SEVENTH MEETING OF THE OECD WATER GOVERNANCE INITIATIVE (The Hague, 23-24 June 2016) – Report by the Chairman


The 7th meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative (WGI) was hosted by the Dutch Government in The Hague, on 23 and 24 June 2016. Several WGI partners were in attendance. AIDA was represented by this writer. A few other AIDA members were also in attendance, in representation of other WGI partners. The chief purpose of the meeting was to discuss the implementation of the OECD Principles on Water Governance and, in particular, to consult on water governance indicators and on good practices in the field of water governance. 

Background and context

Following on from the last WGI meeting attended by AIDA (4th meeting, Paris, 24-25 November 2014):

(a) the twelve “OECD Principles on Water Governance” were endorsed by all the 34 OECD member countries at ministerial level on 4 June 2015, and by 65 major stakeholder groups in the Daegu Declaration issued at the 7th World Water Forum in April 2015. AIDA is among such signatory groups;

(b) following ministerial endorsement of the Principles, the focus of the WGI is now directed at the structured implementation of the Principles, to be accomplished through (a) the development of indicators of water governance, and (b) the survey and scaling up of good practices in water governance. Both items feature in the 2016-2018 work programme of WGI, and are led by separate Working Groups of WGI members. AIDA had signed up for both.

By way of background, membership in the WGI has reached a total of 132 from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Latest entries include, among others, countries like Germany, Austria and Morocco, and IGOs like IUCN, WHO, and UN-Water. Moreover, the Water Governance Principles have been endorsed by non-OECD countries like, notably, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia and Morocco. 

Also by way of background, prior OECD normative work on water, which is crystallized in four OECD Council Recommendations (1974-1989), is currently being reviewed and updated, with a view to the formulation of a consolidated, binding OECD Recommendation on Water – which will include the Water Governance Principles -, and its formal adoption in December 2016. Already a first draft of such Council Recommendation had been circulated for comment to WGI members in April 2016, and this writer had provided comments on AIDA’s behalf.

Report of substantive meeting sessions

The first day of the meeting was given over to, among other agenda items, updating WGI members in attendance on the WGI 2016-2018 strategy and activities, and to illustrating  and discussing initiatives afoot for the implementation of water-related goals in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. In particular and among others:

(a) the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change (“Paris Water Pact”) in river basins, spearheaded by France and Peru in the aftermath of the COP-21 meeting held in Paris in December 2015, to make up for the lack of attention to water at that meeting, has been signed up by more than three hundred organizations. The Paris Water Pact is meant to attract attention to water at the next, COP-22 meeting;

(b) the blueprint for a UN Intergovernmental Committee on Water and Sanitation was launched in January 2016 by ten founding member countries, with a mandate to develop an Action Plan for the implementation of water-related Sustainable Development Goals. Further discussion on this is scheduled at the 2016 edition of the Stockholm World Water Week, under the aegis of a High-level Panel on Water and Sanitation convened by France, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Other agenda items included a peer-review of a first attempt at applying the OECD Water Governance Principles, notably in the field of flood control and mitigation – a first draft of a Flood Risk Governance report had been circulated far in advance of the meeting for comment by WGI members, and this writer had provided comments on AIDA’s behalf -; and a round of short presentations by WGI members in attendance, on water governance research, projects and publications.

Work on the second day of the meeting focused on the follow-up to the Water Governance Principles, along the two tracks of (a) indicators of water governance and (b) good practices in water governance. The discussion was arranged in small groups debating concurrently, clustered around pairs of Principles. Scoping notes were provided by the meeting convenors to help structure the discussions. This writer joined the groups debating Principle 7 in particular, which is about the role of water laws and regulation in water governance. He took an active role in the group discussion on indicators, by seeking to clarify ambiguities in the relevant scoping note, and by recording AIDA’s interest in helping develop indicators for that principle. He kept a low profile instead as regards the good practices group discussion, as the work ahead on that score seems to be beyond the reach and capabilities of AIDA.        

Way forward – Opportunity for engagement with the AIDA membership

At the close of the meeting, it was agreed that the OECD secretariat would (a) revise the scoping notes in the light of comments received and of the discussions, and (b) officially request from WGI members expressions of interest and commitments to contribute.

In this writer’s opinion, clearly the conceptualization and formulation of indicators of water governance for Principle 7 holds the most promise for the engagement of AIDA and its membership. As it were, the offer to involve AIDA in the work leading up to indicators for that particular Principle, made by this writer in the course of group discussion, was warmly welcomed by the OECD secretariat representative in attendance. The modalities of AIDA’s engagement will have to be worked out in due course, including sources of possible funding.

Final remarks

At this very advanced stage of maturity of the WGI, and in light of the contribution AIDA has made so far as a member of the Initiative, it stands to reason that AIDA should continue to engage with the Initiative, as a member of the water governance indicators group in particular.