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Subsidiarity principle

The principle of subsidiarity has been recognised as an internationally agreed principle governing water-related activity. As expressed in the Institutional and management principles in Chapter 2 of these Guidelines: ‘Responsibilities for water-related services and resource management need to be decentralised to the lowest appropriate administrative level according to the concept of subsidiarity.’ The intent of this principle is to discourage the perpetuation of centralised and hierarchical command structures in authorities responsible for water resource management. This type 221 of structure, while seen as disciplined and managerially accountable, tends to disallow participation by stakeholders in service delivery decision-making distant from the centre.

However, the ‘lowest appropriate administrative level’ should not be a level without the resources, clout, or technical expertise to take informed and effective decisions. Subsidiarity must not be allowed to mean abandonment of responsibility, but rather encourage the mobilisation of resources and inputs at all levels, and capacity building to allow greater decentralisation of decision making on a progressive basis.

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