Conservation International / Forest Trends / International Union for Conservation of Nature / International Water Management Institute

Share, Conserve, Develop! Balancing it all in Transboundary Basins?

Wednesday 29 August | 16.00-17.30 | Room: FH 202
©Adriana Faria/IUCN

How do the imperatives of water-related ecosystem conservation and those of water security for human socio-economic development become intertwined in transboundary basins, which provide freshwater to 50% of the worlds’ population? Water cooperation mechanisms have moved beyond the purview of state diplomatic offices to operate at multiple levels of governance that involve local to intergovernmental basin stakeholders. Through innovative engagement tools, planning processes that include stakeholders from a variety of sectors, such as agriculture and energy, are laying the foundations for new paradigms in basin planning. Women and youth are participating in leadership and innovation in these processes. These new models include nexus planning and dialogues around benefit enhancements and trade-offs. They posit a direct link between inclusive governance and improved outcomes for humans, water

How are these efforts faring in practice? The session will be anchored around examples from practice and research across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Speakers will include stakeholders and practitioners who will bring an array of perspectives to stimulate a debate among participants on whether and how stakeholder-inclusive, multilevel governance cooperation mechanisms can consolidate an understanding that conserving ecosystems is essential for humans to thrive in our increasingly water-insecure

Gold standard events are committed to ensure the gender balance in speakers/panellists and young professional representation in the session.


Title: Share, Conserve, Develop! How do we do it all in Transboundary Basins?

16:00-16:10 Introduction and setting the scene

Dr Isabelle Fauconnier, Water Policy and Sustainability Advisor, IUCN

16:10-16:20 Stakeholder-Inclusive Benefit Opportunities Assessment in the Sio-Malaba-Malakisi Basin

Rose Ogara – Regional Manager, Water Resources Authority Lake Victoria North (Kenya)

Louis Mugisha – Team Leader, Kyoga Water Management Zone, Ministry of Water and Environment, (Uganda)

16:20-16:30 Audience Reaction Round 1

Moderator #1 Lesha Witmer, Women for Water Partnership

16:30-16:40 Freshwater Health Assessment with Basin-level Stakeholders 

 Dr Derek Vollmer, Senior Director, Freshwater Science, Conservation International

16:40-16:50 Audience Reaction Round 2 

 Moderator #2 Dr Chris Dickens, Principal Researcher, IWMI

16:50 -17:00 Women’s Inclusion in Transboundary Groundwater Resources Governance  

Dr Alice Aureli, Chief - Groundwater Resources and Aquifer Systems Section, UNESCO IHP

17:00-17:25 Moderated Discussion with Audience

Discussants: Eileen Hofstetter, Deputy Head, Global Programme Water SDC

Natasha Westheimer, Senior Economic Development Associate, Office of the Quartet

Annemiek Jenniskens, Executive Director, WfWP

17:25-17:30 Closing Remarks 

  Mark Smith, Deputy Director General, IWMI


This session stimulated a discussion among participants about ways in which transboundary stakeholders, including women, are being mobilised through multi-level cooperation to actively weigh trade-offs and make decisions around sharing water for energy, agriculture and ecosystems.

Behind the widely acknowledged need to account for the values of ecosystem services, it’s important to understand what values these services have for different stakeholders: behind sectors and “ trade-offs” there are real people with their own solutions, values and needs (incl. caring better for ecosystems), in complex systems.  What tools and approaches are we using now to make sense of this complexity, and to harness stakeholder inputs into more solid decision-making around water management on the ground?

Examples of inclusive planning and monitoring approaches were presented, including benefit-sharing assessments in the Sio-Malaba-Malakisi basin, basin-level freshwater health monitoring in the “3S” basins of the Lower Mekong, and gender-proactive design in the Ocotepeque-Citala Transboundary Aquifer (OCTA).

Key messages and take away recommendations:

- Stakeholder-inclusive dialogue, decision-support and monitoring tools offer huge potential to strengthen water governance processes and the technical quality of decisions around water management through the inclusion of more stakeholders, including women and youth, representing different kinds of water uses. These “living tools” can be disseminated, adapted and adopted into formal governance and planning mechanisms, through good project design, donor and government support. Champions can play a role in this.

- It’s imperative to ensure that all the relevant stakeholders are at the table.  Looking proactively beyond incumbent or donor-driven framing of the issues and actors can ensure better inclusivity, which is essential for the success and credibility of more stakeholder-inclusive processes around decision-making.

Tools and initiatives:
The Benefit Opportunities Assessment Tool (BOAT - IUCN Global Water Programme) is a dialogue and decision-support tool that allows multiple stakeholders to qualitatively assess, prioritise and propose design changes to projects to achieve benefits for a wider array of stakeholders through cooperation. In the SMM basin (Kenya/Uganda), this type of process is being integrated into new institutional arrangements for transboundary cooperation.

The Freshwater Health Index (led by CI). This index assesses the health of a basin freshwater system through three main indicators; (i) Ecosystem vitality; (ii) Ecosystem services; (iii) Governance and stakeholders. By examining the water governance system itself, the Freshwater Health Index offers a unique but standardized way to have stakeholders self-assess strong and weak points in their governance, and structure the discussions about how to improve water governance. Stakeholders from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia also created future scenarios that make clearer connections between hydropower development, ecosystem modification, and changes in ecosystems/benefits.

The UNESCO IHP is executing the Groundwater Resources Governance in Transboundary Aquifers "GGRETA” project, which aims to improve the governance of the OCTA Aquifer. Given women’s involvement in water conservation and protection, the project has performed in-depth gender analysis making use of the WWAP toolkit and is helping governments to mainstream gender and increase women’s participation in transboundary institutions.