Access to Water

Infrastructural development, agricultural expansion, industrialization and urbanization lead to environmental degradation and increased competition for natural resources. Climate change is further aggravating the situation with erratic rainfall, and worsening floods and droughts.

The people in the affected areas rarely have access to the information needed to challenge these developments. They usually have no say in water management, or influence on decision making processes, and they often lack the knowledge and means to cope with growing water insecurity. Oxfam regards this as a threat to their basic rights as laid down in international agreements, standards and guidelines on water and land.

The solution

With a 10-year track record in Inclusive Water Governance, Oxfam's current Global Water Governance Program builds on existing work in three major river basins: the Mekong (pdf), Indus (pdf) and Limpopo (pdf). The program focuses on marginalized communities, consisting mainly of farmers and fisher-folk. The goal is for them to obtain a fair share of water resources, enough to sustain their livelihoods. Oxfam aims to establish a network of organizations that have the same basic ideals, speak a common language and share resources and experiences. Via this network, communities will be increasingly capable of influencing decisions regarding water resources. Oxfam will help to include local issues in national, regional and global policies and guidelines. More concretely, Oxfam's three objectives are to deliver:

1. Practical evidence of local challenges and sustainable, community-based alternatives to assure water for food security and climate-resilient livelihoods;

2. Strengthened civil society networks in major river basins that amplify the voices of local communities and enable their participation in water governance;

3. A more inclusive water policy environment - with committed public and private sectors - that promotes and protects fair and sustainable access, control and use of water at the local, national, regional and global levels.

Our approach focuses on inclusive water governance, based on the following guiding principles:

  • Trans-boundary scale: Sustainable solutions for water governance and management require an approach that goes beyond provincial and national borders.
  • Inclusive decision making: The voices of all users, representing all uses of water resources need to be heard to assure just decision making.
  • Empowerment of women: Women play a key role in water use and their empowerment is critical for successful water governance.
  • Rights and responsibilities: We focus not only on the rights of rural people, but also on their own responsibilities in water governance.
  • Power of the people: Oxfam does not speak on behalf of these communities, but strengthens their organizations and builds networks so that their voices will be heard. 

Water governance is all but inclusive. Read all about the challenges, objectives and the approach of this program in the brochure Global Inclusive Water Governance. You can also read our factsheet about our work.