Step 3: Seek Stakeholder Participation; Define and Resolve Conflicts between Key Water Use Sectors, Considering also Transboundary Implications
As noted in Step 1, a public participation specialist is an important contributor in the policy development process because of the complexities of drought as it intersects with society's social, economic, and environmental sectors, and the dependence of these sectors on access to adequate supplies of water in support of diverse livelihoods. As drought conditions intensify, competition for scarce water resources increases and conflicts often arise. These conflicts cannot be addressed during a crisis and thus it is imperative for potential conflicts to be addressed during nondrought periods when tension between these groups is minimal. As a part of the policy development process, it is essential to identify all citizen groups (i.e., stakeholders), including the private sector, that have a stake in the process and their interests. These groups must be involved early and continuously for fair representation to ensure an effective drought policy development process at the national and subnational levels. In the case of transboundary rivers, international obligations under agreements that the state is a party to should also be taken into account. Discussing concerns early in the process gives participants a chance to develop an understanding of one another's various viewpoints, needs, and concerns, leading to collaborative solutions. Although the level of involvement of these groups will vary notably from country to country and even within countries, the power of public interest groups in policy making is considerable in many settings. In fact, these groups are likely to impede progress in the policy development process if they are not included in the process. The commission should also protect the interests of stakeholders who may lack the financial resources to serve as their own advocates. One way to facilitate public participation is to establish a citizen's advisory council (as noted in Step 1) as a permanent feature of the commission's organizational structure in order to keep information flowing and address/resolve conflicts between stakeholders.
A national drought policy development process must be multilevel and multidimensional in its approach, as noted in the example of Mexico (see Chapter 19). In the case of Mexico, 26 district basin plans are being developed in concert with the national drought program initiative. Thus, the goals of basin plans should mirror or reflect national policy goals. State or provincial governments need to consider if district or regional advisory councils should be established and what their composition might be. These councils could bring stakeholder groups together to discuss their water use issues and problems and seek collaborative solutions in advance of the next drought.