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Nirvana concepts, narratives and policy models: Insights from the water sector

François Molle
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UR199, Montpellier, France;

ABSTRACT: Analysis of water policy shows the importance of cognitive and ideological dimensions in the formulation of policy discourses. Ideas are never neutral and reflect the particular societal settings in which they emerge, the worldviews and interests of those who have the power to set the terms of the debate, to legitimate particular options and discard others, and to include or exclude particular social groups. This article focuses on three types of conceptual objects which permeates policy debates: nirvana concepts, which underpin overarching frameworks of analysis, narratives -€“ i.e., causal and explanatory beliefs -€“ and models of policies or development interventions. It successively reviews how these three types of concepts populate the water sector, investigates how they spread, and then examines the implications of this analysis for applied research on policy making and practice.

KEYWORDS: Water management; water policy; policy making; IWRM; narratives