Not About Knowledge, but Numbers? An examination of the notion of stakeholder participation and the governance of water as a 'scarce resource' in global and national policy discourses on development and security.'

Abstract

This paper continues research on citizenship, science and risk, examining the nexus between 'developmental expertise' on water management and technological innovation, and the recent developmental stress on local participation. It examines the ways in which water as a scarce resource has featured in global and national policy discourses, with particular attention to the question of the governance of water and stakeholder participation. Water as a scarce resource in international relations (IR) literature, it is argued, tends to conflate notions of community participation around regional and global resources with the management of natural resources by governments on behalf of the people. Where participation does take place it tends towards nominal representation, the principal goal seeming to be achieving parity of representation in terms of relevant 'stakeholder' criteria.

The paper draws on case study material collated on participatory water resources management in Zimbabwe, where catchments councils have ostensibly aimed at 'managing water' through participatory approaches that also recognise the transboundary nature of this resource, as well as the ways in which 'community' identity may be more ecologically than geographically determined. It is clear that while progress has been made with regard to policy formulation, there remain a number of problem areas that arise from - predominantly but not only - the rigidity of conceptual categories such as 'stakeholder', 'community', 'urban', 'rural' and indeed 'participation' itself. Relating this to the insertion of 'scientific' approaches to water management, as well as new technologies, shows that while there is clearly an attempt on the part of both state and non-state actors (especially international NGOs) to ensure 'community participation', the actual dynamics of such participation are clearly negatively influenced by efforts on the part of policy-makers to define (and reify) 'stakeholders' and 'communities'. The second part of the paper examines these observations against the backdrop of recent conceptual work on science, technology and risk.

Citation

UWC Working Paper, Citizenship, Participation, and Accountability Series, No. 1, Cape Town, South Africa: UWC, ISBN 1-86808-547-3, 28 pp.

Not About Knowledge, but Numbers? An examination of the notion of stakeholder participation and the governance of water as a ‘scarce resource’ in global and national policy discourses on development and security.’

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