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Social Network Activation by the GWP-ECLAC-GTZ Network

The GWP-ECLAC-GTZ network initially expanded within Ecuador by activating networks of domestic development NGOs and water experts in Ecuador’s Sierra region. As chapter 3 described, Ecuadorian development and water specialists working in the Andes were struggling to address severe water conflicts. Many became interested in IWM after reading articles by the Global Water Partnership’s South American Technical Advisory Committee (GWP- SAMTAC), which framed IWM as a way to address water conflicts. These and other articles on IWM coming out of ECLAC prompted Ecuadorian development and water experts 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. This shift in mentality and strategy led them to advocate IWM reform throughout Ecuador’s Sierra region.

Several Ecuadorian development and water specialists became crucial national brokers, facilitating the GWP-ECLAC-GTZ network’s expansion within Ecuador. One such national broker was Pablo Lloret, an Ecuadorian water expert who became president of GWP-SAMTAC. Lloret is what Sidney Tarrow (2005) calls a rooted cosmopolitan—a domestic expert with strong international ties and exposure to global ideas like IWM. Lloret received a masters degree in environmental sciences from Navarra University in Spain and was a member of several transnational expert networks regarding watershed management. Lloret illustrates how such national brokers facilitated connections between the GWP-ECLAC-GTZ network and Ecuadorian development NGOs, universities, social movements, and local government agencies. They used these connections to activate domestic IWM networks.

In 1994, Lloret became Director of Environmental Management in the municipal water company for Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city. Faced with severe water conflicts, he contacted ECLAC for conceptual support. Over time, Lloret developed a close relationship with Dourojeanni, Solanes, and other members of GWP-SAMTAC. He embraced ECLAC’s ideas and invited Solanes and Dourojeanni to Ecuador to advise on the creation of local watershed management institutions. Over time, he developed a strong relationship with ECLAC and was named the Global Water Partnership’s representative in Ecuador. Lloret became well known in Ecuador for his visionary role in creating Ecuador’s first Watershed Council, a participatory decision-making body that integrated the stakeholders in Cuenca’s Machangara watershed.

National brokers like Lloret played key roles in diffusing IWM principles and policies. They did so by employing network activation strategies, like training knowledge communities of domestic IWM experts and organizing them through national linking institutions and newly created IWM governance institutions. For example, in late 1994, amid the social contestation surrounding the Agrarian Development Law, Lloret and other Ecuadorian academics and development specialists founded a consortium as a national social space for debating natural resource management. This consortium, called CAMAREN (Consortium Training in Management of Renewable Natural Resources; Consorcio Capacitacion en Manejo de Recursos Naturales Renovables), constituted a new governing node in the transnational IWM network.

The idea behind CAMAREN was that training would provide a neutral way to convene people around the controversial topic of natural resource management. Because he had established Ecuador’s first university program on watershed management (at the University of Cuenca), CAMAREN’s members asked Lloret to manage the consortium’s efforts on water. In the late 1990s, he and others developed training materials on watershed management, based on IWM principles. Focused on under-served rural areas, the training program became a powerful source of network activation across Ecuador. Over the next decade, CAMAREN trained and organized 1,500 technical experts working in rural areas and 1,450 campesino community organizers.[1]

CAMAREN also created a national linking institution to organize the local knowledge communities that were forming around the country. In 2000, Lloret helped CAMAREN found Ecuador’s national Water Resources Forum (Foro de Recursos Hidricos) as a space where a diverse array of stakeholders could jointly analyze, discuss, respectfully debate, and develop policy proposals for IWM. From the beginning, the forum was meant to democratize water governance by incorporating community-level campesino, indigenous, and environmental groups into discussions typically dominated by engineers and policymakers. To this end, the national Water Resources Forum helped develop provincial- level forums and local working groups to develop ideas that were discussed at national meetings. The Forum’s inclusive culture and decentralized structure combined with the country’s social mobilization around water to produce high levels of participation by a diverse spectrum of Ecuadorian society.

The treatment of IWM within Ecuador’s Water Resources Forum illustrates how national brokers use their influence to adapt global ideas to fit national contexts in order to activate domestic networks. As the Global Water Partnership’s representative in Ecuador, Lloret used the Water Resources Forum to promote IWM policies and drew on the GWP-ECLAC network for support. However, Lloret expressed IWM principles through the lens of Ecuador’s sociocultural context. While many GWP members focused on privatization and market incentives to improve efficiency of water use, Lloret and the Forum’s other creators emphasized the need to democratize decision making to reduce inequality of access. They also linked water management with “the conservation of nature, respect for the rights of nature, and the development of populations traditionally forgotten by the state.”[2] These priorities reflected a desire by Lloret and his South American counterparts on GWP-SAMTAC to pursue what Lloret called “a more South American way of managing GWP policies in the world.”[3]

This adaptation of GWP’s approach to IWM put Lloret at odds with GWP’s directorate in Sweden and institutional members like the World Bank. Frustrated by the GWP director’s efforts to manage SAMTAC’s activities from Sweden, Lloret and SAMTAC’s other South American members established the South American Water Forum (Foro Sudamericano del Agua) as an alternative to SAMTAC. This rift ultimately caused the GWP to break formal ties with its South American representatives, but the latter continued to utilize their extensive network ties to promote IWM principles in their home countries in a way that fit domestic values.

Due to the efforts ofLioret and other national-level IWM advocates, Ecuador’s Water Resources Forum became a place where the concept of IWM was broadly accepted, but adapted to fit Ecuadorian values. Rather than debating the need for IWM, debate focused on how to design IWM systems that remained true to values held by local stakeholders. Among other things, these included the public’s right to equitable water access; participation by local social groups in water resource management; respect for indigenous knowledge, rights, and traditions; and differentiated fees for different resource uses and users with different economic conditions.[4]

The policy proposals adopted at the Water Resources Forum’s first meeting reflect members’ acceptance of IWM principles. The members issued four policy proposals designed to achieve “participatory and decentralized action for the holistic and integrated management of water resources” (CAMAREN 2002, 8). Among other things, the proposals called for:

  • 1) organizing management systems at the watershed level (recognizing the need for decentralized systems with local management at the micro-watershed level);
  • 2) valuing full inclusion of all stakeholders over “rational and efficient administration” (a euphemism for control by technical experts);
  • 3) designing and implementing new local IWM systems through decentralized, participatory processes (e.g., creating new organizations that allow local stakeholders to participate in planning, implementation, and oversight of activities);
  • 4) establishing transparent and sustainable financing mechanisms where those benefiting from watershed ecosystem services pay to ensure the continuation of these services. Importantly, the proposal demanded that social and environmental values of water be recognized in addition to economic values, and that all resource users—including the hydroelectric industry—contribute to financing watershed management activities.

The adopted proposals do not mean there was no disagreement among Forum members. Among the fiercest debates were those surrounding the concept of payments for ecosystem services (e.g., Isch Lopez 2005; Isch Lopez and Gentes 2006). Some indigenous groups, environmental NGOs, and others criticized this as the commodification of nature and feared it would lead to privatization (Accion Ecologica 2006). A number of IWM advocates, both foreign and

Ecuadorian, learned from their participation in these debates. They adapted their language and strategy so as to reconcile core IWM principles and practices with those of other stakeholders. Chapters 6 and 7 provide examples of how this was done in specific cases. They describe, for example, how IWM advocates adapted their strategies in response to bargaining with local stakeholders to produce innovative financing mechanisms that maintained core IWM principles while overcoming concerns about the privatization and commodification of nature.

To summarize, foreign and Ecuadorian IWM advocates affiliated with the GWP-ECLAC network took advantage of the national social mobilization that occurred in response to concerns about water privatization. They tapped into campesino and indigenous networks by framing IWM reform as an agricultural development strategy, training community experts and organizers in rural communities, and providing an organizational space for these groups to participate in water governance, both locally and nationally. Foreign and domestic IWM advocates willing to work with these groups as genuine partners were able to use this space to develop and strengthen their own connections with social networks, helping to extend their reach to the grassroots level. These social networks proved valuable for IWM advocates seeking to overcome obstruction by national political elites and advance their agenda through informal processes at the local level.

  • [1] www.camaren.org/quienes-somos/ (accessed February 13, 2016).
  • [2] www.camaren.org/foro-de-los-recursos-hidricos/ (accessed February 13, 2016).
  • [3] Interview by author, Quito, Ecuador, April 8, 2011.
  • [4] These themes appear repeatedly in discussion documents produced by the Water ResourcesForum (e.g., Arevalo 2003; Arroyo 2005; CAMAREN 2002).
 
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