Ecology and Society (Dec 2014)

The global policy network behind integrated water resources management: is it an effective norm diffusor?

  • Annika Kramer,
  • Claudia Pahl-Wostl

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 19, no. 4
p. 11


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Integrated water resources management (IWRM) has been recognized by many actors as the appropriate approach to respond to challenges in water resources management in a sustainable way. The main players in developing and diffusing the IWRM concept have included expert groups, international organizations, and multistakeholder platforms, which cooperated in various activities promoting the IWRM concept, such as knowledge generation and sharing, capacity building, and monitoring. A loose network of these actors has actively shaped and engaged in a global discourse on sustainable water resources management and managed to authoritatively shape the IWRM concept. The processes behind the spread of the IWRM concept can thus be conceptualized as development and diffusion of norms through a global policy network. Although this process has changed the discourse on water resources management and established IWRM principles as a global set of norms, national policies and regulations reflect these norms only to a limited extent and new policies lack implementation. IWRM norms have been developed and spread by a network of nonstate actors, which might have contributed to its diverging influence in global discourse on the one hand and national policy implementation on the other. We present an analytical framework to assess effects of IWRM norm diffusion and network structures that support norm development and spread through global policy networks. We also provide an exploratory analysis of the main global policy network involved in development and diffusion of the IWRM concept, including its key actors, relationships across the network, and network outputs.