Viewpoint - Principles in practice: Updating the global multi-stakeholder dialogue on dams in 2010

D. Mark Smith
Head, Water Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gland, Switzerland; mark.smith@iucn.org

ABSTRACT: The WCD laid out a way forward for dams to serve development better, and to deliver better outcomes for people as well as ecosystems. The conclusions reached were evidence-based and made in an open, multi-stakeholder dialogue. Given this process and taken as a whole, the WCD could not be ignored in 2000, and ten years later in 2010, the WCD still cannot be dismissed. To be meaningful in the long-run, however, the WCD required follow-up. Among many needs was the challenge of translating principles and guidelines developed at a global level to practice that could be implemented at a national and project level. IUCN'€™s response, for example, has been very practical and oriented principally towards dissemination, dialogue, demonstration and learning.

The WCD recommendations were not embraced by all stakeholders, and it is increasingly clear that the drivers for dam development and the actors involved are changing, because of for example climate change and the emergence of China as a major international financier of dams. It may be time therefore to renew efforts to expand consensus on dams and re-galvanise the global multi-stakeholder dialogue that was started by the WCD. Otherwise, the 21st century dams industry will run into the same risks - fuelled by issues of equity, environment and dissatisfaction with development outcomes achieved -€“ that brought their counterparts into the WCD in 1998.

KEYWORDS: Multi-stakeholder dialogue, learning, demonstration, sustainability