In its 1993 policy paper Water Resources Management, the World Bank committed itself to assisting countries in the development of a systematic framework for incorporating cross-sectoral and ecosystem interdependencies in to the formulation of policies, regulations, and public investment plans that are suitable to the particular country's situation. Elsewhere in that document, the Bank recognized two factors associated within corporating these elements of comprehensive water resources management. First, one of the major requirements for long-term, sustainable economic development, and for successful management of water resources, is building a country's capacity to plan and manage its resources. This capacity-building must occur on many levels, but particularly on the levels of developing the proper individual and institutional abilities to plan and manage resources. Second, implementing water resources policies that incorporate principles such as water conservation, cost-recovery, and poverty alleviation requires a national water resources strategy. The Bank made a commitment in the policy paper to preparing, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a guide on capacity-building for countries interested in forming strategies for managing water resources.

This volume on strategy formulation is the result of well over a year's effort by water resources professionals under the leadership of Guy Le Moigne. Since the Bank's commitment was clearly a guide for countries, the authors have aimed the volume at policy makers in the developing world. Many countries have prepared water resources plans and the like, but often these have not been prepared principally by the countries themselves. One central element the authors wished to address was building the capacity to manage water resources through the process of strategy formulation.

Political, economic, social, and environmental circumstances are different among developing countries, especially concerning the availability of water. It would have been most difficult to extrapolate from actual experiences to develop a "best practices" guide or a rigorous step-by-step guide on how to formulate a strategy. Moreover, water resources planning and management in the past rarely sought to incorporate the comprehensive or "holistic" principles that have been recently adopted at numerous international conferences including the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. These elements are elaborated in the volume.

This volume, then, describes the process of strategy formulation and relates the major aspects of comprehensive water resources management to that process. While the description is based on experience, the process has rarely been undertaken as described. Like the major issues in comprehensive water resources management, the process is meant to be adapted to each country's circumstances. There are, however, several elements that should be included if the process of formulating water resources strategy is to contribute to a country's ability to manage and sustain the resource. Water is a crucial element in economic development, and in maintaining or improving the health of a country's people and of its natural environment. Investments in managing water resources can be among the most fruitful that a country can make for its future, provided that they are made within the framework of a comprehensive strategy. We hope that this volume will contribute to this critical endeavor.

 

MICHEL PETIT
Director Agriculture and Natural Resources Department

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