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B1.3 National apex bodies


Apex bodies consist of a range of entities such as high level steering groups within national governments, inter-agency task forces (for specific purposes, e.g. water pollution control), and international consortia for the management of water resources. The aim of such bodies is to provide structures for co-ordination between different organisations involved in water resource management. In some cases water policy and management is centred in a specific body of government but in many situations responsibility for water is shared between a number of bodies (e.g. ministries for irrigation, environment and public works) that may not be able to operate easily together. Here an apex body may provide a useful co-ordinating function.

The functions of these bodies vary considerably. As many governments endorse and seek to use IWRM, the intended outcomes include:

  • Improved co-ordination of government functions through integrated plans of action (see A1.2);
  • Structural change within government agencies to facilitate better co-ordination;
  • Creation of new departments or commissions and authorities for natural resources management, aligned to river basins and/or ecological zones (see B1.4);

The role of an apex body depends on the economic, social and encompassing political issues, even more than on the technical IWRM issues.

Lessons learned

  • Successful experience to date in establishing robust and respected apex bodies is limited.
  • Establishment of a successful apex or co-ordinating body can be a slow process, since it takes time for a new body to achieve legitimacy.
  • The effectiveness of an apex body is linked to the specific political and historical context.
  • For an apex body to function effectively, all the stakeholders who are involved in the functions under its jurisdiction need to develop commitment to it and ensure it has appropriate powers. Conflict management (C5) and awareness raising techniques (C4) are important here.

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