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Water Governance in OECD Countries: A Multi-level Approach

  • Year: 2011
  • Author: OECD
  • Publisher: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • Published Location: Paris, France
  • ISBN: 9789264119284

There is enough water on Earth for all, even in areas where temporary shortages may exist. Managing water for all is not only a question of resources availability and money, but equally a matter of good governance. Water is essentially a local issue and involves a plethora of stakeholders at basin, municipal, regional, national and international levels.

In the absence of effective public governance to manage interdependencies across policy areas and between levels of government, policymakers inevitably face obstacles to effectively designing and implementing water reforms.

Key challenges are institutional and territorial fragmentation and badly managed multi-level governance, but also limited capacity at the local level, unclear allocation of roles and responsibilities and questionable resource allocation.

As the 2009 OECD report Managing Water For All stated, patchy financial management and the lack of long-term strategic planning are also to blame, together with poor economic regulation and poorly drafted legislation. Insufficient means for measuring performance have also contributed to weak accountability and transparency. These obstacles are often rooted in misaligned objectives and poor management of interactions between stakeholders.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, magic blueprint or panacea to respond to governance challenges in the water sector, but rather a plea for home-grown and place-based policies integrating territorial specificities and concerns.

The institutions in charge of water management are at different developmental stages in different countries, but common challenges – including in the most developed countries - can be diagnosed ex ante to provide adequate policy responses. To do so, there is a pressing need to take stock of recent experiences, identify good practices and develop pragmatic tools across different levels of government and other stakeholders in engaging shared, effective, fair and sustainable water policies.

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