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Civil Society: A Revived Mantra in the Development Discourse
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.
2011 (English)In: Water Policy, ISSN 1366-7017, Vol. 13, no 1, 87-101 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is an assumption that the inclusion of civil society in governance processes promotes democratic performance and contributes to 'good governance', in the sense of pluralism, accountability and transparency. This paper refers to the governance process of the water utility in Accra involving the private sector, and examines the validity of the assumed roles regarding the inclusion of civil society in the governance process. For the purposes of this study, civil society is defined as 'non-state and non-market organisations that can, or have the potential to, champion democratic governance reforms and act as agents for political and socio-economic change'. Contrary to assumptions made about the inclusion of civil society, the analysis herein shows that the inclusion of civil groups in the governance process of the water utility led to hostile and undemocratic processes and to weak indicators of 'good governance'. The main concern of the key actors was centred on how to build consensus around the privatisation programme of the water utility. 'Managing consensus', however, is an inappropriate planning measure. It is argued here that the focus should rather be on how to design governance structures and arrangements, mobilised by legitimate and committed political leadership, to build and enhance the capacity of governance processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IWA Publishing , 2011. Vol. 13, no 1, 87-101 p.
Keyword [en]
governance, civil society, public, private, accra, water utility
National Category
Water Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-13761DOI: 10.2166/wp.2010.087ISI: 000286510700007ScopusID: 2-s2.0-79751523418OAI: diva2:327179
QC 20100628. QC 20120210 (Published) Available from: 2012-02-14 Created: 2010-06-28 Last updated: 2012-02-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Water Governance in Transition
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Water Governance in Transition
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The constraints experienced by water utilities in developing countries, with regard to the universal provision of access to water and improved water services, have been defined by international policymakers as "a crisis of governance". This study departs from the theoretical perspectives on governance and aspires to accumulate knowledge and advance understanding on how the performance of water utilities can be enhanced.

The thesis comprises five papers and the cover essay. Four of the papers address case studies and one is a theoretically based paper, while all five papers are supported by reviews from the literature relevant to the topic of each paper. The thesis uses insights from literature reviews mapping relevant scientific theories and concepts in the areas of mainly governance, deliberative policymaking and communicative planning, social capital, civil society and institutional theoretical perspectives.

The study integrates different research methods and explores theoretical perspectives on governance to examine the governance aspects of water utilities in the transition phase from public to private management and operation. The study investigates whether the  governance structure that involves the private sector in the form of Public Private Partnership (PPP) of water utility has produced "good governance" and enhanced water governance in two cases, the Lema Water Company in Amman, Jordan and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) in Accra, Ghana. The analysis highlights evidence of governance deficiency. Accordingly, the thesis argues against the policy design that assumes that simply transferring the management and operation of water utility to private operators would resolve the problems of water utilities and enhance water governance.

The analyses and the conclusions reached in the papers, together with a review of the literature on New Institutional Economics theory that knits together all the theories that are utilised in the papers, offer insights in the understanding of aspects of water governance. The insights suggest that policymakers need to better understand how institutions at different levels impact the overall performance of a water utility. The performance of the water utility cannot be detached from the wider institutional setting or reduced to simply changing the operator.  What has been disregarded from the calculus of international policymakers, the thesis mainly argues, is the institutional perspective. The study concludes that actors’ performances are affected primarily by their institutional settings. The constraints of water utilities to provide a better performance and good governance processes reside in different kinds of institutional settings

To address this, the thesis develops a generic institutional framework within which water governance aspects can be assessed at different institutional levels, from the higher level of politics to that of the individual level. According to this perspective, the study views governance process as "the interaction between actors from the spheres of a society within specific sets of formal and informal institutions in a social setting that produces certain political, economic and social outcomes".  It defines good governance as "the legitimacy given by the wider public to institutions in a social setting and the coherency of formal and informal institutions to produce socially effective outcomes for the collective public".

The developed generic institutional framework is used to more thoroughly analyse the two cases integrated in the study. This approach to assessment of water governance provides an explanation for why the water utilities were not able to meet their performance goals and enriches our understanding of water governance processes. It also modestly maps the main problematic institutional areas that in each case constrained aspects of good water governance.

In practical terms, this thesis emphasises that policymakers have to map and identify the institutional factors constraining the overall performance of a water utility, at all levels. The thesis also urges policymakers to be cautious regarding which formulated policies are seen as solutions. Policymakers should restrain themselves from experimenting with policy when they are not sure that certain outcomes are likely to be produced by adopting a particular policy. In the long run, inappropriate policies may negatively affect local institutional settings and are likely to undermine the capacity of local governance.




Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2010. 104 p.
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 2010:06
Water governance, public private partnership, civil society, new institutional economics, Accra, Amman
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12982 (URN)978-91-7415-666-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-05-31, L1, Drottning Kristinas väg 30, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
QC20100628Available from: 2010-05-21 Created: 2010-05-21 Last updated: 2012-02-13Bibliographically approved

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