Strengthening nexus governance

Work Package 4 (Strengthening WEFE nexus governance) aims to enhance nexus governance through more effective multistakeholder platforms (MSPs) and social learning interventions.

The challenge

A lack of good governance at all levels leads to the continuous degradation of water, food, land, and ecosystems – meaning that innovative solutions that could generate tangible benefits go unrealized. A major barrier to the adoption of nexus solutions is the political economy at the national and transnational level, where inequities in access to resources and economic development can challenge something as simple and essential as sharing data. Sectoral divisions, contested mandates, and mutual distrust prevent agricultural, environmental, and energy ministries from working together or with the private sector and civil society.

Multistakeholder platforms (MSPs) offer the potential to bring together various actors, but there is a critical need for evidence on how MSPs and other institutions can improve governance of WEFE systems and break down sectoral silos that prevent the formulation of coherent policies and effective management.

Our research

A literature review and an international workshop on MSPs provided guidance on improving the inclusion of women and marginalized groups. A review paper and international workshop on Institutional Tools for Groundwater Governance provided guidance on identifying tools to improve groundwater governance. Qualitative research on groundwater in Nepal, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan laid the foundation for locally adapted interventions.

Our work emphasizes the importance of understanding the political economy and incentive structures of different actors to promote transformation successfully. Our Theory of Change assumes that social learning processes create conditions for partners to adopt/adapt the toolbox and guidelines for collective action, and engage in science-policy dialogues and multistakeholder processes.

Research questions

  1. How can MSPs be adapted to realize nexus outcomes, and what coordination mechanisms are needed to be effective in achieving nexus outcomes?
  2. How can social learning interventions be linked with technical and policy measures to develop inclusive groundwater governance systems?
  3. How can a nexus systems approach advance the global discourse on systems transformation?

2022 outcomes

NEXUS Gains established a community of practice (COP) on MSPs for CGIAR initiatives and developed guidance for their establishment. To develop the groundwater governance toolbox, the initiative produced a review paper and held an international workshop. Through close involvement in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and other science-policy dialogues, NEXUS Gains promoted nexus approaches through the global discourse on systems transformation in three major global conferences of parties (UNFCCC COP27, CBD COP15 and Ramsar).

In the transboundary Incomati Basin, NEXUS Gains is establishing an MSP to present its water modeling tool. As each stakeholder will be impacted in some way by the modeling and resulting decisions regarding water storage, use and allocation, the MSPs provide a space to present the scenarios identified through the modeling and invite people from WEFE sectors in the three countries to respond and engage with them.

In Pakistan, a lack of investment and governance means that untreated water can be discharged back into the river, resulting in significant health and environmental problems. NEXUS Gains has worked with farmers, local governments, and the provincial irrigation department, to better understand the issues, and determine how governance can be improved.

Work Package 4 innovations

  • A groundwater governance toolbox to address growing competition for, and degradation of, water resources.
  • Guidance to enhance the effectiveness of multistakeholder platforms to influence integrated, inclusive WEFE nexus management.


Ruth Meinzen-Dick:

Find out more

Read about the Initiative’s other focus areas:


Please wait...