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Good governance for Water – Water for good Governance, in rural communities of Azerbaijan

IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
5. Water Governance and Water Security

Keyword(s): governance, decentralisation, local self-government, community development, accountability, sustainability

AbstractIntroduction Old and neglected infrastructures have deprived many rural communities in Azerbaijan of basic access to drinking water. The situation is typical to ex-Republics of USSR, where collapse of Soviet system resulted in decay of water management and infrastructures. Poor economic situation impeded necessary investments, and over centralization resulting in weak governance and little sense of ownership by communities. In recent years, Azerbaijan experienced changes that could have addressed causes of the problems. The oil boom has brought incomes for the State budget, obsolete Water Departments were privatised (AzerSu company), and local self-government were setup. Unfortunately this has not improved conditions for rural communities. Ineffectiveness, poor governance, reluctance towards decentralisation are still there, and all symptoms persist: water is whether absent or wasted. Objective The project aimed to improve the access to drinking water in a sustainable and accountable manner for 10 communities. But the current context limits chance for sustainability. ACF is of the view that only good local governance would ensure access to sustainable water; and water could bring good governance. Methods ACF implemented a proactive methodology: water being a means to develop local self-government, the key for sustainable access to water. ACF acted in 3 steps: • Defining the most relevant water management mechanisms for communities, after survey among population, review of legislation and evaluation of stakeholders. • Developing local institutions through steady process of capacity building, using water and sanitation sector as practical application. • Promoting good governance through the incentive of water. Results The model proposed to entrust water management solely to municipalities and include water users representatives into municipal commission. It excluded artificial (CBO) or unpromising structures (Azersu). The model offered a way out of the fruitless situation, increasing accountability of municipality and sense of ownership of community. Through water and sanitation, the lessons of establishing a municipal commission and technical unit, and the development of a strategic plan, proposal writing and fund raising were put into practice. Municipalities gained knowledge and experience enabling them to further develop. Close monitoring of progress towards good governance, put as a condition for provision of water, allowed ACF to finally select municipalities able to sustain the investments. The municipalities having become more competent and transparent, communities were willing to approve their project and contribute financially to it. Conclusion The project offered an interesting community development approach where access to water, being a primary objective, becomes a remarkable means to promote good governance and develop self-government institutions. It created a precedent to challenge the ineffective centralised water management structure and to advocate for decentralisation to communities.
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