Governance Definitions

This section of Governance provides definitions for the key terminology used throughout the theme.

Water Governance

Water Governance refers to the institutional and policy environment of the water sector. It encompasses the political, social, economic and administrative systems in place to develop and manage water resources at different levels of society (SADC 2011).


Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

IWRM is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner, without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems (GWP 2003).

This approach to integrated water resources management assists with the management and development of water resources, balancing social, environmental and economic concerns, recognising relevant of stakeholders (water users) and the environment itself (GWP 2009).

The integrated water resources management approach helps to manage and develop water resources in a sustainable and balanced way, taking account of social, economic and environmental interests. It recognises the many different and competing interest groups, the sectors that use and abuse water, and the needs of the environment.


Riparian State

A national or republic through which, or in which, a river flows. Some basin states are non-riparian -when a river basin intersects a country, but the river does not actually flow within the country in question.


Transboundary Water Management (TWM)

TWM is the cooperative management, by riparian states, of a water resource that transcends national (sovereign) political boundaries – including river and lake basins. TWM in SADC is guided by the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, as revised (2000), in which ministers have agreed to collaborate on TWM-related issues. All transboundary basins have agreements.


An agreement is a treaty that is signed (ratified) under international law between two or more countries (sovereign states) or international institutions/organisations. In the context of water governance, an agreement is a legally binding treaty signed between two or more parties (countries) with the express intention of managing a shared water resource.

International Agreements

An international agreement is a treaty designed and implemented by an international body, such as the United Nations, to introduce key international policy decisions into regional and national agendas. It is often an overarching framework that cascades down through regional agreements to basin-level and national policy.

An example of an international agreement is the United Nations Convention on non-navigational uses of International Watercourses (1997).

Regional Agreements

A regional agreement is an international agreement focused in a particular region of the globe, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with the objective of promoting a set of policy or management principles.

An example of a regional agreement is the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, as revised (2000). The SADC Protocol is, among other things, a regionally specific implementation of the UN Convention described above.

Basin-level Agreements

A basin level agreement is a treaty signed by the riparian states of a specific river basin with the objective of cooperative co-management of a resource (or set of resources) shared by the states, usually defined by a river basin boundary.

An example of a basin-level agreement is the Limpopo Watercourse Commission Agreement (2003). An agreement such as this the LIMCOM Agreement is a basin specific implementation of the SADC Protocol.

Bilateral Agreements

A bilateral agreement is a treaty signed by two parties, usually with specific aims, such as cooperation on the management or a specific water resource or portion of a river.

An example of a bilateral agreement is the Joint Permanent Technical Water Committee (JPTC), signed between with Botswana and South Africa in 1987.

Multilateral Agreements

A multilateral agreement is one signed by more than two parties, with the aim of co-management of a specific resource.

An example of a multilateral agreement is the Tripartite Interim Agreement on the Incomati and Maputo watercourses between Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland in 2002.

Structure of Agreements

An agreement such as the Limpopo Watercourse Commission Agreement (2003) usually includes, but is not restricted to, the sections listed in the following table.

Components of an agreement.

Standard ComponentsPossible Clauses or Provisions

Standard Components Possible Clauses or Provisions
Preamble Consider making reference:

  • Importance of cooperation
  • National, regional and international context
  • Existing good relationship between parties
  • Recognised international instruments
Establishment State the following:

  • Wish of the parties to establish a joint institution
  • Legal status of the institution and the rights of the parties
  • Objectives, functions and powers of the institution
Governance Consider making reference to:

  • Composition of the institution (i.e. organs, membership)
  • Appointment procedures
  • Arrangements of meetings (e.g. frequency, notification, minutes, attendance, quorum, voting, etc)
Obligations Give effect to the respective governments regarding:

  • Development projects
  • Information exchange
  • Financial mechanisms
  • Notification
Legal Arrangements  Include provisions on how to deal with issues such as:

  • Dispute settlement
  • Entry into force
  • Accession
  • Withdrawal
  • Dissolution
  • Force majeure
  • Amendment
  • Language and translation.

Source: SADC 2010

Capacity Development

Capacity Development is a comprehensive process that aims at strengthening the abilities of peoples and societies to perform functions, solve problems and achieve objectives in a sustainable manner (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme 2010).

OECD also define Capacity Development as the "process whereby people, organisations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time" (OECD 2011).


Stakeholder Participation

Stakeholder participation can be defined as the process of involving stakeholders in problem-solving or decision-making and using stakeholder inputs to make more informed decisions (SADC 2010).

The objectives of stakeholder participation are to support the validity of the governance process and to strengthen the legal and institutional framework of the river basin itself.

The establishment of a functional stakeholder participation framework is seen as a critical success factor in Integrated Water Resources Management. The specifics of the process of participation and the level of stakeholders involved must be defined by the river basin organisation, depending on the situation in the basin in question. Ideally, the process of participation should be developed in concert with stakeholders, with their express agreement.

Members of the LIMCOM Technical Task Teams discussing the development of the LIMCOM Stakeholder Participation Roadmap. Source: Qwist-Hoffmann 2010


Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken