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Voices from the Water CoP Retreat
Participants discussed the draft Framework from the perspectives of ADB staff, clients, and partners. They appreciated the opportunity to review the paper and are keen to actively engage in the further formulation of such a framework. They welcomed many of the insights articulated in the paper, and put forward additional suggestions for further developing the framework. The suggestions are summarized below: 1. Providing space for recognizing achievements of clients, partners and ADB. The present draft is thin on the work done by clients, partners and ADB itself over the past years. Maybe a revised version later could consider adding a section that recognizes what has been achieved and how that can be built upon? Such section may also touch upon ADB’s work on partnerships and/or collaboration with partners, including the work with financing partners for the Water and Financing Partnership Facility. This may help to entice clients and partners to buy into the framework and seek expanded collaboration with ADB. 2. Highlighting the crisis but recognizing the need to validate data. The intention to highlight the water supply-demand gap revealed by the McKinsey Report is understood considering the objective of the framework to call attention to the crisis that the region is facing. However, the framework may need to allow for further validation of such data noting that India had asked McKinsey for re-computation. 3. Offering menu of options to clients. One size doesn’t fit all, and it is expected that the later version of the framework would clarify what menu of options it offers its clients to choose from. For that, a program with a menu of options may be called for. 4. Building on existing studies to improve implementation. The paper makes a case for significant investment in further country water assessment studies by ADB. It is assumed that such work will build upon existing studies, including by other organizations, and the focus will be more on filling the gaps. It is also assumed that where warranted, further studies will be done with mandated partner organizations, including knowledge centers. Many participants expressed need for helping clients to implement existing policies and programs (the “how” question), smartly supported by benchmarking and capacity development.
5. Tempering the focus on higher efficiencies. The call for improving water use efficiencies is supported and it is suggested that it be complemented by equal, if not more, focus on conservation in all uses. There were suggestions to further refine the strategy for promoting higher efficiencies in agriculture to take into account the need to distinguish efficiency at field, system and basin levels – a fundamentally important issue that may be difficult for ADB to achieve. It is also suggested that variation in country and local conditions be considered when promoting efficiencies. 6. Setting realistic expectations from private sector participation. Stimulating increased participation of private sector is supported. However, in the light of ADB’s weak performance to date in private sector water operations, and the dearth of examples in rural areas in the developing world (not just Asia), participants suggested that expectations for private sector participation be set more carefully and worded in a manner that empowers governments to move ahead with promoting PSP while taking the views of civil society into account. 7. Maximizing existing capacities and expanding them. Further discussions on making better use of ADB’s existing capacities are needed, as well as in agreeing which capacities should be further expanded and how. The Water Committee and CoP should be encouraged to take an active part in the discussion considering that it’s them who will benefit from improved capacities. 8. Agreeing how ADB should convey the message about the social and economic value of water. The paper’s focus on the economic approach to water use efficiency is understood. However, due to sensitivities attached to promoting water as an economic good, it may be prudent to be consistent with what the Water for All policy espouses, that is, “water is a socially vital economic good” and sustainable development and IWRM approaches must stress the need for water management to balance economic, social and environmental outcomes. 9. Providing for resources to support demand management approaches. The shift in paradigm that the paper is trying to promote requires resources to be invested in labor intensive work for policy reforms, behavior changes, institutional reform, within the social and political economy. It is suggested that the costs associated with this type of work be included.
10. Development and management of a regional water information system. The system being developed for Africa involves expertise from France, which has invested heavily in improving data and information sharing and management in its own country. It is suggested that the setting of up such a system consider the capacity gap in ADB to undertake such task and the option to maximize strengths of knowledge partners and UN organizations who could do a better job. Participants commented that a regional system, if established, could usefully also include information on virtual water trade. 11. Addressing issues missing from the paper. The following issues may be included: (i) poor and vulnerable communities and reaching the MDGs and beyond; (ii) sanitation; (iii) more emphasis on disaster risk management; (iv) more emphasis on groundwater; (v) the Pacific DMCs; (vi) involving ADB Institute, and (vii) reflecting approaches for IWRM in river basins that have already been developed with partners. The important roles of ADB’s Water CoP in the coming years should also be reflected in the framework itself.