Theoretical Framework Considerations

Considerations of paradigm shifts are to be taken very seriously because of the lengthy and complex process involved in such endeavors (Kuhn 1962). Because governmental affairs are characterized by inertial and incremental adaptations, adopting a paradigm shift is even more complicated than just a conceptual redefinition in academic terms. The long history of governments reacting to drought events instead of preparing for them and the relatively recent use of concepts involving risk management, reduction of vulnerability, adaptation measures, and prevention as part of drought policies worldwide set the stage for the level of difficulty involved in shifting from crisis management to risk management (HMNDP 2013).

The theoretical framework to analyze the creation of this public policy may be considered postpositivist according to the description in Torgerson (1986). There must be a concerted effort among governmental officials, professional experts, and academics to develop the core of the policy, including a strong technical background and experience of dealing in situ with real drought events, but also with a definitive aim to generate public participation in the creation of initiatives to be used at the basin level.

Another theoretical perspective that better resonates with water policy efforts is provided by Schmandt (1998), who states that complex problems like drought need to be assessed using the most current expertise, and solutions must utilize the initial assessment and engage stakeholders. In Mexico's case, local representatives and water users, as well as federal authorities are stakeholders, and they were included in defining the proactive mitigation measures considered for each case.

The principles considered the backbone of the Mexican drought policy corresponds to these theoretical considerations and are used to define the main elements of the drought policy. These are the preparedness or proactive approach, which drives the policy shift from a reactive perspective toward proactive management. This aspect of the process entails monitoring and information outreach to provide authorities and stakeholders with information to implement previously defined mitigation measures (after certain thresholds are reached) that are aimed at coping with less water. This also involves vulnerability baseline definitions to evaluate the risk at different drought intensity levels according to the ranges of the Mexican and North American drought monitors.

Decentralization is a second basic goal of the policy that involves local stakeholders, since the problems can be prevented better at the affected community level. Nevertheless, institutional as well as citizen training and empowerment is required since the current top-down approach usually leaves communities without the proper preparedness and resources to handle drought.

Governance is a third element of the process, with a basin council structure as the core part of the governance. The goal of this element is to use institutional capacity to strengthen governance required for drought preparedness and mitigation as well as to build resilience into the process to mature and sustain it beyond national and state political systems. Involving local universities and supporting technical decisions of stakeholders and authorities provides the basis for public participation and the strong governance needed to reduce vulnerabilities.

A fourth element of this process is training and research. The paradigm shift and decentralization requires understanding and proper training of the new concepts involved in risk management, and the lack of baseline information on vulnerability, drought impacts, and extreme event forecasting and understanding underscores the need for research.

The fifth element of this process is gradualism and evaluation. This concept involves building a transitional process between paradigms, breaking away from inertial attitudes, and developing and evaluating performance indicators for continuous improvement.

The sixth element of this process is institutional coordination. One of the obvious problems of reactive policies compared to preparedness approaches involves lack of institutional coordination. A vast number of governmental ministries, offices, and programs are needed to respond to droughts, which are complex in nature, and structural shifts can only be implemented through good and systematic coordination.

The process involves two major elements developed in accordance with the principles listed above. These elements address current drought situations and the transition from reactive institutions and rules to the new mechanisms designed for the new paradigm:

  • • Elaboration of drought prevention and mitigation programs (PMPMS) in every basin council in the country
  • • Mitigation measures to face ongoing drought emergencies

The paradigm shift involves a policy shift while multiple governmental and cultural practices exist. As Kuhn (1962) clearly explains, there is a transitional period where both paradigms coexist. The key to moving from one paradigm to a new one is to use the existing institutional framework to create the new institutions and rules that will regulate drought policy in the future. This will be attained by identifying the old institutions that need to be replaced and carefully managing change through training and capacity development, both institutional and personal.

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