May 22, 2003
Improving Public Participation and Governance in International Watercourse Management
Clean water is essential to human survival, yet it is increasingly scarce. Despite pressures on this crucial resource, people often have little or no opportunity to participate in watershed decisions that affect them, particularly when they live along international rivers and lakes. The United Nations recently identified the rising demand for water as one of four major factors that will threaten human and ecological health for at least a generation. Over the coming decade, governments throughout the world will struggle to manage water in ways that are efficient, equitable, and environmentally sound. Whether these efforts succeed may turn, in large part, on providing the public with a voice in watershed management decisions that directly affect them. Public involvement holds the promise of improving the management of international watercourses and reducing the potential for conflict over water issues.
On May 22, 2003, Carl Bruch (ELI Senior Attorney, Co-Director of the Africa Program) and Turner Odell (ELI Senior Attorney) spoke about research ELI has done on promoting effective public participation in the management of international watercourses around the world as well as some relevant sub-national experiences. Topics focused on highlighting successful mechanisms for ensuring that people have access to information about watercourses and factors that could impact them; that they have the opportunity to participate in decisions regarding the watercourse; that they can seek redress when they are affected by activities in an international watercourse; and that they have the tools for promoting access to information and public participation in international watershed management. Speakers also examined conditions that facilitate or hinder public involvement, as well as contextual factors that may limit transference of experiences from one watershed to another.