Principles Related to People



Principle 2: Ensure appropriate and balanced representation of interests throughout the course of the WSI.

The integrity of a WSI hinges upon ensuring that the voices, needs, and perspectives of affected stakeholders are heard and taken into account during establishment, design, and implementation. All WSIs seek to influence the management of a public resource with potential implications for the well-being and interests of other water users. Ensuring that stakeholders affected by a WSI have a voice in decision making is therefore vital to support fairness. At a pragmatic level, balanced representation of stakeholders (including governments, communities, and businesses) also ensures that decision making is well informed by those who best understand the resource and its challenges, brings additional resources to the WSI, reduces the risk of undue influence by any one party, and is therefore vital for the effectiveness of the WSI.

This principle focuses on ensuring appropriate representation of participants within the WSI, and on engagement with people and interests (such as local community members) that may be affected by the WSI. The WSI should strive to ensure that participants in WSI decision making and governance adequately reflect the range of affected stakeholders, through legitimate proxies if necessary. Meaningful stakeholder engagement should be ongoing, and requires a WSI to be cognizant of who the affected stakeholders are and to adopt processes that encourage sharing ownership, input, and information. Proxies for stakeholder groups such as community members or businesses need to be genuine, and have the necessary capacity and mandate from those they represent. This can be challenging where institutions are weak or prone to manipulation by the powerful. Other challenges to this principle include intentional or unintentional barriers to engagement such as language or a requirement for financial contributions.

Engaging the diversity of interests around a WSI helps to mitigate integrity risks related to imbalanced stakeholder representation. Meaningful and effective stakeholder engagement also ensures that the WSI serves the needs of all stakeholders (not just the participants), and guards against the perception that a WSI exists as an exclusive platform to provide privileged access to decision makers for the individual gain of a handful of stakeholders.

Guiding Questions
  1. Have stakeholders with a significant ability to influence the outcomes of the WSI been identified? Have affected stakeholders influenced by the WSI been identified?
  2. Where proxies are used, are they representative, legitimate, and authorized to represent the stakeholders’ interests?
  3. Are affected stakeholders contributing to the design and implementation of the WSI?
  4. Are there any barriers to participation and balanced representation, and how can they be overcome?
  5. How open and effective are communications among participants?
  6. How equitable is the decision-making process?
  7. How are the quality of the representation and engagement of stakeholders monitored? Are actions taken to balance various interests where needed?


Principle 3: Be clear and transparent about the roles and responsibilities of WSI participants, and ensure that their capabilities are adequate (or are sufficiently developed) to fulfill them.

WSI participants should be able to fulfill their roles and responsibilities, and the WSI needs to develop internal mechanisms to hold participants accountable against these defined roles and responsibilities. This requires a clear understanding of the needs, motivations, and intent of WSI participants, and the assignment of clear, suitable roles for each member. Where skills, experience, or capacity are lacking, the WSI may carry higher initial integrity risks, but might proceed if the WSI is able to provide training, support, or resources to address identified needs.

Understanding participants’ intentions and any constraints they face, and establishing clear roles and responsibilities can help to avoid potential conflicts of interest (where intentions may not be aligned with the goals of the initiative) and integrity risks associated with participant capabilities. WSIs that fail to undertake an analysis of the intentions of their potential participants or to develop structures that balance the interests among participants and external stakeholders are at risk of pursuing activities that privilege individual participants and enable private gain over the public interest. A lack of clear roles and responsibilities and oversight of these brings risks of corruption and manipulation by individual WSI participants alongside the integrity risks associated with a WSI simply failing to deliver. It should therefore be regularly monitored whether tasks are adequately divided among WSI participants and affected stakeholders to mitigate different forms of capture.

Guiding Questions
  1. Have WSI participants’ track records, incentives, and intentions been sufficiently analyzed?
  2. Have the capabilities and constraints of each participant been properly assessed, and a needs assessment conducted? How will the WSI deal with capacity deficits?
  3. Have roles and responsibilities for all activities and coordination tasks been appropriately shared?
  4. What measures ensure effective oversight?


Principle 7: Foster an ethos of trust, and establish expectations for behavior of WSI participants.

WSIs should strive to create an environment that leads to trust and honesty among WSI participants and affected stakeholders. In doing so, WSIs can ensure that participants strive to meet their agreed roles and responsibilities, and that their behavior leads to positive reputational outcomes for the WSI. Appropriate behavior ensures that issues of misconduct that may lead to integrity risks do not become endemic to the WSI.

Where there is an atmosphere of distrust and dishonesty, integrity risks associated with unethical behavior and noncompliance are higher. Mitigating against these risks will ensure that the WSI is perceived to be acting in the best and most honest manner possible.

Guiding Questions
  1. Have expectations about the behavior of WSI participants been clarified?
  2. How does the WSI explicitly value honesty? Are agreed procedures held as a standard of behavior (such as a code of conduct)?
  3. How have issues of noncompliance with WSI agreements been addressed?


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