Capacity Development in IWRM

The successful and sustainable implementation of operational Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) requires a thought-out Capacity Development (CD) concept and programme.

CD for water problems

Water can create complex problems and, in the same manner, sustainable water management requires complex and context-specific potential solutions. In addition, the knowledge and capacities generated in this process of problem solving have “[…] to be deeply rooted within the originating region” (Leidel 2011) , in which everyone is a stakeholder (GWP 2000) . An accompanying CD concept is necessary in order to systematically identify existing knowledge and capacities and to expand and enhance these in order to implement advanced technological and organisational innovations that lead to comprehensive and sustainable water management. As a result, IWRM and CD processes are interdependent and cannot exist independently. A blueprint or single universally valid, unambiguous definitions do not exist for IWRM and CD. Nevertheless, basic principles do exist for these interdependent processes.

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These principles were first agreed upon at the Dublin and Rio conferences – independently of natural, hydrological, economical, societal factors and characteristics, which vary considerably from country to country. The second of the four Dublin principles requires a participatory approach for water management, “involving [all] users, planners, and policy makers at all levels”, which has to be addressed by a CD programme in particular.

Task of CD

Against this background and following the lead of the definition of Alaerts (2009) and the UNDP (2009), CD should be understood as the process that strengthens and expands the existing skills and capabilities of individuals, organisations and society to resolve identified (water) problems, to learn from this experience and to generate new, regionally specific problem-solving knowledge.

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Such a CD programme must be developed, as far as possible, in close cooperation with all project partners, including stakeholders such as local ministries and authorities, NGOs, specialists and community members, where applicable. This type of participatory programme development can deliver holistic solutions and ensure sustainable implementation in the relevant region.


The fundamental goal is to tackle (water) problems related to policy and development methods while considering the potential, limits and needs of the people in the region. In this context, international research, such as that of the UNDP, outlines that CD programmes, measures and activities should take place on three different but not uniquely separable levels; this concept is commonly referred to as the “multi-level approach” and may be outlined as follows:

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Individual level: Predominantly addressed by training and education activities, allowing individual participants to enhance existing knowledge and to establish new knowledge. This process of adapting to change through individual learning requires meaningful and direct consideration of participants’ learning prerequisites: knowledge, capabilities and abilities, attitudes and behaviour.

Organisational level: Includes activities to support and improve processes within organisations, i.e. defining a strategy. This level is strongly linked with the individual level; measures address improved institutional performance (Leidel 2011).

System level: Addresses the framework conditions influencing the performance of the individual and organisational level and thus of sustainable development; it is therefore often called the “enabling environment”.

General guidelines

These general guidelines, principles and goals for supporting CD programmes have been considered to the greatest extent possible within the framework of the SMART and MoMo projects. Region-specific and problem-specific CD strategies were systematically developed and carried out based on project-specific targets.

Particular importance is attached the mission of:

“Reducing vulnerabilities and increasing capacities” or, more specifically: “Strengthening strengths, weakening weaknesses” with targeted and tailor-made CD measures and activities.

There is consensus that sustainable development and sustainable water management cannot be goals in themselves, and that the development path itself is the goal. This path is long and may take generations. It is thus all the more important to begin at an early stage with education and learning, which represent the most promising approach to achieving sustainability.
Water Fun – hands, minds and hearts on Water for Life! is a CD programme for primary school teachers and students (5th/ 6th grade) developed for Jordan, Palestine and Mongolia so far. It has the aim of achieving early progress towards sustainable water use and water management and eradicating unsustainable practices.

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The teaching programme is committed to the fundamental principles of education (and learning) for sustainable development (ESD); it puts teachers and students alike in a position to be able to identify, name and understand unfavourable local/ regional hydrological conditions and unsustainable water practices within this context, and enables them to develop and implement potential sustainable solutions.