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THE NILE BASIN BY 2050: Strategic Foresight on the Nile Basin Water Governance
This paper explores whether participatory scenario construction in the form of stories can contribute to strategic foresight on benefit sharing. The Nile Basin discourse has largely focused on water sharing. This discourse is embedded in prevailing short-term institutional planning that leads to limited perspectives of future benefits and risks of cooperation or non-cooperation. Benefit-sharing as opposed to water sharing has been proposed as the solution to changing the current discourse and consequently resolving the water security deadlock. There has been a lot of talk within the Nile Basin on the need to adopt the benefit-sharing principle; with very little guidance on how riparian states can make this paradigm shift. The shift from water to benefit sharing requires an institutional change from short to both short and long-term planning and thinking. Long-term planning can only be effective if strategic foresight is incorporated into the planning process.

The scenarios were developed following the methodology as developed by RAND Corporation in the 1950s and later popularized as ‘Shell-scenarios.’ Four scenarios were developed, namely: Kazuri, Miskeen, Umoja and EjoHeza. The scenarios are not the best or the worst case scenarios but all represent some emerging potential opportunities, strengths, weaknesses and even threats that the Nile Basin may face in the near future. The scenario logic is illustrated in figure 1. The scenario workshop was held in Jinja Uganda, 11-13 February 2014. It was organized by Nile Basin Discourse and sponsored by Both Ends. The Workshop participants represented the ten riparian states and formed a multi-disciplinary group of experts and stakeholders from regional and national organizations with a spread of expertise around the various sectors and issues, local actors, as well as international partners.

Each of the four scenarios is an illustration of the potential benefits and the potential negative consequences of possible futures for the basin. Each scenario has its own benefits and negative consequences that emerge as a result of external events leading to a certain development path. What is important are the trade-offs being made across the scenarios to realise certain benefits and what are the negative consequences of these trade-offs. This is discussed in detail in the full paper.

One key strategic foresight is the power of legitimacy in shaping the Nile Basin futures. Legitimacy seems to be emerging as a key pre-condition to trans-boundary cooperation. In the past, there has been so much focus on basin and sub-basin cooperation. However, the foundation of this basin-wide cooperation seems to stem from national legitimation of the existing state. It is evident that countries that are struggling with legitimacy issues at the national level are the least willing to cooperate. There is need for more in depth studies on the power of legitimacy and how this power can be harnessed to foster Nile Basin Cooperation.

The paper concludes that scenarios in the form of stories proved to be an effective tool in contributing to strategic foresight on benefit sharing. In addition, the benefit sharing principle was found to be a feasible approach to effectively manage Nile Basin water resources amidst complexity, scarcity and deep uncertainty. The scenarios communicated a consistent plausible story on the danger of not recognizing or giving priority to the less tangible benefits like a healthy ecosystem. Future work will entail analyzing the uptake of the scenarios to resolve deadlocks and enhance cooperation through benefit sharing.

Authors: Onencan, A. and Enserink, B. (2014)
Printed by NBD

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