Towards New Partnerships in Water Management

Market-exchange economy and territory-bound nation state were not designed to accommodate a communication revolution that can envelop the globe and connect everyone and everything on the planet simultaneously. The result is that we are witnessing the birth of a new economic system and new governing institutions that are as different from market capitalism and the modern territorial state as the latter were from the feudal economy and dynastic rule of an era ago.

Markets, in effect, are linear, discrete and discontinuous modes of operation. The new communications technologies and partnerships, by contrast, are cybernetic, not linear. The operational assumptions that guide networks and partnerships transform much of conventional modes of partnerships/ networks models and open up a new window for rethinking governance of natural resources and linkages between conservation, livelihood, human wellbeing and environmental health.


Global and Local Water Agenda

Understanding the global and local water agenda is vital to conveying the ‘water knowledge’ between the North and the South and within countries in the South. Building an ‘institutional water memory’ is a necessary condition for transferring the ‘water knowledge’ between the global and local arenas. The experience of the last three decades, as formulated in the Mar Del Plata Action Plan (1977), Dublin Principles and Agenda 21, emphasized the need for integrated water management. All these initiatives call for a comprehensive vision of the water sector, which combines both sanitation and irrigation in the water sector.

The last two decades have taught us two major lessons in water management. First, we recognized that water is only one of a number of natural resource elements that needs to be managed in a sustainable manner. Second, we realized that water resources development is not attained only by supplying physical infrastructure. A new shift in thinking took place by changing infrastructure from supply-oriented — supply of facilities to communities who will one day become consumers — to demand–oriented, by focusing more on adequate assistance and development of the local capacity

Disseminating these lessons of sustainable water management may be achieved through dialogue and partnerships between the North and the South. This, in turn, is an important factor in enhancing the adaptive capacity of the people in the South. It is interesting that combining the global water vision with action at the local level was evident in the 1992 Earth Summit and Agenda 21. Both these global initiatives advocate solutions in water management that are characterized by a combination of government decentralization, devolution of local communities of responsibility for natural resources, and community participation.

The value of partnerships at both global and local agendas in water and sustainable development may be understood from various dimensions including: impact, benefits and externalities. ‘Think global, act local’ is a well-known saying that must be formalized and put to work.

The interactions between the technical and political discourses in water management and sustainable development resulted in an evolution of different paradigms (hydraulic mission, environmental, economic, social and governance).  The following issues represent my views of how new forms of partnerships in water management can evolve across themes, disciplines and time and space.

Partnership for Water, Sustainable Development and Poverty

The implementation of the global agenda Post 2015 should consider the role of water and ecosystem services in sustainable development. Historically, the policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, through the agricultural structural adjustment loan (ASAL), had shifted the economic incentives away from small farms toward large estates producing for export which places many small farmers are at risk of poverty. Water and environmental problems affect the poor the most, yet they are the least equipped to solve these problems.


The indicators of success in the implementation of the global agenda are judged on impact, benefit and outcomes at global, regional, national and local levels. For example, the Brundtland Commission on the Environment and Development‘s proposed answer to global poverty and environmental problems was an annual three per cent increase in the per capita income.

If we apply this global goal to the national/local level, it will yield interesting results. There would be a first-year annual per capita increase (in U.S. dollars) of $633 for the United States, $3.60 for Ethiopia, $5.40 for Bangladesh, $7.50 for Nigeria, $10.80 for China, and $10.50 for India. After ten years, such growth will have raised Ethiopia’s per capita income by $41, while the United States’ will have risen by $7,257. Hence, the local agenda in MENA countries should focus on people-centered development. Local people must benefit from the results of water initiatives.

Partnership for New Water Ethics

It is imperative to adhere to a global ethics in terms of sustainable development. Studies show that a preference for local solutions is justified only by the notion of equity, interpreted as the need to prevent shifting problems to others or elsewhere. Shifting problems to other places is not equitable for the part of the generation given the problem (from an intra-generational equity point-of-view). Ignoring problems is not equitable for the following generation (from an intergenerational point of view).

Global and Local Water Partnership

Water is essential for our survival

Hence, the MENA region must insist on its right to maintain an environment free of hazardous waste or any form of pollution that may affect human health. Simply said, we all live downstream. Mainstreaming culture and values in water management discourse is crucial to ensure relevance and impact.

Partnership for Water Governance, Equity and Human Rights

MENA countries must continue to strengthen and build the capacity of all institutions of the civil society. The civic intelligence should be enhanced to realize that sustainable development is a human right.

The basic question, ‘Who gets what and why?’ has both equity and ethical dimensions. Establishing a shared vision (constructing a joint reality) of sustainable development among the global and local stakeholders helps address environmental security, equity and ethics.  Policy makers in the Middle East and North Africa region should consider the role of indigenous people (like farmers) in the socio-economic development.

Globalization is characterized by two competing salient forces — the integration and marginalization forces. There are two different types of globalization — market-based globalization, and civil-society globalization. The marginalization of the poor in the South due to privatization of the utility services may be minimized if we consider the ‘region’ rather that the ‘nation-state’ as the unit of analysis. Jordan must continue to harmonize the Arab regional vision to ensure sustainable development.

Democratization and public participation is a necessary condition for achieving sustainable development.  MENA countries must enhance both the efficiency and efficacy of “governance” in strategic water management. Transparent indicators must be established and enforced to attain this goal after the social changes and entropy of the region after 2011.

Finally, a shift in thinking is needed in the new global economy and thus water partnerships. Instead of adopting the saying ‘Think global, act local’, we must adhere to a motto of  ‘Globalize consciousness, regionalize vision, and localize benefits’.

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About Odeh Rashed Al-Jayyousi

Odeh Al-Jayyousi is a professor in the Department of Technology and Innovation Management at Arabian Gulf University (Bahrain). He is also an independent consultant and a founder of Sustainable Development Professionals for Environmental Consulting (Jordan). He was the vice president for science and research at the Royal Scientific Society (RSS) in Jordan during 2011-2013. He was the regional director for IUCN – The International Union for Conservation of Nature - West Asia / Middle East regional office during 2004-2011. He was dean of research and professor in civil engineering during 1994-2004. Prof Al-Jayyousi is a founding board member Jordan Green Building Council, and a member of the Advisory Board for MSc program in IWRM between Cologne and Jordan University. He has also authored a popular book on “Islam and sustainable development”.

2 Responses to Towards New Partnerships in Water Management

  1. Parveen Sajjad says:

    Excellent Research with Deep Insights on Water Sustainability of MENA.

  2. Pingback: Strategic Water Management in the 21st Century | EcoMENA

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