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Highlighting the Multiple’ in MSPs: The Case of Cerro Chapelco, Patagonia, Argentina

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Mainstream opinions put forward the idea that changes in water policies should be moving toward Integrated Water Resources Management at the level of the river basin (or watersheds). For its implementation, participation by river basin organizations (river basin authorities, river basin committees, communities of users, multi-stakeholder platforms, etc.) and by stakeholders is promoted. Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) are presented as neutral spaces for negotiations in order to solve water conflicts among different (multiple) actors, who are all invited to participate in the discussion. Evidence from this case study suggests that even where water is put forward as the main issue to be tackled, in the background there may be far more sensitive issues at stake that shape the arenas of negotiation of policy design and implementation. MSPs can be used to bring to the fore issues that are easy to address, but can also be the background for wider social and political complexities. This is pursued using technical language to justify political definitions of boundaries, stakeholders and processes of participation. The Watershed as a unit of planning’ approach is also presented as a neutral way of using a technical definition to set the boundaries for resource management. However, this study shows that the definition of boundaries is not necessarily as natural as it appears but is much more of a political decision that defines which resources are involved and which actors are considered or left out. The multiple’ in MSPs is not only about stakeholders’, but the different constructions of boundaries, scales and political interests, which include and exclude stakeholders. In the implementation of an MSP, the Multiple is rhetorical and not a representation of realties.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Irrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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