2014 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Preparing for World Water Day 2014: Partnerships for improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability. 13-16 January 2014

Case study: Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

By Simon Howard, International Hydropower Association (IHA)

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is the culmination of a long process of debate and dialogue in response to the World Commission on Dams final report in 2000. This led in 2004 to IHA developing Sustainability Guidelines for the sector, with the intention that they provided practical and realistically implementable guidance. By 2006, IHA had developed an initial sustainability assessment protocol, intended to provide a uniform method of assessing sustainability on hydro projects worldwide. Recognizing the value of this first version, WWF and The Nature Conservancy approached IHA with a view to further refining the tool. IHA agreed that the Protocol would benefit from a more inclusive process that would encompass sustainability perspectives from all hydropower stakeholders, and it was decided to bring together a group, the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum to achieve this.

The Forum was made up of representatives from social and environmental NGOs, governments of developed and developing countries, financial institutions, development banks, and the hydropower industry. Each member of the forum consulted with a reference group made up of organizations with similar interests and objectives. This structure increased the scope and reach of the forum to incorporate the perspectives of as broad a range of stakeholders as possible.

The current Protocol is the result of work by the Forum through an intensive period of debate and iterative drafting over a period of 30 months between 2008 and 2010. The Forum operated by negotiation and consensus, embedding stakeholder dialogue as the foundation of the Protocol. The forum members in their work drew on key existing guidelines and policies, particularly the World Bank safeguard policies, IFC performance standards and the World Commission on Dams’ criteria and guidelines.