The Negotiated Approach: inclusive and sustainable water management
The Negotiated Approach is a bottom-up governance method. It gives communities a voice in river management, ensures a fair and sustainable use of water and prevents damage to vulnerable ecosytems.
Water governance is everybody's business
The world is facing multiple water crises. Billions of people are being affected by water scarcity, pollution and floods. Solutions tend to only focus on technical and managerial aspects. However, fundamental governance gaps remain, as local to global power dynamics that created these problems are rarely addressed.
Sustainable solutions in the long run can only be achieved if unequal power relations are adequately addressed. Therefore, Both ENDS and civil society partners support and promote initiatives towards sustainable and just governance of water resources, while also challenging conventional approaches that tend to exclude typically marginalised groups in society.
A Negotiated Approach
Water is a human right, a social good and a common-pool resource. As water is a vital source of life that speaks to every member of society, it is crucial to ensure that water related decision-making processes are transparent, inclusive and gender-responsive. A Negotiated Approach works towards creating and maintaining a level playing field for a collective planning process that seeks to achieve environmental sustainability and equitable sharing of benefits.
Creating political space for local actors
Access to water and land is particularly essential for rural communities; smallholder producers, pastoralists, peasants, fisher folks, and indigenous people often depend directly on these resources for their livelihoods. Yet, local communities often face insecure access to fishing grounds, clean drinking water, and fertile lands.
More often than not, the management of natural resources is done in an exclusive and top-down manner in which local communities are rarely actively involved in planning and decision-making. This results in policies which do not reflect and often conflict with the rights, needs, and realities of local communities.
Contrary to top-down interventions, a Negotiated Approach creates structural political space in which local people acquire a long-term negotiating position over the planning and management of water and other natural resources.
Negotiation: meaningful participation
A Negotiated Approach facilitates local communities and civil society organisations (CSOs) to become full-fledged players in natural resource management at the local and (inter)national levels. Going beyond merely creating a multi-stakeholder dialogue, a Negotiated Approach creates opportunities for local actors to actively develop, propose and negotiate policy measures, based on their own local knowledge, needs, aspirations, and environmental realities. This approach is fundamentally different to most conventional participatory processes in which local groups are often consulted and invited to react to already developed plans by 'experts' or policy makers.
A Negotiated Approach prioritises capacity building of local stakeholders so they can engage effectively in negotiations with policy makers and have a stronger position in the negotiation process, creating a level playing field. Furthermore, the approach ensures that local communities are well prepared to meaningfully participate in the whole negotiation process. This may include gathering data on the physical and biological characteristics of the local environment, understanding the institutional and legal contexts, power mapping, developing negotiation skills, and creating strategic platforms for negotiation.
A long history: Both ENDS and a Negotiated Approach
Both ENDS maintains a long track record of partnerships for inclusive water governance, dating back to the late 1990s. A Negotiated Approach to Inclusive Water Governance was developed in the field through the efforts of community based organisations and NGOs in various parts of the world. We brought together NGOs from various countries (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, India, Peru, Thailand, South Africa and Vietnam) that had succeeded in linking local initiatives to higher levels of government. Their location-specific approaches to inclusive water governance have been a response to top-down approaches and the lack of attention to local communities' needs, knowledge, and environmental realities. Using their projects as example, the organisations worked together to develop a Negotiated Approach. The outcome 'River Basin Management: A Negotiated Approach' was published by Both ENDS in 2005, and 'Involving Communities' was published in 2011 in close collaboration with Indian partner organization Gomukh.
Since then, Both ENDS and partners have used a Negotiated Approach in many river basins around the world. By adopting a Negotiated Approach, we can work towards achieving inclusive water governance in which local communities can play a meaningful role in the sustainable management of water and other natural resources.
Read more about this subject
With our Wetlands without Borders program, we work towards environmentally sustainable and socially responsible governance of the wetlands system of the La Plata Basin in South America.
Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP) is a rights-based approach ensuring inclusive and gender-responsive land governance, especially for those whose rights to land are not fully acknowledged.
A protected nature reserve, better waste processing, restricted mining and participation of local residents in water management: these are the results of eight years of working on a Negotiated Approach to integrated water management in five river basins in Indonesia.
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
In and around the rapidly growing cities of the Ganges Delta in India and Bangladesh, there is a serious threat of groundwater shortages. The Negotiated Approach is intended to offer a fair and sustainable solution.
News / 5 July 2019
Manila Bay is crucial site for biodiversity and home to over 23 million people, but their wellbeing is at risk due to reclamation projects, which are also part of a large-scale top-down masterplan for the bay. It is estimated that more than 11 million people are threatened with displacement due to land reclamations and related disaster risks. As an alternative, Kalikasan is developing a People's Plan.
News / 4 July 2019
Tidal rivers in the southwest coastal area of Bangladesh have been dying since flood plains were replaced by Dutch-style polders in the 70s. Rivers are silted up, and during monsoon season water gets trapped within embankments. Every year, this situation of waterlogging inflicts adverse consequences particularly on women, as they take care of the household in waterlogged conditions in the absence of men who travel to the city in search of temporary work. NGO Uttaran is advocating for a change in policy and practice.
News / 3 July 2019
Through pollution and water scarcity, communities along the Kenyan Athi River have learnt the hard way that upstream and downstream communities are inevitably connected. In response to indiscriminate impacts on the environment and people's livelihoods, civil society organisations within the Athi River Basin formed the Athi River Community Network (ARCN).
News / 2 July 2019
The water quality of East Java's largest river, the Brantas River, is increasingly deteriorating due to a combination of industrial and household waste. This environmental pollution has a disproportionate impact on women. Yet, their participation in decision-making remains lacking. ECOTON is working to improve the situation.
Blog / 5 October 2018
From the first moment I arrive in Surabaya, I enter the rollercoaster called ECOTON. I'm visiting them to get to know the work of this long-time Both ENDS partner, and have only three days for this. But ECOTON does a lot, and all of it at the same time. Tirelessly, they work on the protection of the Brantas River.
News / 26 September 2018
Good news from Brazil! The National Water Agency (ANA) has stopped issuing new permits for the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Brazilian Paraguay river basin, which is part of the Pantanal wetlands in South-America. The suspension will last at least until May 2020, after the publication of a comprehensive socio-economic and environmental impact assessment that the ANA started in 2016.
Publication / 19 April 2016
Video / 5 April 2016
Indonesia has many rivers, but clean water is increasingly scarce. To address the Indonesian water crisis, Both ENDS and 3 Indonesian civil society organisations initiated IndoWater Community of Practice. IndoWaterCoP is born out of concern that the implementation of Indonesian water resource management is failing. It aims to assist Indonesian government to improve its performance.
External link / 3 December 2014
The Indonesia Water Community of Practice (IndoWater CoP) was declared on December 3, 2014 by a group of Indonesian NGOs whose members felt very concerned about the poor management of Indonesia's water resources due to a lack of integrated planning on river basin management, community participation and law enforcement.
Video / 1 July 2013
In this short movie we follow Indian professor Vijay Paranjpye, who has dedicated his life and work to finding ways of involving local communities in the management of natural resources such as water. What is the Negotiated Approach and what has been achieved so far? This film takes us to India and to Benin to show both results and possibilities.