the framework to a series of selected case studies in the region. Ground-truthing the framework in this way will ensure that it is robust, transferable and will provide the opportunity to develop specific indicators based on consultation with local stakeholders.