Rival Transnational IWM Networks

During the 1990s, three main transnational governance networks worked to implement IWM programs in Ecuador. However, each advanced a different policy agenda based on distinct policy goals (see Table 4.1). One transnational IWM network centered on the World Bank, which like other international financing entities focused on increasing the efficiency ofwater distribution. Viewing IWM through the lens of neoliberal economic theory, network members stressed privatization, deregulation, and water markets as the best strategies. In the 1990s, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund pushed Latin American policymakers (including in Ecuador) to adopt new water management systems based on five pillars:

  • (a) privatization of water resources, rights and services so as to create tenure security, stimulate investments and generate efficient water use;
  • (b) commodification ofwater resources, rights and services so as to create opportunities for trading them; (c) opening of markets and creation of market rules and mechanisms for selling and purchasing water rights and services; (d) reduction of the State apparatus and subsidies, drastic cuts on public spending, and withdrawal of direct State intervention from market transactions; and (e) deregulation and reorganization of the water governance structure, for example, decentralization and

Table 4.1 Three Transnational IWM Networks in Ecuador

Transnational IWM Network

Goal of IWM

Policy Focus

World Bank Network

Efficient Water Distribution

Privatize and commodify water resources; create markets for water rights and services; deregulate and transfer water management and administration to local governments and nonstate actors.

FAO Network

Sustainable Forest Management

Community forestry management programs that strengthen civil society organizations, promote social capital and participatory planning, and conserve natural resources through agro-ecological techniques.




Conserve water catchment areas; technical improvements to irrigation and agricultural production; create participatory watershed governance institutions to mitigate social conflict.

transfer of water management and administration to local government authorities and non-State actors (Boelens et al. 2015, 4).

A second transnational IWM network emerged from FAO’s watershed management efforts in Latin America. Given its institutional mission, FAO espoused a very different vision of IWM to that of the World Bank, one rooted in forestry and forestry-related hydrology (FAO 2006). With the rise of the sustainable development agenda, FAO adopted new goals, such as poverty reduction and environmental sustainability (Perez-Foguet et al. 2005). Community-level forestry management, based on integrated natural resource management, became an essential component of FAO’s poverty reduction strategy (Tellez 2008). Community forestry development programs were prioritized as the best way to implement Agenda 21’s action plan for sustainable agriculture and rural development (Espinoza et al. 1999). FAO was appointed task manager for implementing Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, which deals with sustainable mountain development and is among Agenda 21’s most extensive statements on watershed management (FAO 2006). Beginning in the 1990s, FAO oversaw a rapid, worldwide diffusion of community forestry projects that incorporated IWM concepts and practices.

FAO’s community forestry projects reflected new norms in international development circles during the 1990s that embraced community-led, culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable approaches to development. The projects utilized new strategies in international development investment designed to promote socioeconomic change and “good governance” by strengthening civil society organizations (particularly among indigenous populations), promoting social capital and participatory planning, and conserving natural resources through ecologically friendly agricultural techniques. These were the policies at the heart of the FAO network’s approach to IWM reform.

A third transnational network promoting a distinct vision of IWM in Ecuador was tied to the UNDP. It viewed IWM reform through the lens of agricultural development. A central node in this global IWM network is the Global Water Partnership (GWP). GWP was created in 1996 as a joint initiative of the UNDP, the Swedish International Development Agency, and the World Bank. GWP is a global linking institution, connecting IGOs, development banks, professional associations, research institutions, NGOs, and the private sector. Its activities initially focused on establishing regional Technical Advisory Committees as “start engines” for raising awareness of integrated water resources management in each region (Global Water Partnership 2010). The Global Water Partnership’s South American Technical Advisory Committee (GWP-SAMTAC) was housed in the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Thus, the GWP network in Latin America centered on ECLAC.

When created, GWP-SAMTAC was staffed bywater experts based in ECLAC’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Division. These ECLAC experts—most notably, Axel Dourojeanni, Miguel Solanes, and Humberto Pena—were highly influential in developing and diffusing IWM concepts among Latin American development specialists. Through conferences, publications, and personal consultancies, their ideas significantly influenced the thinking of water experts in Ecuador’s public and private sector, as well as environmental and agricultural development NGOs.[1]

The influential role played by ECLAC water experts meant that GWP- SAMTAC’s approach to IWM in Latin America was more in line with UNDP’s mission of socioeconomic development, rather than the World Bank’s focus on water privatization or FAO’s emphasis on community forest management. This often translated into a greater focus on IWM as a response to problems of agricultural production, including conflicts over access to water and reduced flows for irrigation. Writings by Dourojeanni framing IWM as a way to address water conflicts prompted many development NGOs and bilateral cooperation agencies to shift their focus from technical improvements of water delivery systems toward a holistic approach that incorporated the social component of resource management and linked the conservation of watershed resources to improved irrigation and production.

Another key member of this network was the German Organization for Technical Cooperation (GTZ; now GIZ), which partnered with ECLAC to promote development policies based on IWM principles throughout Latin America.[2] GTZ provided important connections between IWM advocates in the GWP network and national governments across Latin America. During the 1990s, GTZ closely consulted with many Latin American governments on their plans for state modernization, decentralization, and environmental management. As I describe later, GTZ attempted to use this influence to incorporate IWM reform into these plans.

  • [1] This point was frequently stressed during interviews with Ecuadorian water and development specialists. It is supported by numerous publications, including Burau (2002); Boelens andZwarteveen (2005); Cabrera Haro (2008); Cremers et al. (2005); Crespo (2003); Global WaterPartnership (2003). Influential writings by this team ofECLAC experts include Dourojeanni (1994);Dourojeanni and Jouravlev (1999); Dourojeanni et al. (2002); Solanes and Dourojeanni (1995).
  • [2] In January 2011, GTZ merged with German development organizations DED and Inwentto form GIZ. For information on the partnership between GIZ and ECLAC, see www.giz-cepal.cl(accessed January 29, 2016).
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