River basin organisations (RBO) are important institutional bodies responsible for overseeing the development and management water resources at the watershed level, meaning that they can be domestic or transboundary. RBOs can help to improve water cooperation between stakeholders, promote economic development, environmental conservation, international trade, and regional integration. This Tool provides the basic characteristics of RBOs, outlines its main mandates and functions, and discusses its various forms within the RBO institutional setup.
Basin organisations are set up under different arrangements depending on the aim, the legal and administrative systems, and human and financial resources. They are usually, but not always, formal legal bodies. In some cases, less formal arrangements also work. But, whatever the setup, basin organisations must be have a number of contitutive elements (Figure 1). They must also be public/collective organisations because water resources management is a public good. Although formal basin organisations are part of the public sector, for water to be managed effectively, a wide range of stakeholders, community groups, economical sectors, non-governmental organisations and private enterprise, need to be involved. Older RBOs can be a useful benchmark for emerging ones, providing lessons related to governance, legal frameworks (Tools A2), knowledge production and sharing (Tools B4), dispute resolution mechanisms (Tools C6) and water resource management.
Figure 1: Overview of the constitutive elements of an RBO (Adapted from Schmeier et al., 2016)