Cecilia Tortajada (Atizapan, Estado De Mexico, Mexico)
Governance has been used mostly as an umbrella concept and no definition has been agreed for it as a whole. Governance is not synonymous with government. It is instead a complex process that considers multi-level participation beyond the state, where decision-making includes not only public institutions, but also private sector, civil society and the society in general. Good governance frameworks refer to new processes and methods of governing and changed conditions of ordered rule on which the actions and inactions of all parties concerned are transparent and accountable. It embraces the relationships between governments and societies, including laws, regulations, institutions, and formal and informal interactions which affect all the ways in which governance systems function, stressing the importance of involving more voices, responsibilities, transparency and accountability of formal and informal organisations associated in any process. Because of its complexity, good governance clearly does not just appear: it is instead the culmination of multi-faceted, long-term processes that have to be carefully planned and nurtured. For good governance to develop, overall conditions and the general environment must be made appropriate; parties concerned must be amenable to collective decision-making; effective and functional organisations need to be developed; and policy, legal and political frameworks must be suitable to the goals that are being pursued for the common good (Rhodes, 1996; Kooiman, 2003; Tiihonen, 2004). Since governance-related issues are not just public or private, but are frequently shared, governance activities at all levels become diffuse over various societal actors whose relationships with each other are constantly changing. The challenge for anyone involved in governing and governance is to make public, private and societal actors, participate at solving problems and creating opportunities under both normative and institutional frameworks that provide the foundations for any activities. For these complex interrelationships to succeed they have to take into consideration that they are interdependent and that no single actor, public or private, has the knowledge or information to solve the changing societal challenges on his own. This is, no actor has the sufficient umbrella to make the necessary instruments effective on his own or sufficient action potential to unilaterally dominate the decision-making arena (Kooiman, 2003). As is the case for the concept of governance, that of water governance is still evolving. There is no universally agreed definition for water governance, and its ethical implications and political dimensions are all a matter of international debate. The result is that different people use the concept in different ways and within varying cultural, economic, social and political contexts. Water governance is perceived, in its broadest sense, as comprising all social, political economic and administrative organisations and institutions, as well as their relationships to water resources development and management. It is concerned with how institutions operate and how regulations affect political actions and societal concerns through formal and informal instruments (UNDESA et al., 2003). According to UNDP (2004) the term water governance includes political, economic and social processes and institutions by which governments, the private sector and the civil society make decisions about how best to use, develop and manage water resources. It refers to the range of political, social, economic, and administrative systems that are in place to develop and manage water resources and the delivery of water services at different levels of society. It compromises the mechanisms, processes, and institutions through which all involved stakeholders, including citizens and interest groups, articulate their priorities, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences. It emphasises the causality of water-related problems by pointing out not only the natural limitations of the water supply or lack of financing and appropriate technologies, but rather from profound failures in water governance, such as the ways in which individuals and societies have assigned value to, made decisions about, and managed the water resources available to them. Water governance and water management are interdependent issues in the sense that effective governance systems are meant to enable practical management tools to be applied properly as the situations require. Partnerships between the public and private sectors, participation of stakeholders, and economic or regulatory instruments will not be effective unless there are administrative systems in place as well as commitments of governments, private sector groups and civil society organisations. Even though reform of water institutions and policies is taking place in many countries, the progress has been rather slow and limited. In most of the countries of the developing world, water institutions do not function properly and many of them display fragmented institutional arrangements and overlapping and/or conflicting decision-making structures (UNDESA, et al., 2003). Water governance is also considered as the context within which integrated water resources management can be applied (Rogers and Hall, 2003). Nevertheless, while integrated approaches are considered to be of fundamental importance to manage water in more effective ways, their implementation remains incomplete in most countries, regardless of their stage of development.