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The 25th Session of the FAO Conference agreed that the policy advisory role of FAO, especially at the country level, was extremely important and likely to expand. In particular, the Conference expressed the view that FAO should focus on sector and subsector reviews, and sector and structural adjustment work at the level of the countries concerned. The recommendations from Agenda for Development by the UN Secretary-General in 1994 (UN-GA, 1994) stated that development should be driven by national policies dedicated to improving the well-being of the country and its people. While each country is specific and so differs from others, the general concept is that water-sector policy is a priority requirement and that the approach and the process of policy review and policy management can be developed.

This Guide responds to the above mandate. FAO is concerned with the efficient and sustainable management and use of water resources for food production and rural development. The increasing scarcity of water and growing environmental concerns over the decline in water resources are forcing water policy-makers to enlarge the focus of their work. It is now necessary to view the sector as a whole, acknowledge the claims of all water users, assess and plan the resource in an integrated fashion, and consider changes in policies and institutions as well as projects.

This Guide has a number of purposes:

· to indicate the wide range, and ramifications, of water management, and the relationship between the 'water sector' and other parts of the economy;

· to identify the principal issues involved in managing water resources, for the guidance of policy-makers;

· to set out principles and criteria by which water resources can be managed;

· to introduce some of the methods and processes entailed in a water policy review;

· to illustrate how different countries have carried out such reviews, and how they have gone about implementing their findings; and, by means of the above,

· to promote national policy and legislative reform, planning, and institutional development in the water sector.

It is intended to be of benefit to all those likely to be involved in national water policy reviews. This includes ministers, their advisers, senior administrators and managers, and specialists and professionals. It should be read by those active in the water sector in its widest sense, not just those in directly water-related undertakings.

A first draft was prepared internally by the Water Resources, Development and Management Service, the Policy Analysis Division and the Development Law Service, based on internal research and specially commissioned legal case studies, which have been published separately (FAO, 1993b). That draft drew upon the experience of FAO-assisted water policy reviews in various countries, and also upon material contained in the State of Food and Agriculture 1993 Report focusing on Water Policies and Agriculture.

The final version of the Guide was prepared by Mr James Winpenny of the Overseas Development Institute, London. It incorporates original material on policy analysis by Mr B.G. Appelgren, legal aspects by Mr S. Burchi, and economic analysis by Mr R. Stringer. It also benefits from comments and material supplied in the Expert Consultation on Methodology for Water Policy Review and Reform, held in FAO, Rome, 1995.

Non-specialists, or specialists interested in a wider appreciation of the subject, would find Chapters 1, 2 and 3 relevant, as well as the later chapters. Readers with a good grounding in the subject and looking for guidance on how to carry out a water policy review might wish to turn to Chapters 4, 5 and 6.

Chapter 5 would take the reader quickly to the heart of the process of water policy reviews, and contains the essence of the approach recommended in this Guide.

The Bibliography can be used as a selective guide to some of the more relevant recent literature on this subject.

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