20 March 2006
Water Policy Programme

Day 3: After a five-day wait the ODI publications arrived in Mexico City. They were snapped up in minutes by hungry participants flooding our impromptu stand…

The theme of the day was Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). Sessions attended emphasised the need for stakeholder involvement, and greater civil society initiative without which IWRM would not be achievable. So where was reference to the loud voices outside the forum?

Many presentations - including in sessions on transboundary institutions - emphasised the key role strong institutions play, and in particular where there are political sensitivities, though it was recognised that the political context itself could be an overriding factor in determining success of particular transboundary processes.

At present the Nile Basin Initiative is approaching a particularly critical phase as the states inch towards a new agreement. A comparison of three transboundary river basins in Africa including the Nile, underlined the need to address the correct sequencing of institutional development (confidence first, then developmental institutions, for instance), as well as the need to address local cultural and linguistic differences across basins where social structures and processes vary widely. Otherwise grand schemes at a political level could founder locally.

There was some mention of how local action could fit into such regionally-integrated approaches (e.g. the efforts to bring civil society into the Nile process) as demanded by IWRM tenets, but little unpacking of the constraints and experiences of doing so.

Unfortunately, again the local actions demanded of sessions were top-down, and brought in by large institutions and governments rather than local groups.Various other sessions addressing groundwater, flooding and wastewater recycling could have addressed IWRM strengths and weaknesses in more detail and displayed the linkages between surface waters and groundwater, for instance. Instead discussions went in other - though useful - directions, including drawing out the connections to other sectors from planning to agriculture and construction. A session on challenges to legal water sector reform in Latin America was interesting partly for its reference to Thursday's demonstration. A representative of the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture was dismissive of the protestors, maintaining that had they understood the privatisation issue properly they would have been willing participants in the stalled legal reform rather than resorting to sporadic violence. Our experience of the demonstration was of families, good humour and non-violence.
More generally the evidence emerging was that the water sector was finding the challenges demanded of it required a broader set of analytical and development tools culled from other sectors and disciplines. If any theme should be chosen for the fifth WWF, perhaps it is 'Beyond water: Addressing the issues from without'. Rumour has it that Istanbul is the preferred future venue.

Finally, a potentially fascinating session on the River Jordan with the Israeli Water Commissioner and Head of the Palestinian Water Authority failed sharing a platform failed to live up to expectation because of bad time management.

This left the Palestinians fuming - they were squeezed time-wise at the end and some inputs were prevented by the Chair - and the audience was left wondering what might had been, of the discussion had developed. This was a major missed opportunity at a global event. Next time…

In the evening Mexico City came alive with celebrations for the first night of Spring…

The WPP team will be providing a daily blog on Forum activities and will post a final Forum report on World Water Day, 22nd March.

For more information on WPP visit www.odi.org.uk/wpp