Analysis of political will and capacity to govern groundwater
Frank van Steenbergen, Assefa Kumsa, Nasser Al-Awlaki
This paper explores the role of politics in water management, in particular, comparing groundwater
management in Yemen and Ethiopia. It tries to understand the precise meaning of the often-quoted term 'political
will' in these different contexts and compares the autocratic and oligarchic system in Yemen with the dominant
party 'developmental state' in Ethiopia. The links between these political systems and the institutional domain are
described as well as the actual management of groundwater on the ground. Whereas the Ethiopian state is
characterised by the use of hard power and soft ideational power, the system in Yemen relies at most on soft
negotiating power. There is a strong link between the political system, the positioning of different parties and
access to power, the role of central and local governments, the propensity to plan and vision, the effectiveness of
government organisations, the extent of corruption, the influence of informal governance mechanisms, the scope
for private initiative and the political interest in groundwater management and development in general. More
important than political will per se is political capacity – the ability to implement and regulate.
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