Water Governance

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edit  ·  Toolkit Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) to Water Governance
UNDP Regional HRBA to Water Programme for Europe & CIS

Detailed documentation: Background | Regional aspects | Regional Programme | Methodology
PHASE 1: Checklist (Bosnia and Herzegovina | Georgia | Moldova | Tajikistan | Turkey | Ukraine)
PHASE 2: Country Sector Assessments and Proposed Projects (Bosnia and Herzegovina | Tajikistan | Kosovo | Serbia) | Bibliography

Legal Framework: The Rights to Water and Sanitation in International Law | Regional Law | National Law
WaterWiki-resources:Rights to Water and Sanitation: A Handbook for Activists | UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Water and Sanitation | UN Recognises Access to Clean Water as a Basic Human Right | Human Rights-Based Approach | Applying a HRBA to Water:A Case Study | Water-related Legislation and Conventions | The Right to Water - WHO Publication | A UN Convention on the Right to Water - An Idea Whose Time Has Come | International Conference on the Right to Water and Sanitation in Theory and Practice | Q&A: The Right to Water | General Comment 15 (2002) | Q&A: Water Governance | Water and Health | Equitable Access to Water and Human Rights | European Union Water Framework Directive | Essay: What exactly is “The Right to Water”? | Protocol on Water and Health | Protocol on Water and Health/Q&A | Lessons Learned From Rights-Based Approaches in the Asia-Pacific Region | Human Rights-Based Approach Strategies adopted by UNICEF Laos | Utility Privatisation through the Lens of Human Rights | The Right to Water - From Concept to Implementation | The Human Right to Water:Translating Theory into Practice | Report of the Seminar on Human Rights and MDGs, May 2009
External resources: HRBA and Water Governance Fast Facts - UNDP | Applying a HRBA to Developing Cooperation and Programming (UNDP, 2006) | COHRE Manual on the Right to Water and Sanitation | Protocol on Water and Health - Full Document) | COHRE Monitoring Implementation of the Right to Water: A Framework for Developing Indicators | Sub-commission guidelines for the realisation of the right to drinking water and sanitation (2005) | UNFPA - A HRBA to Programming, Practical Implementation Manual and Training Materials (2010) | Operational Guidelines for Implementing a Rights-Based Approach in Water and Sanitation Programming (CoHRE,2008) | COHRE Monitoring Implementation of the Right to Water: A Framework for Developing Indicators | FAQs on a HRBA to Development Cooperation | The Human Rights-Based Approach to Development - The Right to Water | UN Independent Expert Report on the issue of human rights obligations related to water and sanitation 2009 | UN Independent Expert Report on MDGs and right to water and sanitation 2010
Websites: The Rights to Water and Sanitation Information Portal | UN Independent Expert on Right to Water and Sanitation Webpage

Terms & Synonyms

Official WHO Definition

Other Definitions


Interpretations and Explanations



(Good) Governance
"Governance is a concept comprising the complex mechanisms, processes, relationships and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations, and mediate their differences. Good governance addresses the allocation of management of resources to respond to collective problems; it is characterized by the principles of participation, transparency, accountability, rule of law, effectiveness, equity and strategic vision. It is a complex yet important universal concept." (Tegegnework Gettu, Director Executive Office, UNDP, 31 Aug 2006)

For further clarification on what "water governance" means Click Here


Governance refers to the range of political, social, economic and administrative systems that are in place to develop and manage water resources and the delivery of water services, at different levels of society. It comprises the mechanisms, processes, and institutions through which all involved stakeholders, including citizens and interest groups, articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences. Governance of water is understood in its broadest sense as entailing all social, political, and economic organizations and institutions, and their relationships, insofar as these are related to water development and management.

Area of Support No. 1: Support efficient and equitable water resources management, and supply and sanitation service delivery in the context of national development frameworks

Focus of Intervention 1.1: Develop policy options and strategies that integrate local, national, regional and global water resources objectives and instruments into national development frameworks and poverty reduction strategies

Principle Actions:

  • Promote holistic approaches to water resources management
  • Facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogues on integrated water resources management (IWRM), and broad participation, particularly of poor and marginalized groups, in the formulation of policies and strategies
  • Strengthen inter-ministerial coordination, and capacity to integrate national water resources objectives and international water targets into poverty reduction strategies, macro- economic and sectoral policies, regulatory frameworks, planning and budgetary processes
  • Support capacity development to analyze issues, identify policy options, and provide an enabling environment for effective decentralized water resources management
  • Strengthen country capacity to participate in negotiations of multilateral water resources agreements, trade, and other international economic policy instruments
  • Promote shift towards demand management approaches to meeting water supply and sanitation needs
  • Support adoption of cost-effective and environmentally sound methods for water conservation, wastewater reuse, and ecosystem-based sanitation

Focus of Intervention 1.2: Strengthen government and civil society capacity to plan and implement integrated water resources programmes to improve livelihoods

Principle Actions:

  • Support application of strategic water resources management methods and tools, such as water resources assessments;
  • communication and information sharing;
  • conflict resolution mechanisms;
  • regulatory and financing instruments;
  • vulnerability assessments, poverty profiles and other diagnostic instruments, including provision of gender disaggregated data and gender specific analysis

Focus of Intervention 1.3: Support UN Country Teams in integrating water resources issues into development cooperation frameworks and programmes

Principle Actions:

  • Provide policy advice, technical support and training to UN Country Teams on integrating water resources management and service delivery into the CCA, UNDAF, PRS and PRSP processes, and into the formulation and implementation of joint programmes

Area of Support No. 2: Increase access to adequate and safe water supply and basic sanitation, and improve local management of water resources

Focus of Intervention 2.1: Strengthen national and sub-national policy, legal, regulatory and budget frameworks to improve local water resource management and provision of water and sanitation services:

Principle Actions:

  • Support policy, legal, and regulatory reforms that improve poor people’s access to and control over water resources
  • Support decentralized water management based on IWRM principles, that is responsive to local conditions and the livelihood needs of poor and marginalized groups
  • Strengthen institutional mechanisms between government, civil society and private sector for effective and equitable management and allocation of water resources and service delivery
  • Support civil society capacity for negotiation and dialogue with government
  • Enhance capacity of government and civil society for enforcement and monitoring

Focus of Intervention 2.2: Support participatory water governance decision-making processes that empower marginalized and vulnerable groups and enhance accountability and transparency:

Principle Actions:

  • Promote effectiveness and pro-poor impact of decentralization
  • Support IWRM and monitoring at the level of local governments and civil society
  • Strengthen participatory procedures and conflict resolution mechanisms to enable poor people to fully participate in decision making
  • Support access to information and knowledge networks, lessons learning and knowledge exchange among civil society and government, including South-South exchange

Focus of Intervention 2.3: Support community-based projects to implement and test participatory approaches for [IWRM|integrated water resources management]]

Principle Actions:

  • Apply watershed approach to community-based IWRM projects that implement and test participatory support sustainable development of and equitable access to water resources and sanitation
  • Support community and household-based projects for supply of water and sanitation services
  • Raise awareness on, and apply, local water resource management practices and technologies
  • Utilize existing UNDP small grants programmes, and NGOs, to provide technical and financial assistance to community and household-based projects
  • Support exchange of experiences between communities to scale up implementation and impact

Focus of Intervention 2.4: Support development of water and sanitation systems that are safe for human health and environmental sustainability

Principle Actions:

  • Provide advisory services and support projects that demonstrate new ecosystem-based technologies and systems, such as ecological sanitation and rain water harvesting
  • Provide feedback for "upstream" policy development and support replication of ecosystem-based technologies
  • Support production of "How To"-guides for application of ecosystem-based technologies

Focus of Intervention 2.5: Develop effective financing instruments for IWRM at local level

Principle Actions:

Area of Support No. 3: Promote cooperation on regional and global water challenges

Focus of Intervention 3.1: Facilitate coordination and harmonization of national policies, and development of common frameworks for action, for cooperative management of transboundary water resources

Principle Actions:

  • Support assessments of key transboundary water management issues, constraints and common priorities
  • Support information exchange and sharing of experience
  • Facilitate country participation in regional and sub-regional policy dialogues aimed at managing shared water resources cooperatively and for mutual benefit

Focus of Intervention 3.2: Strengthen country capacity to formulate and implement regional and sub-regional strategic initiatives for managing shared water resources

Principle Actions:

  • Support capacity building for conflict resolution based on concepts of benefit sharing
  • Strengthen capacities to apply an IWRM approach to transboundary water resource management and address related problems such as regional impacts of land degradation
  • Strengthen institutional capacities for cooperation in the management of shared water resources
  • Support exchange of information, experience and good practices

Focus of Intervention 3.3: Increase advocacy of pro-poor and ecosystem-based water governance approaches and global dissemination of water governance experiences

Principle Actions:

  • Participate in key international fora, publications, and follow-up activities to advocate for pro-poor and ecosystem-based water governance, e.g. CSD, WSSD and MDG follow-up, World Water Development Report, UN-Water, and Global Water Partnership
  • Contribute governance perspective to key advocacy documents such as the World Water Development Report

Cross-cutting, Area of Support No. 4: Integrate adaptation to climate variability and change into national water governance strategies

Focus of Intervention 4.1: Develop strategies to integrate adaptation to climate variability and change (CV&C) into national policies and development planning processes, PRSs, and IWRM plans

Principle Actions:

  • Undertake assessments of vulnerability of countries to CV&C from the perspective of IWRM strategies in the context of sustainable development frameworks
  • Identify options for translating vulnerability assessments into concrete actions to respond to the impact of CV&C
  • Facilitate inter-disciplinary multi-stakeholder dialogues to formulate IWRM strategies to adapt to and cope with the impacts of CV&C and reduce vulnerability of poor people

Focus of Intervention 4.2: Enhance adaptive capacity to cope with CV&C in integrated water resources management

Principle Actions:

  • Assist development of tools for water managers to pro-actively respond to CV&C, such as risk assessments and improved inter-sectoral cooperation
  • Support development of capacity of national and sub-national (operational) water management institutions and civil society organizations to implement strategies to adapt to CV&C
  • Test cost-effective, learning-by-doing adaptive capacity mechanisms to reduce loss of life and livelihoods and feed results back into policy formulation
  • Support knowledge networking on integrating water governance and relevant CV&C issues to facilitate south-south and north-south exchange of experience and lessons learned

Cross-cutting, Area of Support No. 5: Mainstream gender in water governance

Focus of Intervention 5.1: Integrate a gender perspective throughout water resources governance and IWRM initiatives

Principle Actions:

Focus of Intervention 5.2: Expand development of tools to mainstream gender in IWRM

Principle Actions:

  • Adapt resource guides for country and community-specific needs and use by community-based practitioners
  • Design additional tools for mainstreaming gender in water management and disseminate information through “How To�? publications and other means

Cross-cutting, Area of Support No. 6: Develop capacity for integrated water resources management

Focus of Intervention 6.1: Strengthen capacity building networks at national, regional, and global levels to deliver education, training, and information support for improved management of water resources

Principle Actions:

  • Strengthen and empower alliances of capacity building institutions to share skills and expertise and meet capacity building needs for integrated water resources management at local, regional and global levels
  • Support capacity building networks to identify and prioritize capacity building demand

Focus of Intervention 6.2: Support knowledge development and awareness raising among decision makers and stakeholders

Principle Actions:

  • Improve knowledge sharing on capacity building for IWRM
  • Raise international and local commitment to new capacity building strategies in IWRM
  • Include capacity building components addressing management issues, gender, and sustainability in UNDP support to water resources management activities
  • Develop information systems at the global and regional level to support local access to knowledge and information sharing on IWRM

Focus of Intervention 6.3: Improve access to materials and tools for integrated water resources management

Principle Actions:

  • Match appropriate materials and tools to identified and prioritized demand for knowledge and information
  • Disseminate materials through knowledge networks, including UNDP Country Offices

Other approaches

The EMPOWERS Approach to Water Governance: Guidelines, Methods and Tools

The EMPOWERS Approach to Water Governance: Background and Concepts


See also

IWRM and Water Governance - Striving for "Incentive Compatibility" in the Water Sector

DFID-Governance in Water Services - Apr08

Q&A: Water Governance

2007 UNDP Water Governance Strategy

Dialogue on Effective Water Governance

Resources for Designing A National Water Governance Programme

Mainstreaming Gender in Water Governance: A Resource Guide

Women and Water - Gender Dimension in Water Governance

The EMPOWERS Approach to Water Governance: Background and Concepts

2007 Action Plan for the Water-CoP in Europe & CIS

External Resources




Guidelines to Water Governance:EMPOWERS


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