Implementation of the Public Participation Principle in Integrated Water Management - With Special Reference to the ICPDR Communication Strategy

Marijana Miletić-Radić1, Miodrag Milovanović1



1 Jaroslav Černi Institute for the Development of Water Resources, Jaroslava Černog 80, 11226 Belgrade, Serbia; E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Public participation in the implementation of integrated water management reflects one of the fundamental postulates of democracy but also has an economic dimension, and represents an important mechanism for the establishment of an environmental protection function, and the like. In order to ensure effective public participation, all stakeholders need to be represented in decision-making bodies, including representatives of the government, the profession, users, non-governmental organizations, etc. Information pertaining to public consultation and participation needs to be fully accessible to stakeholders, to encompass the entire consultation process, and to include reached agreements and areas of controversy. Such access to information is extremely important, as it increases the responsibility of stakeholders who take part in decision-making and ensures support for the implementation of agreements. The communication strategy employed by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) in the implementation of the EU water directives and the development and establishment of planning documents related to water management and flood risk management, allows actors in the field of water to become more aware of relevant issues, as well as of their role and the way in which they can take part in the resolution of issues. Based on this clearly-defined communication strategy, numerous projects and campaigns have recently been initiated and carried out in order to improve communication and build capacity for public participation in the Danube River Basin.


Importance of Communication Strategy Planning in the Field of Water

Increasing water demand as a result of population growth, industrialization, and urbanization; shrinkage of water resources due to pollution and over-exploitation; and problems attributable to socioeconomic, geopolitical and economic changes, but also variable natural drivers and climate change, are only some of the challenges that face many countries in the world. Water resources management, governed by such trends, takes place simultaneously on several levels: global, regional, and local. Each of these levels has its special characteristics and requirements, which water resources management needs to address1. Considerable effort is currently being made worldwide, on the regional and global levels, to achieve integrated management of water resources. Integrated management is founded upon the principles of sustainable development, which lay down the groundwork for new concepts and instruments of sustainable use of water resources, environmental protection, and socioeconomic development2.

The main principles of public participation in decision-making in the field of water include the following3:

  • Focus on clearly defined issues and identified parties;
  • Representation of all stakeholders in public consultation and participation;
  • Access to information.

Communication in the field of water management seeks to achieve several general objectives: to spark public interest in water-related issues (in general or by specific area), provide appropriate information, and change the mindset and behavior of water sector actors. Before proceeding with the design of a communication strategy, the objectives to be achieved need to be clearly defined, the target audiences identified and scanned, audience-friendly messages formulated, and communication channels suitable to the audiences determined.

1 Milan A. Dimkić, Miodrag Milovanović, Dejan Dimkić, "Sustainable and Adaptive Water Management: Case Study of Water Management in Serbia", Water Research and Management, Vol. 1, No. 4, 2011.
2 Božidar Stojanović, Miodrag Milovanović, "Međusobne veze između planiranja razvoja vodoprivrede, zaštite životne sredine i prostornog planiranja" u monografiji Upravljanje vodnim resursima Srbije '09, (ur. dr Dragoslav Isailović, dr Slobodan Petković), Institut za vodoprivredu "Jaroslav Černi", Beograd, 2009, pp. 409-427
3 Key Issues and Recommendations for Consumer Protection: Affordability, Social Protection and Public Participation in Urban Water Sector Reform in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, OECD, 2003., стр.131,