Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database | Publications

Okoth, Simon. 2009. A 'Seat at the Table': Exploring the Relationship between Pluralist Structures and Involvement in Decision-Making--The Case of the Nile Basin Initiative. Virginia Commonwealth University. Ph.D. dissertation.

The goal of this study was to explore the relationship between pluralist structures and involvement in decision-making of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). To establish this relationship the study asked two primary questions: What are the characteristics of power structures of the NBI as they relate to stakeholder involvement in Ethiopia? For those not involved in the decision-making process, what constraints prevent them from getting a ‘seat at the table’?” Two secondary questions were also asked: Do the power structure characteristics in Ethiopia relate to pluralism and, if so, how? To what extent are conditions in Ethiopia compatible with the prerequisites of pluralism? The study focused on one issue-area, the Water Resources Planning and Management Project. Qualitative data were collected primarily from NGOs in Ethiopia during the month of December, 2008. Background information was collected in Entebbe, Uganda, the home to the NBI Secretariat. Data sources included in-depth key informant interviews (n=30), archival, geographical, historical, and scientific accounts. The findings show that 1) the characteristics of power structures of the Nile Basin Initiative in Ethiopia are both pluralistic and elitist; 2) the level of involvement in the Water Resources Planning and Management Project by nongovernmental stakeholders is low; 3) the framework for involvement is limited and restricted to invitations to selected meetings in which the role of the NGOs is that of the observer; 4) political factors are the leading constraints to involvement, followed by lack of capacity of the NGOs and the NBI, structural limitations, and lack of information and awareness. The study concludes that, even though there is consistent theoretical link between pluralist structures and stakeholder involvement, the mere presence of pluralist structures does not guarantee involvement. It all depends on how well those structures function. The findings thus leads this study to hypothesize that the pluralist structures and elite power structures exist side by side, at least in the context of Ethiopia. Through the pluralist structures, organized groups are formally recognized while the elite power structures determine the process and who makes the decisions.