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The Guidelines: A Summary

Table of Contents


Aim and scope

The management of freshwater resources, and of services drawing upon water for functions central to human life, is of critical importance to healthy social, economic, and political well-being. Stresses exerted on the world's water by demand from growing populations with changing consumption patterns, and by pollution and lack of environmental controls, have pushed water concerns high on the international agenda. Effective water resources development and management is recognised as a key component of 'environmentally sustainable development'; poor management of the resource can easily become a brake on socio-economic development.

The European Union, through the European Commission (EC) and the Member States, has made a significant contribution to the international debate on the impending world water crisis and the measures needed to address it. Full support has been offered to efforts at the international level, through the UN system and in inter-ministerial councils, for new initiatives on freshwater, and for the recommendations agreed at the Sixth Session of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development in April 1998. The preparation of these Guidelines for Water Resources Development Co-operation is a contribution to translating the consensus at the international level into actual co-operation activity. Although principally intended for use in the context of EC development co-operation, the Guidelines are intended for use by decision-makers in government, the private sector, civil society and international organisations of all kinds involved in water resources management.

The centrepiece of the Guidelines is a 'strategic approach for the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources'. The approach is based on internationally agreed core principles concerning the need to protect the eco-system, and to extend the health-giving and productive properties of freshwater resources equitably, efficiently and sustainably among humankind, with special emphasis on poorer and underserved people. It provides a comprehensive framework for all activities relating to water resources development; its application involves a radical change in traditional attitudes towards water management, and the introduction of good practice consistent with the internationally agreed core principles. The strategy covers the full cycle of activity, from national policy-making through implementation of programmes and projects and the subsequent operation and maintenance of services.

The application of the strategic approach facilitates an open and flexible programme process in which sensitivity to changing trends and local economic, social and environmental circumstances can be reflected. At each stage of the programming process, the Guidelines provides a set of practical checklists to enable the Guiding Principles at the heart of the strategic approach to be put into effect in different programming contexts, and to identify problem areas likely to be encountered and potential responses.

A number of commonly repeated core activities emerge from the checklists, stressing the importance which needs to be attached to what are known as 'software' - or non-technical - issues. The successful application of the strategic approach requires that these activities be given as high a priority as the technological choices which have traditionally dominated programme and project design. The priority attached to 'software' activities within the approach can be seen as part of the new thinking on water. The intention is to raise their importance to the same level as technological 'hardware', not to supplant it.

These activities almost all relate in some way to management and institutional strengthening. They can be grouped under priority themes for action, as follows: institutional development and capacity-building; participatory structures and gender equity; natural resource management; expansion of the knowledge base; demand management and pricing; awareness-building and communications. Attention to such activities will help to make the design and management of water resources interventions more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable.


Structure of the Guidelines

The Guidelines begin with a presentation of the rationale for the elaboration of the strategic approach. The strategic approach itself first identifies guiding principles for policy development and practical action; it then clusters programmatic activity into four Focus Areas, within which the guiding principles are to be applied; and provides an overview of priority themes for action implied by use of these frameworks.

The Guidelines' core practical material (Part II) consists of step-by-step suggestions for the planning and implementation of activities. The approach is progressive, entailing the raising and resolving of issues throughout the different phases of the programmatic process by systematic application of the principles. The overall intention is to equip those involved in water-related decisions with a framework of principle and operational philosophy to inform decision-making about water-related investments and actions.

In relation to water, as in all areas of development activity, policy and practice are constantly evolving. The practical suggestions contained in these Guidelines do not provide exhaustive instructions on how to proceed in every project planning and implementation situation, nor do they offer answers to every problem the user is likely to encounter. Rather, they articulate a holistic perspective and strategic approach whose accompanying practical 'what', 'why' and 'how to' suggestions illustrate policy and programme directions consistent with this approach. The suggestions are an aid to effective problem-solving within the Project Cycle Management process, not as a definitive and prescriptive manual. (Project Cycle Management, or PCM, is the system for project development, funding, and evaluation used by the EC in its development co-operation activities.)

The Guidelines should enable all users to upgrade the quality of their water-related work; specifically, they elaborate a framework for the EC's own development co-operation relating to water. This framework conforms with contemporary international thinking relating to water resources management and service delivery, and aims to facilitate the application of that thinking within national and sub-national policies, programmes and projects.

The Guidelines are designed to be used on their own, or in tandem with supplementary tools and data. In the interests of brevity, they do not contain a full account of the global situation relating to freshwater in its various uses, and the implications for agriculture, public health, energy, etc., but only summarise trends. Other documents, including Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World (SEI, 1997), can be consulted for information of this kind; references are contained in the bibliography.

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