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User's Guide on Assessing Water Governance

UNDP & Water Integrity Network
Publication year: 
Source of the information: 

During recent years, the international water community has focused on governance as the most important challenge to improve water management and service provision. Most developing countries have developed new water laws and policies, but many face significant challenges in implementing them. Many of the water policies adopted contain similar features and goals, such as decentralization, an increased role for the private sector, basin-wide management planning, better coordination of decision-making (both horizontal and vertical) and multi-stakeholder participation. But while sound policies have been created on paper, many encounter problems that prevent the formation and proper functioning of governance structures. Furthermore, insufficient attention has been paid to ensure that the sector adheres to principles of good governance, including transparency, accountability, and participation and the types of incentives and disincentives that drive behaviour.

Comprehensive assessments of the governance of water resources can guide the design of effective policy interventions by helping to identify where changes are needed and what actions can make them happen. This guide is a resource for stakeholders to conduct water governance assessments more effectively within their own local or national context. It provides practical advice on what to consider when designing and implementing an assessment. It also offers guidance on a number of concrete topics, such as which governance aspects are important to look at, the choice of indicators, data collection, how to manage multi-stakeholder processes and how to use the findings to influence policy.

Specifically, this guide enables users to:

  • Understand how assessments can inform policy-making.
  • Select, adapt and develop appropriate assessment frameworks and indicators for governance assessments in the water sector.
  • Design multi-stakeholders approaches that further dialogue and consensus-building around water sector reform, and strengthen accountability by offering an official track record of government performance and a platform for public scrutiny by a wide range of actors.

How to use this guide 

This guide is structured around three overarching questions: why, what and how to assess water governance.
It is divided into six main chapters and also includes a Source Guide. The Source Guide presents an overview of selected tools and cases of water governance assessments in different regions, each of which has different objectives, information requirements and target groups.
Chapter 1 WHY conduct water governance assessments?
Chapter 2 WHAT to assess: Introducing a water governance assessment framework
Chapter 3 HOW to conduct an assessment: An 8-step process
Chapter 4 HOW to assess institutions and stakeholders
Chapter 5 HOW to assess governance principles: Transparency, accountability and participation
Chapter 6 HOW to assess performance: Effectiveness, efficiency and function Source Guide Overview of selected tools and cases of water governance assessments

The content of this User’s Guide is informed by an extensive mapping and evaluation of existing tools and cases to assess water governance, which are presented in the Source Guide. The selection of tools and cases in the Source Guide is the result of desk research and an analysis of responses to queries sent to organizations working in the water sector and on governance assessments. The authors recognize, however, that further efforts are required to comprehensively identify and assess all available tools; thus, not all areas related to water governance could be covered. To further enrich the content, semistructured interviews were carried out with experts who had either developed or implemented tools and cases in the Source Guide. The interviews provided an opportunity to tap into the contextual knowledge of the interviewees and capture valuable lessons learned. The User’s Guide contains selected quotes from the experts interviewed, listed inside the cover. An overview of selected water governance assessment initiatives and the various components or areas they cover can be found in Annex 1, which complements the Source Guide.