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The World Commission On Dams

Project Output & Dissemination Final Report

The final report of the World Commission on Dams - Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making was presented to its founding partners - the World Bank and IUCN - as well as the international community on November 16, 2000. Guest speakers included Mr. Nelson Mandela, HRH the Prince of Orange, Ms. Maritta Koch-Weser, Mr Jim Wolfsensohn and Dr. Ahmed Fawzi (on behalf of Ms. Mary Robinson).

The general consensus by the guest speakers was that the framework the WCD advocated is, or if implemented, can be, a far better approach. No one is under the illusion that implementing the World Commission on Dams report will be easy, and many agencies and institutions will take some persuading to review their water and energy development policies. The report is an important start, however, in ushering in an era where constructive dialogue and consensus overrides division, polarisation and inertia. The result is a milestone in the evolution of dams as a development option and offers a clear charter for the future ­ a charter by which every dam in the world can and should measure itself.

The Commission prepared a summary version of Dams and Development, and this overview document has so far been published in 9 languages - English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Hindi, Russian, Japanese and Chinese. The overview documents were distributed free of charge to interested individuals and organisations at the regional launch events. The Commission also provided its Forum members, financial contributors, consultants and other stakeholders with complementary copies of the WCD final report.

In response to its mandate, the Commission's final report consists of two components - the 'global review' and the 'way forward'. The global review concentrates on the performance of dams and presents an integrated assessment of when, how and why dams succeed or fail in meeting their development objectives. The 'way forward' provides a new framework for decision-making based on a recognition of rights and an assessment of risks.

Seven strategic priorities and corresponding policy principles for water and energy resources development show how to: gain public acceptance; assess options; address existing dams; sustain rivers and livelihoods; recognise entitlements and secure benefits; ensure compliance; and share rivers across boundaries. Practical guidance on implementing these priorities is provided through a set of criteria for five key decision points in the planning and project cycle together with a set of 26 guidelines based on examples of good practice from around the world.

In writing the report, the Commission recognised that it would not be the final word, but the start of a new process of re-evaluation, constructive multi-stakeholder discussions and of implementation and adaptation of the guidance provided to suit local contexts.

Dissemination Activities

It has been said often that the report is not the conclusion but the starting point of the effort to influence the way dams are conceived, designed, appraised, built, operated and monitored. The Commission recognized that an intense dissemination and outreach phase will need to be undertaken, beginning with the launch of the report and for a six-month period thereafter, to generate understanding of the Commission's conclusions and to achieve maximum buy-in from the key actors in the dams debate.

As with any major shift in public policy, the challenge was to achieve a critical mass of governments, companies and NGOs accepting the report as the new basis for the dam business, such that the tipping point was reached and it became increasingly inconceivable to pursue dam projects which do not meet the minimum threshold.

Key targets in the dissemination phase were selected from:

Private sector - suppliers, developers, contractors and consultants

Export credit guarantee agencies

Financial service providers involved in dam project finance

Development finance agencies: World Bank, regional development banks, bilaterals Pioneer governments: including some who might accept the report readily and some major dam-building countries who may be less enthusiastic International NGOs.

Leading advocacy NGOs active on the dams issue, both international and local.

Professional associations of the dam industry

worldwide dissemination and distribution of WCD materials - namely the final report as well as relevant papers generated by the work programme - to a global audience of stakeholders;

co-ordinated dialogue and engagement with strategic actors and constituencies in the dams debate to elaborate the WCD's findings and recommendations with a view to promote their adoption and implementation; and facilitation of a transition phase in terms of follow up activities, finalising a series of technical publications arising from the work programme, hand over of knowledge base, the details of which was agreed by the Commission and Forum members at the 3rd Forum meeting in February 2001.

In addition to the global launch in London on 16 November 2000, the Commissioners and Secretariat traveled across the globe to present Dams and Development to its stakeholders at regional briefings and international conferences. Commissioners and Secretariat also participated in additional follow-up activities initiated and organised by stakeholder organisations. By involving both Commission members and ex-secretariat staff in this process the WCD deployed a uniquely qualified group of individuals. The process was co-ordinated and choreographed through a small contingent of Secretariat staff utilising existing infrastructure and facilities established in Cape Town.

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