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Overview of the outcomes of the 7th APWF Webinar

Date and Time: 4th February 2021 (Thurs) 14:30~15:30 (Japan time)

Operationalizing IWRM to Build Water Security: What are Lessons for Food Systems, Climate Change Adaptation, and Inclusive Growth?

Dr. Mark Smith, Director-General, International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

In the 7th APWF Webinar, Dr. Smith discussed how to make IWRM Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) more practical to implement in light of the evolution of water management policy and practices. The original concept of IWRM had 4 pillars: (1) A strong enabling environment – policies, laws & plans; (2) A clear, robust, and comprehensive institutional framework; (3) Effective use of management & technical instruments – assessments, data, allocation, pollution control, and (4) Sound investments in water infrastructure with adequate financing available. The definition came under a fair amount of critique, as it was perceived as too top-down, technocratic, idealized and normative, with little focus on how to implement the practices by working together with other sectors and dealing with the complicated issues.

To enhance the IWRM’s operation, Dr. Smith contrasted the critique on IWRM with the ideas spearheaded by Prof. Elinor Ostrom (who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009) and her work on “Adaptive governance for change”. There is quite a contrast in terms of how you really make change happen. In pursuit of injecting dynamism and effecting true change, a 5th and 6th pillar was introduced to the concept of IWRM: (5) Effective strategies for dynamically catalysing & managing change at all levels; and (6) Operating mechanisms that bridge strategy setting and problem solving.

Dr. Smith presented several cases to illustrate how each of the IWRM lenses can be used in practice for the analysis of actual policy and institutional architecture. The cases presented were Nepal, Uzbekistan, and Ferghana Valley project in central Asia (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic. He also presented the benefits of operationalizing the 6 pillars of IWRM, namely in terms of the benefits brought about by those two extra pillars for complex systems change.

Dr. Smith believes that with those two extra pillars IWRM now becomes an overarching framework under which you can be problem-focused and mobilize the needed mechanisms and actors needed to work on solving problems. It also provides the overarching guiding framework for  aligning SDG6.5 to different frameworks such as the water-energy-food nexus, corporate water stewardship, conjunctive water management, integrated flood management, integrated drought management, and source-to-sea, rather than to perceive them as competing narratives for water management. This then should align systemic solutions with the benefits across multiple sectors and needs.

Considering that water connects across systems, the practical operationalization of IWRM can help connect water to the other SDGs and has a critical role to play in enabling and strengthening systemic solutions. Dr. Smith explained how improving the effectiveness of IWRM can contribute to critical priorities and presented the examples of food systems transformation, climate change resilience and advancing economic inclusion and gender equality.
In conclusion, Dr. Smith highlighted that IWRM needs to be more operational as IWRM continues to be a cornerstone to building water security. To operationalize IWRM in a practical manner, it is necessary to bridge strategy setting and problem solving to meet stakeholder priorities at all levels and to address them by working together with different sectors, and by conducting consultations and discussions among them. It is also necessary to operationalize IWRM with a problem-solving focus by setting pragmatic action strategies, monitoring of progress, goals, and targets, using data and tools for transparency, trust, and accountability.

Presentation document and the recording:

(Reported by Yumiko Asayama, Manager)

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