Responsible water governance
Water governance requires dealing with conflicting interests and functions. A new toolkit will facilitate joint decision making by putting emphasis on the shared values underlying conflicts.
The Values4Water Framework - developed in this project - will include an online argumentation tool, a methodology to manage the use of values and arguments and a simulation and visualisation environment. By shifting the focus away from conflicting interests and towards shared values, it will help stakeholders in water governance to improve collaborative decision making. Tests will be done in cases in both the Netherlands and Mozambique, to ensure applicability of the toolkit to a wide range of policy situations.
In the coming decades extreme instances of water scarcity and floods will increase in intensity and frequency. Hard policy decisions will need to be taken under pressure of time and uncertainty about long-term outcomes. One of the main challenges in water governance is to fulfill different – often conflicting – water functions at the same time (like drinking water, sanitation, agriculture, and transportation). Decisions will impact society in various ways, including consequences for safety, mobility, commerce, and tourism.
The Values4Water framework will include a number of tools and methods:
- An online argumentation tool to facilitate stakeholder participation, that enables to identify, discuss and share stakeholder values and arguments;
- A methodology to manage the use of values and arguments at the various stages of
development; the methodology will support selecting priorities and organising user values;
- A simulation and visualisation environment to analyse and explore the global consequences of values, choices and constraints.
Two case studies, one in the Netherlands and one in Mozambique, will be used to evaluate the framework. Between the two countries there are significant differences in circumstances in decision-making and flood management. This ensures the framework to be applicable in very different situations.
In the first year a start was made with the two case studies. The analysis of the Dutch case made among others clear that a more explicit description of context was needed in the formal model that the researchers are currently developing. This model links social values, individual values, specific interpretations of values and context-based actions and standpoints. It provides the basis for participatory consensus-forming activities as envisioned in the project aims.
A start has furthermore been made with a participatory deliberation tool, called MOOD, which will become part of the Values4Water Framework. A prototype version is available at https://mood.tbm.tudelft.nl/.
The project takes a multidisciplinary approach in order to investigate water governance as a multi-actor environment. National and local governments, water authorities, companies, and communities each have their own set of interests. These can cause conflicts when decisions need to be taken. Individual beneficial actions might lead to undesirable outcomes at the collective level. Even worse, these conflicting interests can cause favorable projects to fail. The identification of these interests has thus increasingly received attention from scholars and practitioners.
The identification of relevant values, however, is hardly done. Yet this can offer an opening in situations where the stakeholders don’t manage to come to a decision. Even though conflicting interests seem incompatible at first sight, indeed the underlying socio-ethical values are often shared. In general different parties agree on the importance of values like safety and fairness. For example, civilians and farmers will both aim for a fair distribution of the available water. That won’t be any different for industry.
Therefore, it is more constructive for stakeholders to discuss decisions which need to be taken in terms of socio-ethical values and not in terms of conflicting interests. The question is thus not which or whose interest(s) to choose, but based on what underlying values will we take the decision? However, tools and methods are so far lacking to identify the relevant underlying values and embed them in water governance practices. This project fills that gap.
water governance, argumentation tool, collaborative decision making, Mozambique, Mozambique, Netherlands, flood management, water scarcity, conflicting interests, stakeholder deliberation, multi-actor approachOfficial project title: