Social Equity and IWRM - New Background Paper by the GWP Technical Committee

Posted: 2011-08-22

Social equity is the least understood of the 3 E’s (equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability) in the concept of integrated water resources management. This new Global Water Partnership Technical Committee Background Paper No. 15, “Social Equity and Integrated Water Resources Management”, sets out an overarching framework for the analysis of equity in the context of water development and management. It is intended as an aid to decision makers in designing policies, interventions, and programs aimed at the equitable distribution of benefits from water resources.

Despite recurrent references to social equity in the rhetoric of water resources development and management, it remains a nebulous concept and little effort has been made to clarify its scope or content within the water context. There are a number of case studies that tackle the issue of social equity and water management in particular countries, and articles that address equity in relation to specific subsectors (e.g., irrigation, drinking water) and specific tools (e.g., subsidies). But this is the first paper to attempt to provide an overarching framework for analysis of equity in the water sector.

The Global Water Partnership Technical Committee Chair Dr Mohamed Ait-Kadi says: “The objective of this Paper is to give a clearer understanding of the equity pillar of IWRM within the water community, and generate a more rigorous discussion of equity within the human right to water debate.”

The Background Paper includes the following conclusions:
• Water policies should be assessed based on their final outcomes, and thus must be considered along with other sector policies that impact water and benefits from water and general economic and development policies.
• Social equity must be considered within processes, as well as in the distribution of the final benefits associated with water.
• Although tradeoffs are sometimes needed between the goals of social equity and economic efficiency, these goals often reinforce each other.

This Background Paper was written by Humberto Peña, GWP Technical Committee member and former National Director of Water Resources in Chile (1994–2006) and can be downloaded here.

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