Växjö municipality in Sweden and An Giang province in Vietnam have inspired each other to new solutions through a partnership concerning water management. Their cooperation has led to improvements in the democratic processes and made staff in the water management departments reflect on how they contribute to local democracy.
Since 2010, An Giang province in Vietnam and Växjö municipality in Sweden have implemented several partnership projects on environmental issues. A few years back, they became aware of the mutual challenge that surface water is in abundance in both cities, but is partially of lacking quality. A new project was therefore conceived where the partners would improve their capacity for sustainable water management, while invigorating their democratic processes to better include stakeholder groups in their planning.
Municipal water and sanitation management is seldom top of mind in connection to issues of democracy. But these areas have a large impact on inhabitants every-day life, and therefore the democratic structures for inclusion and participation of inhabitants are important in these issues. The ICLD-funded project allowed for the water and sanitation officials in Växjö’s technical department to reflect on their own democratic processes in relation to their inhabitants.
When working on technical issues, we seldom evaluate ourselves based on how we perform on issues such as participation and inclusion of citizens. But through ICLD, we’ve got to reflect on what our own democratic contribution in the municipality looks like. How are citizens included in the decision-making process, is the information we send out available to everyone and is our work transparent to the public? By raising those question we can improve how we do things.Ingrid Palmblad Örlander, coordinator and engineer at Växjö municipality
The three-year project runs until 2021 and aims to, among other things, prepare an integrated water management plan for Long Xuyen-city in An Giang province. So far, the partners have held workshops with key-stakeholders and visited each other for education and field trips related to challenges facing the municipalities. They’ve held lectures on capacity building for public consultations with local residents, and some participants have taken part in workshops and case-challenges during an ICLD-training on the municipal partnership programme. Already, the inspiration from An Giang has contributed to Växjö deciding to develop their own integrated water management plan.
We were inspired by their energetic way of dealing with the challenges. Their specific technical solution are far apart from ours, but their approach has inspired us and led to Växjö now also working on an integrated water plan of our own. Another aspect is the workshop methods that we used in Vietnam, which we’ve been able to use in order to generate ideas in other projects here in Växjö.Ida Lidholt, Växjö Municipality
Through their partnership, Växjö and An Giang have already shown how processes for an inclusive democracy is important and can also be forwarded in technical issues such as water and sanitation. They’ve also shown how municipalities who stand far apart in their specific technical solutions can learn from, and be inspired by, each other’s approaches on how to face a challenge in order to generate mutual benefits in a municipal partnership.