Knowledge, Dialogue & Cooperation Strategy: 2013-2017

The overarching objective of SAWI is to increase regional cooperation in the management of the major Himalayan river systems in South Asia to deliver sustainable, fair and inclusive development and climate resilience. The initiative has four geographic Focus Areas (Indus Basin, Ganges Basin, Brahmaputra Basin, Sundarbans Landscape), together with a cross-cutting Knowledge, Dialogue and Cooperation component (Figure 1).

Figure 1: SAWI program structure.

There is a growing recognition that the success of development programs depends on the use of effective and strategic stakeholder engagement. Even technically superior initiatives may fail, or produce weak results, because policy-makers, opinion makers and other interested individuals or groups are not appropriately consulted and informed. The development initiatives require creating a “communication culture” where dialogue and deliberations, knowledge enhancement and participation of diverse stakeholders are seen as an indispensable step for achieving the objectives.

SAWI therefore emphasizes and supports dialogue, trust building and stakeholder ownership at all possible levels; regional perspectives in knowledge development as well as detailed national or local knowledge where it is critical to transboundary issues; holistic multi-disciplinary analyses including the integration of climate change implications and gender impacts into all activities; and the identification of pragmatic activities that will catalyze positive change. This is not just about hearing the different voices but also giving them a role in informing the set of choices that it will undertake as part of its work program. This is a concerted move towards a more participatory style of SAWI where the key partners and stakeholders play an effective role in ensuring that SAWI’s work is most relevant to their needs, priorities and aspirations.

Different individuals and groups may have differing and often contradictory opinions and views, including on key issues such as equity, inclusion, transboundary cooperation, and sustainable management of water resources. However, by following a robust deliberations and consultation approach, SAWI will be better equipped to recognize such conflicts early on and develop and implement its activities in the most efficient manner with an enhanced ability to achieve the intended outcomes. To be most powerful of course, this dialogue and consultation will be built on a strong foundation of scientific and technical knowledge.


This component of SAWI will ensure that all SAWI activities are representative of and relevant to the expressed needs and priorities of key stakeholders, and support the four geographic Focus Areas in the planning and implementation of activities and identification of key partners.  The overarching objective of this cross-cutting component of SAWI is to: build knowledge and capacity across the region in support of transboundary basin-focused dialogue and cooperation.

The three specific goals that support this objective are to:

  1. Improve the quality and accessibility of regional water resources data sets and build water resources knowledge
  2. Provide technical assistance and capacity building for shared water resources management and cooperation
  3. Support broad-based regional dialogue focused on the SAWI basins to enhance cooperation and management of transboundary water resources

The program is structured into four components aligned with the four specific goals.

Component 1: Knowledge-Related Activities

SAWI will invest effort into maintaining and updating the SAWI website and the associated Knowledge Portal. SAWI will seek to harmonize and/or link to the similar efforts of multiple organizations in the region to provide a clear “go to place” for access to publically available data relevant to basin-scale water resources analysis and modeling for the major transboundary rivers of South Asia. SAWI will explore the institutional hosting options to ensure ease of access, ongoing maintenance and long-term sustainability of an enhanced knowledge portal.

SAWI will host a biennial knowledge forum for sharing of technical studies of the major transboundary rivers of South Asia. These forums will target both researchers (from the region and international) and technical agency staff. The intent is to build stronger collaborative relationships across the research community studying or managing the major river basins in the region and their climatic, hydrologic, social, economic, institutional dimensions, and to expose technical agency staff to emerging new knowledge.

SAWI will undertake analyses in support of regional cooperation in particular on flood early warning systems and the data sharing required to operationalize these. These analyses will inform activities and other parts of the SAWI program.

SAWI will disseminate the reports of all technical work widely, including via the SAWI website. SAWI will use appropriate conference opportunities to share progress and outcomes of its work with the international water resources management community.

Component 2: Capacity Building Activities

SAWI will support university training courses in the region for IWRM professionals and those engaged in transboundary negotiations relating to water resources. Specifically, SAWI will support water management and water diplomacy study tours to expose professionals from the region to international best practice; this may include visits to other regions by officials from South Asian, and visits to South Asia by experts/officials from elsewhere. Initial visits are likely to be a mix of Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) members and representatives and officials from government agencies. As the number and scope of the engaged stakeholders are enlarged, more such knowledge exchange events would be enabled using a variety of exchange visits and e-meetings.

Component 3: Dialogue Processes

SAWI will seek to evolve its dialogue processes to make them more representative and more focused on the SAWI river basins. SAWI will seek greater participation from civil society groups and relevant individuals in its dialogue processes. SAWI will seek to increase the influence of dialogue processes on formal policy development processes and formal transboundary dialogue and negotiations. It is expected that participants in SAWI regional dialogues will provide a critical links between SAWI’s activities and the national and regional level discourse on water resources management and regional cooperation. Dialogue “task forces” for each of the three large river basins – Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus – will be formed to work closely on key issues related to the particular river basin. The work, consultations and linkages of these task forces would also deliver considerable input to the SAWI deliberation and consultation process.

SAWI will also explore opportunities to establish national transboundary dialogues (between states/provinces, and between state/province and federal levels of government), as this is critical to strengthening transboundary dialogue within countries. This would not only build a platform for dialogue between countries, but also support progress on the many inter-state water management challenges in the region.

Component 4: Regional Cooperation

SAWI will explore opportunities to provide the knowledge and dialogue support to specific new cooperative agreements between countries, in particular on flood early warning systems and the data sharing required to operationalize these.

SAWI will also provide support for cooperative basin or sub-basin scale water resources planning in line with international best practice, built on a foundation of robust analysis and modeling. Much of this work will occur under the particular Focus Areas, but the Cross-cutting component is expected to provide extra support to the transboundary interactions.