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Steps to reforming water policies

This policy brief, published by the Global Water Partnership, presents a strategy for changing water policies and institutions, to improve water security, reduce poverty and boost development.

The authors describe five stages to achieving this and highlight accompanying activities.

The first stage involves laying the groundwork for change — gathering evidence, creating awareness and building a consensus on the need for change. The authors warn against the dangers of entering emotionally-charged debates, and emphasise the need for a sound rationale backed by evidence-based information.

Second, is creating or capitalising on a conducive environment for change. This means taking advantage of 'triggers', such as crisis situations, political regime change or water-related treaties, to push forward reform.

The third stage involves generating demand for change by convincing the public and other stakeholders that change is needed.

This can be achieved through coalition-building and long-term advocacy, in which researchers have a key role to play — the influence of climatologists in convincing the public of the need to combat climate change is just one example of how researchers can garner public support. Countering resistance also has a key role and for this, it is important to identify people who stand to benefit from the status quo.

The fourth stage is negotiating the content of reforms and building a 'change package' that outlines reformulated policies. The authors highlight that when crafting such a package it is important to take a step-by-step approach that focuses first on urgent reforms with high potential for immediate impacts.

The final stage is about monitoring and evaluating to ensure that new policies are implemented and making an impact. This requires setting clear responsibilities, gaining political and resource commitments, and ensuring grassroots participation.

Link to full policy brief from the Global Water Partnership

This policy brief was written by an international team of researchers, overseen by the GWP Technical Committee.