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Guidelines for cooperation towards development in the area of water resources

Sound management of freshwater resources and their use is essential for man's social, economic and political well-being. This simple fact has recently attracted increasing international attention, and the European Union itself has shown its concern about this issue by publishing guidelines in 1999 entitled "Towards sustainable water resources management: a strategic approach".

The guidelines lay down a strategic approach to planning and managing activities relating to water resources, encompassing the drawing up of national policies, the use of services and the implementation of specialised projects and programmes. Application of the guidelines should make it possible to extend the health-giving and productive properties of freshwater resources more equitably, efficiently and sustainably among mankind, with special emphasis on poorer and under-served people. Their application involves a radical change in traditional attitudes towards water management, requiring the introduction of good practice consistent with the fundamental principles adopted at a series of meetings held at national, regional and United Nations level in recent years.

The guidelines are intended for all those involved in EU development cooperation in water management and use, including public entities and the private sector. The guidelines form part of the broader context of approaches adopted by the Member States of the European Union, the partner countries and other contributing parties.

Rationale and key concepts

Through the guidelines the EU sets out a strategic and holistic approach to water use and management.

The nineteen guiding principles constitute the first key component of the guidelines. They come under six headings:

  • institutional and management aspects;
  • social aspects such as promoting participation by the population;
  • economic and financial aspects;
  • environmental aspects, in particular protection of the environment;
  • information, education and communication;
  • technological aspects.

The second key element consists of working out target areas. The guidelines focus on the following issues:

  • evaluation and planning of water resources;
  • water supply and purification services;
  • municipal water and purification services;
  • management and use of water in agriculture.

In addition to the guiding principles and key areas, the guidelines set a number of priority themes for action. These include the following:

  • institutional development and capacity-building;
  • devising participatory structures to ensure equality of the sexes;
  • natural resource management;
  • expanding the water management knowledge base;
  • demand management and pricing;
  • awareness-building and communications.

Implementation of the strategic approach

Implementation of the approach and application of its principles are supported through practical aid provided for in the guidelines. The main instrument is Project Cycle Management (PCM) which provides a phased and logical structure for the various planning and implementation stages of the projects:

  • programming;
  • identification;
  • instruction;
  • financing;
  • implementation;
  • evaluation.

Application of the guiding principles and of PCM is also rendered easier by the use of a number of checklists highlighting problems likely to be encountered and suggesting ways of responding to the main issues. However, these sets of questions and answers are not intended to serve as an obligatory manual.

A wide range of additional tools is proposed, including specific aid to projects and information on the EU's financing instruments and structures in this field.

Last updated: 12.09.2007
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