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  • 1. Policy Brief Paper1 Socioeconomic dimension of water policy Abdelrahman tamimi2 a.tamimi@phg.orgIntroductionThe international community now recognizes IWRM as the most efficient and effectivewater resources management mechanism to enhance economic well-being, social-equity,and environmental sustainability. But current IWRM principles are often overlooked duethe reality on the ground. The integration of different sectors related to watermanagement is a difficult and challenging task. In addition, the problems and solutionsassociated with IWRM implementation in different regions are not universal. Overlygeneral or universal policies and guidelines for implementing IWRM may becomecounterproductive. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is nowadaysregarded as the vehicle that makes the "integrated view" of sustainable developmentoperational for the management of water resources, since the interests of people, society,economy, and environment are seen as an interconnected whole (and where tradeoffsconcerning all interests need to be taken into account)Context and importance of the problemDemand for water is growing with continued population and economic growth andchanging lifestyles, while future supply is uncertain due to a changing climate. If currentresources are fully committed then new demand for both consumptive and environmentaluses can only be satisfied by reallocating water from existing users. The most likelysource of water for reallocation will be irrigation, which can have significantsocioeconomic impact within regions depending on irrigation and the magnitude of thatimpact will depend on the way this reallocation is implemented.This brief paper focuses on the water management and policy issues while minimizingthe socioeconomic impacts. The paper is designed to be of use to anyone in MENAregion interested in water resources policy and management and how best to balanceenvironmental, social, and economic needs when addressing water allocation issueThe concept of the integrated water resources management has been around for nearly 60years. It was rediscovered in the 1990s in order to try to give specific references. While ata first glance, the concept of IWRM looks very attractive, a deeper analysis brings outmany problems both in concept and implementation (Biswas, 2004). Each countryhowever, has created its own model which takes into consideration all socio-economic,1 It is paper for discussion will be finalized after the consultation workshop2 Director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group for water and environmental resourcesdevelopmentLecturer at Al-Quds university –sustainable development institute 1
  • 2. political and environmental dimensions .The IWRM concept should be a continuousprocess and a part of the general policies trends in each country.The Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Water Partnership defined IntegratedWater Resources Management (IWRM) “as a process, which promotes the coordinateddevelopment and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximizethe resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromisingthe sustainability of vital ecosystems,” and emphasized that water should be managed in abasin-wide context, under the principles of good governance and public participation(GWP ,2000.GWP, 2003). a. Socioeconomic TrendsThe most important pillar of IWRM is the understanding and counting the major trendsof socioeconomic trends such as: • Income :The trends of income and economic growth are the main drivers for people willingness to pay and affordability . • Unemployment : due to the lack of proper water policy to deal with drought water scarcity ,many countries ( in particular agriculture communities )suffer from rising unemployment rates , the consequences of that high rates are effecting badly the other major socioeconomic indicators related water ( affordability, willingness to pay .etc ) • Socioeconomic uncertainties (it is so difficult to implement the principals of IWRM without flexible, multi-option based water policy as a cope mechanisms to deal with uncertainties. ( uncertainties can be natural (e.g. ; long term drought) or manmade such as ( e.g. ;pollution or lack of social stability) • Poverty and Food security: despite the rapid change in food production systems and the patterns of global markets, the ability to engage productivity with water resources will continue to be essential for millions of poor households .Although water is the only one of many inputs in agricultural production it is perhaps the most critical .in particular, the availability of and access to fresh water in water courses. Lakes and aquifers confer specific opportunities for individuals and communities to manage food production, generate income and build a set of assets with which to break out poverty. While precise relationship between gross water availability , food and poverty alleviation are not straight forward, it is possible to observe close links between reliable access to water services and poverty alleviation • Good governance and institutional reforms : without monitoring the main indicators of good governance and reform process the efficient water policy approach will not be able to enable the environment to apply the policy components • Climate change: Climate change is increasingly being securitized, as fears of the destabilization effects of climate change mount. In 2009 the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution on climate change as an international security problem (A/Res/63/281 11 June 2009). However, how climate change affects regional comprehensive security (livelihoods, poverty, food security has 2
  • 3. not been made clear yet. Barnett and Adger (2007) suggest that such effects may be an outcome of a reduction in peoples access to natural resources that sustain their livelihoods and/or of undermining states capacity to provide opportunities and services. But, they go on to note that the extent to which these factors may actually lead to violence requires empirical research. b. Socioeconomic Tensions:The trends that will generate tensions of this kind are: disappointing economicperformance; environmental degradation; declining access to food, water and energy;rising costs of basic services; the large actual and future demand for employment;inadequate provision for education and poorly functioning labor markets. Not all thesetrends are visible in all MENA but they are frequently present. There exists a strongsentiment that the MENA region is less developed than it could and should be, accordingto its human and natural resources. This, as well as growing poverty, creates a pervasivefeeling of disappointment and a perception that unsatisfactory educational regimes,detached from demands of the economy, the failure of the public and private sectors tocreate new jobs, and higher prices for basic needs have in many countries enfeebled themiddle class, reduced its capacity to play an active role in socioeconomic changes,created social conflict and fed through into a further attenuation of public services ineducation, health and social security.3 c. Socioeconomic TransitionsThe objective of a water policy is to serve as a set of standards for judging theeffectiveness of institutions for allocating and managing water (Porter, 1996) looking tothe history and trends of policy development, the early water development tended to beproject specific and fragmented with little exchange of information and experiencesbetween countries and among agencies (Seppa’la’, 2002). Towards the end of the 20thcentury, international agencies and countries have begun to have much more interactionand cooperation with regard to development of water policies and strategies. His papermentioned difficulties in convincing most of the governments to reform their policiesbecause many of them assume that their water policy is appropriate and justified.Seppala in his detailed paper summarized the pre- conditions and key requirement andapproaches for success in water policy and its reform implementation are: "theInstitutional change and the factors affecting it, Institutional Incentives (staff,organization), integrated, comprehensive and systematic approach, effective stakeholderparticipation at all levels effective dissemination and development of adequate capacityfor implementation at all levels." However one of the important preconditions is highlighted by Dinar (1998); theimportance of integrated and adequate information in order to create effective waterresources development and management policy, additionally his emphasis, on therelationship between water sector policy and other sectors. "New policies should developa water resources, frame work that account for the future needs of all water use sectors,3 Impact of socioeconomic instability factors on legal and moral rights in the Mediterranean, Abdel Tamimi,paper to the Expert Group Meeting in Rabat 11th and 12th March, 2010. 3
  • 4. including the environment, it should be recognized that any sector policy affects".( Dinar,1998)However the most important driver for any policy reform is the willingness of politicians.Although the literature contains a rich set of studies on the political economy ofinstitutional and policy reforms, generally speaking very few studies exist addressingfiguring out the political circles in bringing out of reforms , additional to that thesocioeconomic impact of any accepted option of the reform is highly sensitive forthem.Despite all the above mentioned references constrains to adopt a comprehensiveimplementable water policy reform, there would be widespread consensus on thefollowing principles to govern the formulation of national policy ; Water is a holisticresource, a scarce commodity and an environmental asset. Basic human right, manystakeholders’ involvement, and economic efficiency.The best of our knowledge, the literature does not provide information how to measurethe political influence and the political risk of policy reform. However no pre-fabricatedmodel for integrated water management or policy reform, the socio economic andpolitical context of each country is determining the guidelines and main components ofthe water policy. Additionally, it is a pre-condition to have a proper institutions and legalsystem to formulate and implement the policy reform, additionally ,the literature islacking the information and tools how to deal with continuation of reform processduring the uncertainties ; politically ( instability of government or internal violence ;socioeconomic and financial (in particular in the countries are highly depend oninternational aid) , also, the literature is very limited in describing how to keep theutilities performances at acceptable level without more burden on the people who sufferfrom instability , also the literature rarely mentioned the importance of transientlyreform in particular in the new born countries where the central government very weakand vulnerable for influence by several political and social powers.The application of IWRM concept may be harder in developing countries, giving rise toresearchers and international organizations linking water and poverty: for humanity , thepoverty of a large percentage of the world’s population is a both a symptom and a causeof the water crises. Giving the poor better access to better managed water can make a bigcontribution to poverty eradication (Ojen 2005).Among international organizations(IOs), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank haveinfluenced the poverty research agenda worldwide, through their yearly reports andextensive lobbying (Human Development Reports, 1999-2006, and World DevelopmentReports, 1978-2004). UNICEF has its own research centre which produces a richliterature on the conditions of children (including access to clean water) deprived of care(UNICEF Reports, 1989-2005).The most notable recent international event to draw attention to these issues was the UNWorld Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. An importantoutcome of the summit was the reaffirmation of the UN Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), including goal number seven, which is to “Ensure environmentalsustainability.” Especially relevant to the water sector is target 7c, which aims to reducethe proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by half by2015. Equally important and, in many cases dependent on safe access to water, is goalnumber one: "Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger". 4
  • 5. In addition to poverty-related research of international organizations(IOs), nationalpoverty reports or plans of action for poverty reduction are in progress or being initiatedin many countries (For example, in Palestine, three poverty reports have beenpublished)4. Also water is seen as one of the most critically-stressed resources, and muchattention has focused on global water stress and the water needs of the poorest (Sullivanat al. 2003). The awareness of water and poverty-related issues as fundamental tosustainable human development, through the MDGs and national poverty reports, hasspurred many researchers to focus on the best approaches and representative indicators inorder to formulate policies to achieve such goals as poverty reduction and integratedwater resource management. An important issue has been the relationship betweenpoverty as a socioeconomic term and water scarcity as a water management term. Thepast decade has seen much progress in the conceptualization of the link between povertyand water. This progress has also been given impetus by the development in the globalwater sector itself, which has mostly agreed that water, in addition to being anenvironmental resource, is an economic and social good, as well as a basic human right.(UNESCO, 2003). At the conceptual level, the link between water and poverty still needsto be further refined. Characterizing poverty through water needs further work ondevelopment of a conceptual link and analytical framework of water to poverty to includedifferent relevant facts.Key Water Policy measures towards socioeconomic issues in the frame of watermanagementThe main platform to have water policy integrated with socioeconomic priorities is thepolitical willingness; also, the integration between entire national socioeconomic agendaand water policy is a pre condition to create an impact.Based on the comprehensive approach which integrate the socioeconomic componentswith water policy several key policy issues at various levels can be suggested 1. Good governance and reformImplementing a comprehensive process requires implementing three pillars correctly: 1. Moving towards an enabling environment of appropriate policies, strategies and legislation for sustainable water resources management and development. 2. Putting in the place the institutional framework through which the strategies and policies can be implementedSetting up the management instrument required by these institutions to do their jobA variety of innovative initiatives show how empowerment can translate into greaterparticipation and a more powerful voice for the poor. At the same time, special efforts areneeded to overcome the traditional exclusion of women and other vulnerable citizensfrom participatory processes. Their inclusion in activities needs to be targeted and acommon respect created for their contributions.4 The ministry of planning and national poverty reduction committee published threereports between 2002-2005 , All reports done by stakeholders consultations and fieldsurveys 5
  • 6. Setting water policy and budget priorities are one area for a more inclusive approach.Greater public participation and transparency in budget-setting activities can contribute toa more equitable distribution of resources for the poor.”), that explains that some politicaland social circles refuse the reform process and want to maintain the existing structures. • Increase the poor’s access to, and governance of, natural resources essential to their livelihoods. • Increase the productivity of the poor’s natural resource base so they can take advantage of existing or emerging economic opportunities and technology, and develop capacity to adapt to climate change. • Involve the community in promoting good environmental management through economic incentives, by compensating the poor to conserve or manage resources important to others and by employing the poor to improve public natural resources. • Assess and incorporate environmental‐poverty impacts and costs of environmental degradation in the decision‐making process relating to land and resource use projects. • Ensure that social and environmental safeguards or standards are in place to guide development and investment activities; and sufficient resources available for effective monitoring. 2. At Institutional level • Make sure that the policies formulated through participatory approach and based on socioeconomic indicators • Make the policies flexible , easy to cope with uncertainties • Make sure that policy is known and transparent in order to gain political well and acceptance • Create policy ownership by involving all governmental bodies and civil society organizations in the process of policy formulation 3. At community level • Policy reform to ensure more effective targeting of poverty reduction • Define measures and act on policy changes in other sector that effect the potential of water contribute to poverty reduction e.g. financial mechanisms. Decentralization …etc.At research level • Enable the researcher to have accurate and reliable water related data( some countries are hiding the socioeconomic indicators) 6
  • 7. • Integrate research output with discion making process• Enhance the dialogue between water experts and decision makers• Promote the concept of research oriented policies will lead to improve socioeconomic situation• Promote the water innovative projects to the private sector References• Biswas, K. (2004) .Integrated Water Resources Management: A Reassessment; Water Forum Contribution .Water International.27 (2).248‐256.• Dinar, A. Subramanian. A. (1998). Policy Implications from Water Pricing Experiences in various countries. Water policy. 1(2). 239‐250• Gleick, P. (1996.) Basic Water Requirements for Human Activities: Meeting Basic needs, Water International, 21. 83‐92• GWP (Global Water Partnership). (2000). Integrated Water Resources Management. TAC Background 67• GWP. (2003a). Rationale for IWRM and the Toolbox.‐features.pdf• GWP. (2000). Integrated Water Resources Management Toolbox.• Seppälä, T. (2002). Effective Water and Sanitation Policy Reform Implementation: Need for Systemic Approach and Stakeholder Participation. Water Policy 4, 36• Tamimi, A. (2008). Reforming water sector Through Stakeholders Dialogue – Case Study from Palestine: Paper to be Presented in International Conference will be held in Jerusalem :Water Values And Rights• UNESCO. (2003). Water for People, Water for Life: The United Nations World Water Development Report: United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization.• UNDP. (United Nations Development Program. (2004).Human Development Report 2004: Cultural Liberty in Todays Diverse World New York: UNDP, online at:,(noted as UNDP HDR 2004).• United Nations Development Program. (2003). Human Development Report 2003: Millennium Development Goals: A compact among nations to end human poverty: New York: UNDP, online at: http//, (noted as UNDP HDR 2003). 7