Table 1. Overall characterization of the three policy processes.

Characteristic Water and sanitation Large dams controversy Climate change and water
Nature of problem Addressing basic human needs for water supply and sanitation services
Need for action not contested
Addressing environmental concerns, equity issues (livelihoods), and human rights controversies
Resolving conflicts among sustainability goals (economic, social, and environmental)
Promoting anticipatory action to prevent undesirable impacts for humans and environment
Identifying no-regret options
Linking largely separate water and climate change communities (epistemic and policy)

Process duration

Three decades

Two decades

One decade

Process effectiveness

Achieved considerable improvement
Millennium Development Goals globally on track regarding drinking water, but target missed regarding sanitation
Long-term effectiveness not guaranteed and contingent on an integrative approach to water resources management

Significant effects on discourse around large dams
Uneven impacts on international support for large dams
Limited effects in catalyzing national dialogues and policy reform processes

Awareness raising
National level actions limited primarily to nonbinding strategic goals
No global policy framework or initiative in place
World Bank, UNDP, WMO, FAO actions/programs under way