B1.1 Reforming institutions for better governance
Water governance refers to the political, administrative, economic and social systems that exist to manage water resources and services and is essential in order to manage water resources sustainably and provide access to water services for domestic or productive purposes.
Governance models must fit the prevailing social, economic and cultural particularities of a country, but certain basic principles or attributes are essential. The approach taken to water governance should be transparent, inclusive, coherent and equitable. Similarly, the governance system should be accountable, efficient and responsive. Better governance requires the participation of government, civil society and the private sector, as all are instrumental in different ways in the successful implementation of institutional reforms.
In reforming institutions for better governance, an assessment of existing institutional systems should be carried out first – to understand who does what for whom, and to whom they are accountable. An institutional assessment should identify, for example, conflicting laws, duplication or lack of clarity of mandates for different organisations and jurisdiction of different tiers of authority – local, sub-regional, national and, increasingly, international. Determining what to reform and the sequence that reforms should take is critical to the success of the reform process. A comparative analysis of reforms that have been undertaken, either within a country or with other similar countries, can help clarify needs.
Change can be painful and is often resisted as it makes people feel insecure even if they understand the need. Often good laws or revised procedures can fail as they are not understood or accepted by officials or citizens. Institutional reform needs to be done with a participatory and consultative approach, involving the formal and informal sectors, to develop understanding and ownership of the change process (see tools such as Conflict Resolution, C5, or B2, Building institutional capacity).
A key element is access to information (see C4.3). Frequently, information is only available to a select group of experts or officials leading to “information asymmetry”. Concrete actions are needed to redress this imbalance.