This article uses the Okavango River Basin, and specifically OKACOM, to illustrate two fundamental issues for resilience in a transboundary watershed: 1) key components for adaptive governance that can foster resilient social-ecological systems, and, 2) treaty elements for institutional and ecological resilience.
Adaptive governance principles that foster resilient social-ecological systems, and that also account for scale and are crucial for maintaining legitimacy include:
– Multiple overlapping levels of control and horizontal and vertical flow of information and coordination
– Meaningful public participation and local capacity building
– Authority to respond to changed circumstances across a range of scenarios
This issue of maintaining legitimacy has also been addressed by Cosens and Williams (2012) in their article on adaptive governance in the Columbia. They detail how approaches to adaptive management instituted in the 1980s and early 1990s in the Columbia failed, due in large part to an absence of adaptive governance which would allow for adaptive management processes to succeed. But, the issue of legitimacy – and the different types required for adaptive governance – was addressed in detail.
The authors are careful to say that the case study of OKACOM is not meant to show it as a perfect example of institutional design for resilient social-ecological system, as there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ blueprint for governance. Instead, OKACOM and the various institutional aspects of OKACOM as used to illustrate how certain aspects of adaptive governance and treaty design that foster social-ecological resilience in the basin are being used.
Further, adaptive management and adaptive governance definitions are given attention, corresponding well with the Cosens and Williams (2012) article on the Columbia. Two good examples of resilience concepts being applied to transboundary watersheds.
Using this article as a guide, it appears that the Okavango River Basin and OKACOM satisfy many of my own criteria for suitable case study choosing. The authors state “Overall, governance in the Okavango River Basin exhibits many important aspects of adaptability and collaboration…OKACOM provides concrete example of transboundary collaboration to promote ecological and social health” (p. 11). Further, as there is little development in the basin, demand for consumptive use is low. This could provide an interest and strategic case in which to study, as there could be great potential to highlight the importance of urban resilience and influence of transnational urban actors to how decisions are made over the waters in the basin. However, according to this article, a “recent discovery of the Ohangwena II aquifer will likely alter the hydropolitical landscape of the region” (p. 12). What this means for water use in other sectors (i.e. industrial, urban, agriculture) and where this water will come from (surface vs. ground) is still yet to be determined.