The article constructively critiques the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 12 Principles on Water Governance (the OECD Principles). The human rights standard, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), provided the foundation for conceptualizing Indigenous water rights. The analysis used a modification of Zwarteveen and Boelens’ 2014 framework of the four echelons of water contestation. The analysis indicates that the OECD Principles assume state authority over water governance, make invisible Indigenous peoples’ own water governance systems and perpetuate the discourses of water colonialism. Drawing on Indigenous peoples’ water declarations, the Anishinaabe ‘Seven Grandfathers’ as water governance principles and Haudenosaunee examples, we demonstrate that the OECD Principles privilege certain understandings of water over others, reinforcing the dominant discourses of water as a resource and water governance based on extractive relationships with water. Reconciling the OECD Principles with UNDRIP’s human rights standard promotes Indigenous water justice. One option is to develop a reinterpretation of the OECD Principles. A second, potentially more substantive option is to review and reform the OECD Principles. A reform might consider adding a new dimension, ‘water justice,’ to the OECD Principles. Before reinterpretation or reform can occur, broader input is needed, and inclusion of Indigenous peoples into that process.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited