The participation of different stakeholders in water resources management is enshrined as Principle Two of the 1992 Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development, which the Global Water Partnership (GWP) took as one of its guiding principles, upon its creation in 1996. That principle implies that all users, planners, and policymakers, at all levels, should be involved in relevant water management decisions. Now almost 30 years later, how well we are really doing in terms of engaging key stakeholders in water resources management?
Since Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has been formalised as Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.5, countries around the world periodically ask themselves that very question. Based on the last round of global data collection on the status of SDG 6.5 conducted in 2020, the average global score for public participation in water resources, policy, planning and management at the national level was 63%, whereas at the sub-national level it was 57%. For context, overall global status of SDG 6.5 was put at 54%, compared to the 49% recorded in 2017. These two of the 33 questions countries answer to evaluate their progress on SDG 6.5, both on the subject of public participation, show that much more still needs to be done to reach full implementation of IWRM.
This stock-taking exercise takes place within the context of multi-stakeholder consultations. Since the 2020 data collection occurred during the global pandemic, countries conducted those consultations either online, in-person or in hybrid models, according to the recommendations of their national health bodies. Accordingly, the SDG 6 IWRM Support Programme, coordinated by GWP with the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP-DHI Centre and UNDP-Cap-Net, worked with governments of 61 countries to convene over 2,400 stakeholders to discuss the status of IWRM. Those stakeholders were from civil society and NGOs (54%), national and local governments (37%), academia (6%), international organisations (2%) and the private sector (2%).
The online and hybrid consultation models fostered greater innovation, as demonstrated in the ICPDR’s own Stakeholder Consultation Workshop in June, which was coordinated with assistance from GWP-CEE. Both the number of stakeholders engaged and the means of engagement broke fresh ground for the Danube, and showed that it is feasible to give voice to more stakeholders in a new form, and that doing so can improve the common understanding of shared water challenges, as a basis for collective action. Initiatives like the SDG 6 IWRM Support Programme and the ICPDR’s 2021 Public Consultation Process are inviting all interested stakeholders to help improve implementation, as a means of reaching local, national, regional and global goals.
We wish the readers happy reading, and congratulations to the ICPDR for sharing our enthusiasm for Public Participation and being a beacon in the world of IWRM.