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Freshwater-related initiatives and processes at the global level
Box 9: Principles of good freshwater governance


Open and transparent: water institutions should work in an open manner, using language understandable to the general public; water policy decisions should be transparent, particularly regarding financial transactions.

Inclusive and communicative: wide participation should be ensured throughout the water policy chain,from conception to implementation and evaluation; governance institutions must communicate among water stakeholders in very direct ways.
Coherent and integrative: water policies and actions must be coherent, with political leadership and a strong responsibility taken by institutions at different levels; water institutions should consider all potential water users and sectors and their linkages with, and impacts on, the traditional water sector.
Equitable and ethical: equity between and among various water interest groups, stakeholders and consumers should be carefully monitored throughout the policy development and implementation process; penalties for malfeasance should be equitably applied – water governance must be strongly based on the ethical principles of the society in which it functions and on the rule of law.

Performance and operation

Accountable: the rules of the game, as well as legislative roles and executive processes, must be clear; each water-related institution must explain and take responsibility for its actions; penalties for violating the rules and arbitration-enforcing mechanisms must exist to ensure that satisfactory solutions to water issues can be reached.
Efficient: concepts of political, social, and environmental efficiency related to water resources must be balanced against simple economic efficiency; governmental systems should not impede needed actions.
Responsive and sustainable: water demands, evaluation of future water impacts and past experiences should be the basis for water policy; policies should be implemented, and decisions made, at the most appropriate level; water policies should be incentive-based, to ensure clear social or economic gain if the policy is followed; long-term sustainability of water resources should be the guiding principle.

Source: Adapted from Rogers and Hall 2003

A series of global conferences, meetings and events focusing totally or in part on freshwater resources and sustainable development have taken place over the past three decades. An extensive knowledge base on water-related issues has been built. Major decisions and recommendations have been made, most recently in the framework of the MDG and WSSD goals and targets. Yet most water problems remain. The increasing freshwater demands of an expanding global population continue to outstrip the investment and infrastructure needed to accomplish the goals, particularly in developing countries. Stronger and more concerted efforts are clearly required on the part of governments, UN agencies and other water stakeholders to overcome the primary constraints to implementing the recommended actions in a timely and effective manner. These primary constraints include limited public awareness and understanding of human impacts on freshwater resources and ecosystems, lack of stakeholder participation, weak governance and accountability systems, and inadequate funding and human resources (WLVC 2003). Legal and institutional frameworks are critical to effective partnerships at different level. Box 9 gives an overview of basic principles for good freshwater governance, emphasizing the need for strong and effective institutions and laws.


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