Because rivers are an important source of water in Mongolia, the 2030 WRG enabled a Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) at the local river basin level and reformed existing River Basin Councils by establishing river basin MSPs – an approach that has never been used before.

Multi-Stakeholder River Basin Governance

By Battulga Namjilmaa (Director, River Basin Management Division, Mongolian Ministry of Environment and Tourism), Nomin Ganbaatar (Director, Freshwater Resources and Nature Conservation Centre), and Batimaa Punsalmaa (Director, Tuul RBMSP Council), on behalf of the MSP members

The Challenge

Mongolia is a region marked by semi-arid to arid climate and low precipitation. The country is projected to experience significant gaps in water supply and demand in two economically significant areas: Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, and the southern Gobi region, Mongolia’s mining hub. In view of Mongolia’s growing population and prominent but water-intensive mining sector, Mongolia’s water demand is expected to exceed supply capacity by the year 2021. Lack of water for social and economic development poses a substantial risk of conflicts between local communities and industrial water users.

To overcome such water challenges, the Mongolian government introduced the Mongolia Water Law in 2012. The law aims to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM) as a key framework for hydrological planning and implementation. Because rivers are an important source of water in Mongolia, the legal framework mandates each of Mongolia’s 29 River Basin Authorities (RBAs) to be monitored by a multi-stakeholder River Basin Council (RBC) that comprises representatives from the private sector and civil society at the basin level. Although formalized by law, the RBCs were not functioning effectively.


Collectively, members of the 2030 WRG  Mongolia Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) identified the lack of clarity on the establishment, composition, financing, and operation of the multi-stakeholder RBCs as the key constraint for their efficient functioning. Insufficient knowledge among stakeholders about RBC guidelines further complicated the situation. Accordingly, the 2030 WRG helped establish an MSP workstream on Capacity-Building and Collaboration among stakeholders in Mongolia to tackle such issues.

Building on the successful operational model of the MSP that the 2030 WRG enabled at the national level in Mongolia, the 2030 WRG replicated the model at the local river basin level and reformed existing RBCs by establishing river basin MSPs. Such an approach has never been used before.

In addition to forming river basin MSPs, the 2030 WRG also supported capacity-building and coaching on river basin governance for a range of stakeholders, ensuring effective stakeholder participation river basin planning and implementation. Building on our experience in river basin MSPs, we are currently supporting collaboration among the National Water Committee and river basin MSPs at the national level.

Progress to Date

Since the time the partnership between the Government of Mongolia and the 2030 WRG was officially launched in 2013, the 2030 WRG has conducted numerous comprehensive and targeted analyses to help chart a path toward water security in the country. The findings from such studies have helped inform key decision-makers in Mongolia on appropriate policy reforms and implementation.

The revised guidelines on the reformation of existing RBCs into RB MSP Councils (RBMSPC) was officially accepted by the government as an official administrative act on March 13, 2018. These guidelines cover critical issues such as the establishment of the RBMSPC, the facilitation of stakeholder participation in the planning and implementation of basin-level IWRM plans, collaboration and engagement with basin authorities, financing of the Councils, and identification of stakeholder responsibilities.

With the strengthened policy framework, the stakeholders are now keen to accelerate implementation of the proposed guidelines, particularly in strengthening the involvement of stakeholders in river basin management plan implementation and sustainable water resources management. The 2030 WRG has successfully collaborated with the Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation for this purpose. Under the partnership, three RBCs in the South Gobi, Orkhon, and Ulaanbaatar regions were selected for capacity-building to strengthen water governance. In addition, the partnership has increased collaboration between local RBCs, RBAs, and the national government (MET) in Mongolia.

The successful implementation of the guidelines in the first three basins led to the decision to expand implementation of the guidelines to cover 18 river basin MSPs across 23 rivers basins by October 2018. The remaining five were established in the following month. In total, these river basin MSPs cover 29 river basins in Mongolia. This accomplishment will in turn lead to deeper collaboration between the National Water Committee and RB MSPs at the national level.

Key Lessons

  • Supporting inclusive and active stakeholder participation is key to successful river basin management and governance. It is important to facilitate knowledge sharing and networking within the basin and beyond, so that stakeholders can learn from and support each other. It is also important to inform stakeholders about the availability of transparent data that can facilitate their decision-making process.
  • Even where relevant policy frameworks may exist to promote collaboration between the public and private sectors and civil society, limited implementation capacities can prevent progress.