Global Water Partnership (GWP) releases its GWP in Action 2010 Annual Report this week.
How do you sum up the work of a global network dedicated to improving the way the world’s water resources are managed? After all, we don’t dig wells. We don’t repair water pipes. We don’t build dams. We don’t manage water institutions.
So what do we do? As bold as it sounds, we change behaviour. And that, one could say, is more difficult than all the above.
What do we mean by “change behaviour”? It means we contribute to the changes that have to happen if water is to be managed sustainably—for people, for economic growth, for the environment.
What behaviour has to change? Let’s start with attitude: governments have to recognize (those that haven’t already) that water resources management is foundational to long term prosperity and therefore should be at the top of the development agenda. But we know that governments rarely take action unless pushed by strong constituencies. So a first step to change is the creation of broad-based partnerships made up of government, the private sector, and civil society. The more these entities work together to raise awareness of water issues and propose solutions to the problems, the more likely we are to succeed. This is where GWP has positioned itself: investing considerable effort creating broad-based partnerships as engines of change. (For a fuller explanation of ‘why we do what we do’, see page 7 of the GWP in Action 2010 Annual Report.)
We change thinking. We change capacity. We change priorities. The GWP in Action 2010 Annual Report gives examples from our work across the globe.
Can what we do be measured? Not easily. You might work years to get a water law drafted only to have a change of government (or Minister) that puts you back to square one. You might hold a workshop on water financing only to discover months later that several participants have moved on to other positions. Our work is about long-term change processes (e.g., through legislation, planning), governance issues (e.g., systems for allocation and distribution), and capacity-building (e.g., sharing technical knowledge). So you will read a lot about those kinds of activities in the GWP in Action 2010 Annual Report. It may not be riveting, but that doesn’t make the activities any less important.
While not everything we do can be measured in numbers, when certain changes happen, we can make an educated guess about the potential impact. When community groups, for example, start organizing under the GWP umbrella to improve water management in 45 villages in India, we can estimate the number of people in those villages whose lives will improve if farmers and fishermen have more and better water. When GWP Sri Lanka works with others to confront illegal sand mining, which results in a tighter enforcement of the law, thousands of lives are made better. If this is not ‘value for money’, what is?
When it comes to water, we need agencies that deliver water and sanitation to people and agencies such as GWP that contribute to the creation of policies and practices that improve the management of the resource itself. People need water and sanitation today, desperately. But ignore the way water is managed, and those same people—and their children—may not have the resource tomorrow.
Our work makes it possible to get the most from investments in water and avoid wasteful or ill-considered projects. Now, how much are governments willing to invest to ensure a water secure life for their people?