Hunter, R, 2015 –– How can the rapid basin-wide assessment tool (RSAT) play a role in bringing together polarised groups to improve multi-stakeholder dialogue between government and civil society?
The rapid basin-wide hydropower sustainability assessment tool (RSAT) was trialled in the Lower Srepok sub-basin in Cambodia in 2013-14 with national and sub-national government representatives. At the same time, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) also implemented training for NGOs when it was realised that civil society had been excluded from the trial. In my final project I interviewed representatives from both processes to determine how RSAT can play a role in bringing together polarised groups to improve multi-stakeholder dialogue.
The major outcome was that the assessment improved collaboration between national and sub-national levels and across sectors, as the process had failed to engage civil society and the private sector. Power imbalances between government and civil society, capacity issues at all levels, access to information, and the difficulties associated with bringing together local and technical information remain the biggest challenges in fully realising the benefits of the tool. I developed a collaborative model in response to these challenges to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue for future RSAT assessments.
Talking to such a wide range of participants in the complex space of rapid hydropower development in the Mekong basin was very interesting. Although challenging, it was a rewarding experience bringing all the information together to compare with international research on public participation in the water sector. I would be very interested to do more work in this area as there are so many examples of poorly planned or ineffective public participation processes for large infrastructure projects.
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