Multi-stakeholder processes towards establishing water management agencies in South Africa

Muller, Kobus ; Enright, Willie (2009-01)

Article

The multi-stakeholder approach reflects some of the most frequently and fervently debated issues in discussions on governance, democracy, equity and justice in recent years. The term multi-stakeholder is used to include all role-players, government institutions, stakeholders, clients, non-governmental organisations and community based organisations. It is generally accepted that sustainable development requires a process and ultimately consensus-building among all stakeholders as partners to build relationships and knowledge that will enable them to develop sustainable solutions to new challenges. It is against this background that the processes leading up to the establishment of new decentralised regional water management institutions in South Africa is described and analysed. The process in the Olifants-Doorn Water Management Area to draft the required proposal for the establishment of a catchment management agency is used as a case study (hereafter referred to as the Olifants-Doorn process). The authors argue that the Olifants-Doorn process up to the formal establishment of the Olifants-Doorn Catchment Management Agency (CMA) is a considerable success story evaluated against the principles of good governance. This is evaluated especially in terms of improving stakeholder equality through capacity building, Administratio Publica | Vol 17 No 1 January 2009 113 INTRODUCTION It is generally accepted that sustainable development requires a process and ultimately consensus-building among all stakeholders inclusive of all roleplayers, government institutions, stakeholders, clients, non-governmental organisations and community based organisations as partners who together define the problems, design possible solutions, collaborate to implement them, obtain specific products, and monitor and evaluate the outcome. Through such activities stakeholders can build relationships and knowledge that will enable them to develop sustainable solutions to new challenges (Hemmati 2002:40). In fact, the multi-stakeholder approach reflects some of the most frequently and fervently debated issues in discussions on governance, democracy, equity and justice in recent years. The aim of the research was to analyse the multi-stakeholder processes leading up to the emergence of new decentralised environmental governance systems for water resources management in South Africa utilising a ‘good governance’ perspective. For this purpose ‘public governance’ is defined as the way in which stakeholders interact with each other in order to influence the outcome of policies and ‘good governance’ as the implementation by multiple stakeholders of quality of life improvements through agreed principles and processes of working together (Governance International 2006). In this article the focus firstly fall on the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of the emergence of new collaborative models for environmental governance through multi-stakeholder processes; secondly, the scene is set for discussing the particular case study of the Olifants-Doorn process which forms the focus of this article by contextualising the historical background, policy framework and institutional landscape for water resource management in South Africa; thirdly, the multi-stakeholder process leading towards the establishment of the Olifants-Doorn Catchment Management Agency will be described; and achieving representation, the exchange of information, time, human and financial resources committed to the process, and building consensus, while allowing the process to progress at its own pace. Although the enabling constitutional and sectoral policy frameworks facilitate good governance practices and behaviour, the key success factor was largely the professional commitment of the public administration technocrats who are responsible for activating, orchestrating and modulating the process.

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