Water management, fact-finding and facilitation in multi-stakeholder platforms in North Afghanistan


  • Jeroen Warner
  • Vincent Thomas


water management, multi-stakeholder processes, development aid, local institutions, agriculture, ownership, Afghanistan


The article sketches the history and practice of multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) along the Amu-Panj river basin in Afghanistan. The MSP model, in the form of multi-stakeholder River Basin organisations was entirely externally driven, at the behest of the European Union and facilitated by European experts. Knowledge created during the Panj Amu River Basin Pilot (PARBP) programme, started in 2005, was of little use to stakeholders who were mainly interested in new infrastructural projects. This contributed to the enthusiastic response to PARBP?s infrastructural focus and regulatory aspects of water sector reform through supporting the development of strategies, laws and policies. The project was not perceived as relevant and legitimate in resolving practical water management problems. Multi-stakeholder working groups, mainly composed of water users and line ministries, were formed by the facilitator for each sub-basin. These externally facilitated fact-finding groups however were not found to take on a meaningful role in sub-basin management, had rather varied participation and their dissolution in 2008 was greeted with general indifference, including the responsible Ministry of Water Resources and Energy. Meanwhile, local institutions such as the provincial governor and the mirab (traditional community water provider) continue to function or evolve independently, often developing outside of the water management reform framework proposed by the European Community. By contrast, local ad-hoc MSPs, so called Water Allocation Committees (WACs) emerged in 2011, and tackled several conflictual issues over water distribution and management between users. These processes were driven and facilitated by local power holders. A counterintuitive outcome is that the more power the Ministry for Water Resources and Energy was given, and therefore the less power delegated and participation allowed, the better the deal for people living downstream of the Panj-Amu?s sub-basins.