Aerial view of Mekong River and forest, Thailand

Aerial view of Mekong River and forest, Thailand. Photo: jakkreethampitakkull / Getty Images .

This session will introduce both the conceptualization and application of transformative water governance principles and building blocks, while deriving on ongoing water governance research across scales (transboundary to local) in Asia and Africa. It looks at drivers and processes of systemic transformation in water governance and how unpacking such transformation is crucial to better understand processes of institutional emergence and the shaping of political spaces and engagement towards resilient, just and inclusive development. It illustrates how water governance structures (e.g. policy and institutions), processes (e.g. consultation processes, decision-making processes), and outcomes are (re)shaped by power struggles and power relations.


The session will start with a brief introduction followed by:

A keynote on transformative water governance

  • Dr Alan Nicol, IWMI and
  • Dr. Diana Suhardiman, IWMI

Three presentations on

  1. scalar politics, power struggles and institutional emergences in Myanmar;
    Dr. Diana Suhardiman, IWMI
  2. transboundary water governance in Africa;
    Dr. Jonathan Lautze, IWMI
  3. Mekong SUMERNET program snapshot
    Dr. Leonie Pearson, SEI

Discussions on ways forward through brief introduction to Rulal: Wetlands boardgame as a tool to facilitate collective action and conflict resolution.

  • Dr Alan Nicol, IWMI and
  • Dr Diana Suhardiman, IWMI

Learning outcomes:

  • Session participants will gain a better understanding of how current water governance challenges are embedded in contemporary struggles surrounding unequal access to decision-making and unequal distribution of benefits and impacts, oftentimes resulting in further marginalization of the poorest and most marginalized groups.
  • Identification of key principles for transformative water governance as a means to adapt to rapidly changing climate, socio-economic and political landscape.
  • Building on political economy and political ecology approaches, it will position policy review-institutional analysis-power mapping at the center of transformative water diagnostic tool development to understand and unpack water governance structure, processes, and outcomes across scales towards systemic transformative change.
  • Participants will gain a better understanding of processes of institutional emergence across scales, including through formal and informal rules shaping, how it is created, sustained and evolved over time (through multiscalar networks and partnerships) and how they contribute in transforming existing power structures and relations towards inclusive, sustainable and just water governance.
  • Real-life insights into water governance and its transformation with particular focus on the Mekong.


  • International Water Management Institute
  • Stockholm Environment Institute


This session is open to all registered participants of World Water Week 2021. Register below to attend.

Register for World Water Week 2021